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HUME tells us, in the brief critical notices of literary works at successive periods embraced in his history, that Spenser's FAERIE QUEENE was a work which every scholar, or man of pretension to literary taste, felt bound to have upon his table; but he adds, that no one felt bound to read it. Whether this criticism, or what, has worked the change we cannot say, but it is quite certain that the once famous allegory of Una and the Lamb is no longer, or but rarely, seen upon the scholar's desk, and is only seen upon the parlor centre-table when richly bound in gilt and illustrated with pictures for the eye, while the book itself is as little read now as it was in the days of David Hume.
That the cold and self-complacent philosophical historian should care but little about the “idle fancies," as he no doubt reputed them, of such a man as Spenser, may not be surprising to those of
his own temper; but there are others who will be apt to say, after all, that bis criticism may be considered as indicating only his own taste, or the want of it, and that of what may be called the visible public of his day; while we may be sure there must have been then, as there are now, a few to delight in following the spirit of the poet, and with more or less fidelity seek to discover something in nature of an invisible character“ correspondent” to it; the search for which will continue to task and to reward the student in all ages; for, without adopting the theories or expositions of Swedenborg, it can hardly be denied, except by the most downright fatalist, that there is what may be properly called a spiritual world, where the genuine poet will be found at home in his own Arcadia. Philosophy is not without a clue to the true ground of the poet's dreams and visions; and it lies chiefly in the dogma, that there can be no modal manifestation in nature, which is not based upon
the substantial—without, or out of which, there is nothing at all: in which NOTHING, we will add, a certain class of seekers tell us they find all things.
But we do not propose to discuss these matters, and will enter without farther preface upon the purpose we have in view.
Among the minor poems of Spenser, the reader may have noticed, or may easily turn to, one entitled Colin Clouts Come Home Again, published in 1591 or 1595. It was addressed or dedicated to Sir Walter Raleigh, by the poet himself, who calls it a “simple Pastoral ;” and whilst, in the usual strain of dedications, the poet speaks of the poem as “ unworthy” the higher “conceipt” of his noble friend, for its “ meanness of style,” he asserts its agreement with truth, in circumstance and matter:" more than hinting, in the same dedication, at what the poet calls the “malice of evil mouths, which are always [says he] open to carpe at and misconstrue [his] simple meaning.”
A modern editor quotes from the Retrospective Review, to show that the object of the poet (in Colin Clouts) was to give an account of his return to England, and of his presentation to Queen Elizabeth, and of several persons attached to the Court;" and the Reviewer remarks, that the poem might have been highly interesting at the time it was written, but that its chief interest is now lost, declaring that “it possesses nothing striking, either in character or description, to attract a modern reader”—but he should have added, a modern reader of the Hume
school, who would doubtless see as little to attract in this pastoral as in the more elaborate poem of the Faerie Queene.
We will now show, by a few notes, the general purpose of this pastoral, one of the most remarkable poems in the English language, and leave the reader to reflect upon the probable result of a study of the Faerie Queene itself, an acknowledged allegory, if pursued from some similar point of view ; and as we feel under no obligations of secresy, we will say at
The Pastoral, entitled Colin Clouts Come Home Again, was not designed to refer, in the remotest degree, to Queen Elizabeth; but the poem agrees “ with truth in circumstance and matter”
(as the dedication reads), with a mental journey by the poet himself, in the very spirit of Christianity, into what may be called the spiritual world—the Arcadia of the ancient poets; where the poet meets with the mystic Queen of Arcadia, the object of so much passionate devotion by a long succession of spirituelle poets, who, under the guise of addressing some Delia, or Celia, or Lilia, Phæbe, Daphne, or Chloe, have cloaked a love which, because not generally recog. nised, except as addressed to some veritable woman,