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For to increase the common treasure's store;
But his own treasure he increased more,
And lifted up his lofty towers thereby,
That they began to threat the neighbour sky;
The whiles the prince's palaces fell fast
To ruin; for what thing can ever last?
And whilst the other peers for poverty
Were forced their ancient houses to let lie,
And their old castles to the ground to fall,
Which their forefathers, famous over all,
Had founded for the kingdom's ornament,
And for their memories' long moniment.
But he no count made of nobility,
Nor the wild beasts whom arms did glorify,
The realm's chief strength, and girland of the crown;
All these, through feigned crimes, he thrust adown,
Or made them dwell in darkness of disgrace;
For none but whom he list might come in place.
Of men of arms he had but small regard,
But kept them low, and straitened very hard.
For men of learning little he esteemed;
His wisdom he above their learning deemed.
As for the rascal commons, least he cared,
For not so common was his bounty shared;
Let God, said he, if please, care for the many;
I for myself must care before else any.
So did he good to none, to many ill;
So did he all the kingdom rob and pill;
Yet none durst speak, nor none durst of him plain,
So great he was in grace, and rich through gain;
Ne would he any let to have access
Unto the prince but by his own address;
For all that else did come were sure to fail;
Yet would he further none but for availc.
For on a time the Sheep, to whom of yore
The Fox had promised of friendship store,
What time the Ape the kingdom first did gain,
Came to the court her case there to complain,
How that the Wolf, her mortal enemy,
Had sithence” slain her lamb most cruelly,
And thereby craved to come unto the king
To let him know the order of the thing.
Soft, Goody Sheep, then said the Fox, not so;
Unto the king so rash ye may not go;
He is with greater matter busied
Than a lamb, or the lamb's own mother's head;
Ne certes may I take it well in part
That ye my cousin Wolf so foully thwart,
And seek with slander his good name to blot;
For there was cause, else do it he would not.
Therefore surcease, good dame, and hence depart: o:
So went the Sheep away with heavy heart: *
So many mo", so every one was used, *
That to give largely to the box refused. o
We must add the winding up of the story, as a sample the more descriptive portions of the poem. What is
going on at last attracts the notice of the powers above:–
Now, when high Jove, in whose almighty hand
The care of kings and power of empires stand,
Sitting one day within his turret high,
From whence he views with his black-lidded eye
Whatso the heaven in his wide vault contains,
And all that in the deepest earth remains,
The troubled kingdom of wild beasts beheld,
Whom not their kindly' sovereign did weld,5
But an usurping Ape, with guile suborned,
Had all subversed, he'sdainfully it scorned
In his great heart, and hardly did refrain
But that with thunderbolts he had him slain.
Jove forthwith calls Mercury to him, and dispatches
The son of Maia, soon as he received
That word, straight with his azure wings he cleaved
The liquid clouds and lucid firmament,
Nc stayed till that he came with steep descent
Unto the place where his prescript did show :
There stooping, like an arrow from a bow,
He soft arrived on the grassy plain,
And fairly paced forth with easy pain,
Till that unto the palace nigh he came ;
Then gan he to himself new shape to frame,’
And that fair face, and that ambrosial hue,
Which wonts to deck the gods' immortal crew
And beautify the shiny firmament,
He doft, unfit for that rude rabblement.
Mercury puts on his hat of invisibility, and, taking his caduceus in his hand, makes a survey of the scene of extortion, oppression, and lawlessness. He sees on all sides more of ill of all kinds than can be told:—
Which when he did with loathsome eyes behold
He would no more endure, but came his way,
And cast to seek the Lion where he may,
That he might work the avengement for his shame
On those two caitives which had bred him blame;
And, seeking all the forest busily,
At last he found where sleeping he did lie.
The wicked weed, which there the Fox did lay,
From underneath his head he took away,
And then him waking forced up to rise.
The Lion, looking up, gan him avize,
As one late in a trance, what had of long
Become of him, for fantasy is strong.
Arise, said Mercury, thou sluggish beast,
- That here lies senseless, like the corpse deceast,
The whilst thy kingdom from thy head is rent,
And thy throne royal with dishonour blent.
Arise, and do thyself redeem from shame,
And be avenged on those that breed thy blame.
Thereat enraged, soon he gan upstart,
Grinding his teeth, and grating his great heart;
And, rousing up himself, for his rough hide
He gan to reach, but nowhere it espied.
Therewith he gan full terrible to roar,
And chaufed at that indignity right sore;
But, when his crown and sceptre both he wanted,
Lord, how he sumed, and swelled, and raged, and
And threatened death, and thousand deadly dolours,
To them that had purloined his princely honours!
With that, in haste, disrobed as he was,
He towards his own palace forth did pass;
And all the way he roared as he went,
That all the forest with astonishment
Thereof did tremble, and the beasts therein
Fled fast away from that so dreadful din.
At last he came unto his mansion,
Where all the gates he found fast locked anon,
And many warders round about them stood:
With that he roared aloud as he were wood,
That all the palace quaked at the stound,
As if it quite were riven from the ground;
And all within were dead and heartless left,
And the Ape himself, as one whose wits were reft,
Fled here and there, and every corner sought,
To hide himself from his own feared thought.
But the false Fox, when he the Lion heard,
Fled closely forth, straightway of death afeard.
And to the Lion came full lowly creeping,
With feigned face, and watery eyne half weeping,
To excuse his former treason and abusion,
And turning all unto the Ape's confusion;
Nathlessh the royal beast forbore believing,
But bade him stay at ease till further prieving.
Then, when he saw no entrance to him granted,
Roaring yet louder, that all hearts it daunted,
Upon those gates with force he fiercely flew,
And, rending them in pieces, felly slew
Those warders strange, and all that else he met
But the Ape, still flying, he nowhere might get:
From room to room, from beam to beam he fled,
All breathless, and for fear now almost dead.
Yet him at last the Lion spied and caught,
And forth with shame unto his judgment brought.
Then all the beasts he caused assembled be,
To hear their doom, and sad ensample see:
The Fox, first author of that treachery,
He did uncase, and then away let fly;
But the Ape's longtail (which then he had) he quite
Cut off, and both ears pared of their height;
Since which all apes but half their ears have left,
And of their tails are utterly bereft.
It would not have been possible to take the apologue of the Ape and the Fox for any covert representation of the state of the English court or government at the time when this poem appeared, or even perhaps to discover the veiled likeness of an existing minister or courtier in any of its delineations;–but the satire was certainly not without some strokes that were likely enough to be felt by powerful individuals, and the entire exposition was not calculated to be agreeable to those at the head of affairs. It was probably, therefore, just as fortunate for Spenser that, in whatever humour or with whatever view it was written, it did not see the light till after he had obtained both his grant of land and his pension.
The Fairy Queen was designed by its author to be taken as an allegory—“a continued allegory, or dark conceit,” as he calls it in his preliminary Letter to Raleigh, “expounding his whole intention in the course of this work.” The allegory was even artificial and involved to an unusual degree; for not only was the Fairy Queen, by whom the knights are sent forth upon their adventures, to be understood as meaning Glory in the general intention, but in a more particular sense she was to stand for “the most excellent and glorious person” of Queen Elizabeth; and some other eminent individual of the day appears in like manner to have been shadowed forth in each of the other figures. The most interesting allegory that was ever written carries us along chiefly