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[EDMUND SPENSER, descended from the family of the Spensers in Nottinghamshire, was born in London about the year 1553, and was educated at Cambridge, where he entered as a sizar. Being introduced to Sir Philip Sidney, he became known at Court, and in 1580 was appointed secretary to Lord Grey of Wilton, Viceroy of Ireland. In 1586 he obtained from the Queen a grant of 3,028 acres of land, in the county of Cork, out of the forfeited estate of the Earl of Desmond ; and being obliged by his patent to live on his property, he took up his residence at Kilcolman Castle. It is now a ruin, but it will always be dear to the lovers of genius. In this delightful retreat he wrote the three first books of his “Faerie Queene," and on presenting them to Elizabeth received from her a pension of £50 a year. He published the next three books in 1596. He was a strenuous advocate for arbitrary power, and having, it is said, attempted to add unjustly to his possessions, when Tyrone's rebellion broke out, had he not sought for safety by flight he would have been one of the first victims to the fury of the native Irish, with whom revenge was a virtue ; his escape was so precipitate, that he left his infant child to the flames which consumed his house. He came to England with a broken heart, and died in about three months, in extreme indigence. His remains were interred in Westminster Abbey.

The “Faerie Queene” was to have consisted of twelve books, but there are only fragments of the last six. The loss of the remainder is not perhaps extremely to be regretted, since there are symptoms in the last three books which he published that his genius was beginning to be exhausted ; and the work can scarcely be considered imperfect, as each book is, in itself, a complete poem. His language differs from that of all the other poets of his age in structure and cadence, having as it were been formed for his subject. His versification is both smooth and majestic, and his imagination seems to have been inexhaustible. He wrote some of the best sonnets in our language.]

A GENTLE knight was pricking on the plain,
Yclad in mighty arms and silver shield,
Wherein old dints of deep wounds did remain,
The cruel marks of many a bloody field ;
Yet arms till that time did he never wield :

His angry steed did chide his foaming bit,
As much disdaining to the curb to yield :
Full jolly knight he seem’d, and fair did sit,
As one for knightly jousts and fierce encounters fit.
And on his breast a bloody cross he bore,
The dear remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweet sake that glorious badge he wore,
And dead (as living) ever him adored :
Upon his shield the like was also scored,
For sovereign hope, which in his help he had :
Right faithful true he was in deed and word ;
But of his cheer did seem too solemn sad :
Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.

Upon a great adventure he was bound,
That greatest Gloriana to him gave,
(That greatest glorious queen of fairy lond,)
To win him worship, and her grace to have,
Which of all earthly things he most did crave;
And ever as he rode his heart did yearn
To prove his puissance in battle brave
Upon his foe, and his new force to learn;
Upon his foe, a dragon horrible and stern.

A lovely lady rode him fair beside,
Upon a lowly ass more white than snow;
Yet she much whiter, but the same did hide
Under a veil that wimpled was full low,
And over all a black stole she did throw,
As one that inly mourn'd: so was she sad,
And heavy sat upon her palfrey slow;
Seemed in heart some hidden care she had,
And by her in line a milk-white lamb she led.

So pure and innocent, as that same lamb,
She was in life and every virtuous lore,
And by descent from royal lineage came
Of ancient kings and queens, that had of yore
Their sceptres stretcht from east to western shore,
And all the world in their subjection held;
Till that infernal fiend with foul uproar
Forewasted all their land and them expelld :
Whom to avenge, she had this knight from far compell’d.

Behind her far away a dwarf did lag,
That lazy seem'd in being ever last,
Or wearied with bearing of her bag
Of needments at his back. Thus as they past
The day with clouds was sudden overcast,
And angry Jove an hideous storm of rain
Did pour into his leman's lap so fast,
That every wight to shroud it did constrain,
And this fair couple eke to shroud themselves were fain.

Enforced to seek some covert nigh at hand,
A shady grove not far away they spied,
That promised aid the tempest to withstand ;
Whose lofty trees yclad with summer's pride,
Did spread so broad that heaven's light did hide,
Nor pierceable with power of any star :
And all within were paths and alleys wide,
With footing worn, and leading inward far:
Fair harbour, that them seems, so in they entered are.


And forth they pass, with pleasure forward led,
Joying to hear the birds' sweet harmony,
Which therein shrouded from the tempest dread,
Seem'd in their song to scorn the cruel sky.
Much can they praise the trees so straight and high,
The sailing pine, the cedar proud and tall,
The vine-prop elm, the poplar never dry,
The builder oak, sole king of forests all,
The aspin good for staves, the cypress funeral.

The laurel, meed of mighty conquerors
And poets sage, the fir that weepeth still,
The willow, worn of forlorn paramours,
The yew obedient to the bender's will,
The birch for shafts, the sallow for the mill,
The myrrh sweet bleeding in the bitter wound,
The warlike beech, the ash, for nothing ill,
The fruitful olive, and the plantain round,
The carver holme, the maple seldom inward sound :

Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,
Until the blustering stormi is overblown,
When weening to return, whence they did stray,
They cannot find that path which first was shown,
But wander to and fro in ways unknown,
Furthest from end then, when they nearest ween,
That makes them doubt their wits be not their own :
So many paths, so many turnings seen,
That which of them to take, in divers doubts they been.

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