humanity, who, like men, and Christian men, came fearlessly

time:2023-12-03 01:41:54source:Military Suburb Networkauthor:data

In the interval between Chaucer and Spenser, this life of the spirit is not distinctly marked in any of its authors, not excepting even Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, whose sad fate gave a factitious interest to his writings. It is more noticeable in Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst's `Induction to the Mirror for Magistrates', which, in the words of Hallam, "forms a link which unites the school of Chaucer and Lydgate to the `Faerie Queene'."

humanity, who, like men, and Christian men, came fearlessly

The Rev. James Byrne, of Trinity College, Dublin, in his lecture on `The Influence of National Character on English Literature', remarks of Spenser: "After that dark period which separated him from Chaucer, after all the desolation of the Wars of the Roses, and all the deep trials of the Reformation, he rose on England as if, to use an image of his own, "`At last the golden orientall gate Of greatest heaven gan to open fayre, And Phoebus, fresh as brydegrome to his mate, Came dauncing forth, shaking his deawie hayre, And hurled his glistering beams through gloomy ayre.'

humanity, who, like men, and Christian men, came fearlessly

"That baptism of blood and fire through which England passed at the Reformation, raised both Protestant and Catholic to a newness of life. That mighty working of heart and mind with which the nation then heaved throughout, went through every man and woman, and tried what manner of spirits they were of. What a preparation was this for that period of our literature in which man, the great actor of the drama of life, was about to appear on the stage! It was to be expected that the drama should then start into life, and that human character should speak from the stage with a depth of life never known before; but who could have imagined Shakespeare?"

humanity, who, like men, and Christian men, came fearlessly

And what a new music burst upon the world in Spenser's verse! His noble stanza, so admirably adapted to pictorial effect, has since been used by some of the greatest poets of the literature, Thomson, Scott, Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, Shelley, and numerous others; but none of them, except in rare instances, have drawn the music out of it which Spenser drew.

Professor Goldwin Smith well remarks, in his article on Mark Pattison's Milton, "The great growths of poetry have coincided with the great bursts of national life, and the great bursts of national life have hitherto been generally periods of controversy and struggle. Art itself, in its highest forms, has been the expression of faith. We have now people who profess to cultivate art for its own sake; but they have hardly produced anything which the world accepts as great, though they have supplied some subjects for `Punch'."

Spenser who, of all the great English poets, is regarded by some critics as the most remote from real life, and the least reflecting his age, is, nevertheless, filled with the spirit of his age -- its chivalric, romantic, patriotic, moral, and religious spirit. When he began to write, the nation had just passed through the fiery furnace of a religious persecution, and was rejoicing in its deliverance from the papistical rule of Mary. The devotion to the new queen with which it was inspired was grateful, generous, enthusiastic, and even romantic. This devotion Spenser's great poem everywhere reflects, and it has been justly pronounced to be the best exponent of the subtleties of that Calvinism which was the aristocratic form of Protestantism at that time in both France and England.

The renewed spiritual life which set in so strongly with Spenser, reached its springtide in Shakespeare. It was the secret of that sense of moral proportion which pervades his plays. Moral proportion cannot be secured through the laws of the ancients, or through any formulated theory of art. It was, I am assured, through his deep and sensitive spirit-life that Shakespeare felt the universal spirit and constitution of the world as fully, perhaps, as the human soul, in this life, is capable of feeling it. Through it he took cognizance of the workings of nature, and of the life of man, BY DIRECT ASSIMILATION OF THEIR HIDDEN PRINCIPLES, -- principles which cannot be reached through an observation, by the natural intelligence, of the phenomenal. He thus became possessed of a knowledge, or rather wisdom, far beyond his conscious observation and objective experience.

Shakespeare may be regarded as the first and the last great artistic physiologist or natural historian of the passions; and he was this by virtue of the life of the spirit, which enabled him to reproduce sympathetically the whole range of human passion within himself. He was the first of the world's dramatists that exhibited the passions in their evolutions, and in their subtlest complications. And the moral proportion he preserved in exhibiting the complex and often wild play of the passions must have been largely due to the harmony of his soul with the constitution of things. What the Restoration dramatists regarded or understood as moral proportion, was not moral proportion at all, but a proportion fashioned according to merely conventional ideas of justice. Shakespeare's moral proportion appeared to them, in their low spiritual condition, a moral chaos, which they set about converting, in some of his great plays, into a cosmos; and a sad muss, if not a ridiculous muss, they made of it. Signal examples of this are the `rifacimenti' of the Tempest by Dryden and Davenant, the King Lear by Tate, and the Antony and Cleopatra (entitled `All for Love, or the World well Lost') by Dryden.

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