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BORN 1553.—Died 1599.
The comection of Edmund Spenser, the sweetest of English Poets, with the County of Kent, has been already noticed. One canto of the “Faery Queen,” is supposed, by some of the commentators, to have been written when he was a visitor at Penshurst, then the residence of Sir Henry Sidney. Sir Philip Sidney, to use his own words,
“ Who first my muse did lift out of the floor,
was his first, his best, and almost his only patron.By him he was introduced to the powerful Earl of Leicester, who procured his appointment in Ireland, and the grant of land which he obtained in consequence.' At Sidney's recommendation the “Faery Queen” was undertaken. To the same accomplished man he dedicated “ The Shepherd's Calendar,” one of his earliest works; and he had the mistortune to devote another to the memory of his untimely fate. From the mass of “lucky words” with which the “gentle muse" favoured the “ destined urn” of Sidney, we shall select these of Spenser,
“And bid fair peace be to his sable shroud."
Astrophel: a Pastoral Elegy upon the Death of the
most noble and valorous knight, Sir Philip Sidney: Dedicated to the most beautiful and virtuous Lady, the Countess of Essex. A gentle shepherd, born in Arcady,
Of gentlest race that ever shepherd bore, About the grassy banks of Hæmony
Did keep his sheep, his little stock and store; Full carefully he kept them day and night, In fairest fields, and Astrophel he hight.
Young Astrophel ! the pride of shepherd's praise;
Young Astrophel! the rustick lasses love;
In all that seemly shepherds might behove;
For from the time that first the nymph his mother
Him forth did bring, and taught her lambs to feed, A slender swain, excelling for each other
In comely shape like her that did him breed,
Which daily more and more he did augment
With gentle usage and demeanour mild, That all men's hearts with secret ravishment
He stole away, and weetingly beguild; Not Spight itself, that all good things doth spill, Found out in him that she could say was ill.
His sports were fair, his joyance innocent,
Sweet without sour, and honey without gall;
And he himself seem'd made for merriment,
Merrily masking both in bower and ball;
Amongst the shepherds in their shearing feast, As summer's lark, that with her song doth greet
The dawning day, forth coming from the east : And lays of love he also could compose; Thrice happy she whom he to praise did chose.
maidens often did him woo Them to vouchsafe amongst his rhimes to name, Or make for them, as he was wont to do,
For her that did with love his heart inflame; For which they promised to dight for him Gay chapelets of flowers and garlands trim. And many a nymph, both of the wood and brook
Soon as his oaten pipe began to shrill, Both crystal wells and shady groves forsook,
To hear the charms of his enchanting skill; And brought him presents, flowers if it were prime, Or mellow fruit, if it were harvest-time.
But he for none of them did care a whit,
Yet wood-gods for them often sighed sore ! Nor for their gifts, unworthy of his wit,
Yet not unworthy of the country's store : For one alone he car'd, for one he sigh’d, His life's desire, and his dear love's delight.
Stella the fair! the fairest star in sky,
As fair as Venus, or the fai est fair,
A fairer star saw never living eye,
Shot her sharp-pointed beams through purest air ; Her he did love, her he aloue did honour, His thoughts, his rhimes, his songs were all opon her.
To her he vow'd the service of his days,
On her he spent the riches of his wit,
Of only her he sung, he thought, he writ;
Nor her with idle words alone he wooed,
And verses vain,--yet verses are not vain,But with brave deeds to her sole service vowed,
And bold atchievements her did entertain; For both in deeds and words he nurtred was, Both wise and hardy,--too hardy alas !
In Wrestling nimble, and in running swift;
In shooting steady, and in swimming strong :
And all the sports that shepherds are among.
Besides, in hunting such felicity,
Or rather infelicity, he found, That every
field and forest far away He sought, where savage beasts do most abound; No beast so savage but he could it kill, No chace so hard but he therein had skill.
Such skill, matcht with such courage as he had,
Did prick him forth with proud desire of praise
To seek abroad, of danger nought ydrad,
His mistre s'nanie and his own fame to raise,
It fortuned as be that perilous game
In foreign soil pursued far away,
Where store be heard to be of savage prey:
There his well-woven toils and subtle trains
He laid, the brutish nation to enwrap;
That he of them great troops did soon entrap:
Full greedily into the herd he thrust,
Lest that his toil should of their troops be burst. Wide wounds amonst them many a one he made, Now with his sharp boar-spear, now with his blade.
His care was all how he them all might kill,
That none might 'scape,—so partial unto none, Ill mind, to mind so much another's ill,
As to become unmindful of his own :
A cruel beast of most accursed brood,