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The End of the Middle Ages
> His Relation to Spenser
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.
§ 7. His Relation to Spenser.
The Passetyme of Pleasure
The Example of Virtue
belong to the group of allegorical poems culminating in
The Faerie Queene;
and it is generally agreed that Hawes influenced Spenser. Opinions, however, differ as to the extent of this influence. On the one hand E. B. Browning calls
one of the four columnar marbles, the four allegorical poems, on whose foundation is exalted into light the great allegorical poem of the world, Spensers
On the other hand, Saintsbury admits only a faint adumbration of
The Faerie Queene
its outline without its glorious filling-in, its theme without its art, its intellectual reason for existence without any of its aesthetic justification thereof. It is not improbable that Spenser did know Hawes; but, if so, he owed him a very small royalty. The extent of this influence, or indebtedness, is easy to overstate and very difficult, or, rather, impossible, to prove. Mere coincidences may readily be mistaken for borrowing. It does not follow that, when two writers speak in very similar terms of the seven deadly sins, one has borrowed from the other. For, from the time of
Piers the Plowman,
the seven deadly sins had appeared again and again in allegory, in morality play and in pageant: they are found, too, along with other miscellaneous information, in that perpetual almanac,
The Kalendar of Shepherds.
It seems better, then, simply to enumerate points of resemblancegrouped together they make a striking listthan to attempt to define where the limit of Spensers indebtedness to Hawes should be fixed.
Hawess main idea is to describe the discipline a man must undergo and the obstacles he must surmount to attain moral purity, in
or win worldly glory, in
Spenser states that his general aim is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline.
Spenser follows the lead of Hawes in adopting the paraphernalia of chivalry as allegorical symbolism. The knights of
The Faerie Queene
put into practice what Melizius enunciates in
as the underlying idea of chivalrynot fighting in every quarrel, but fighting for the truth or for the commonweal, and helping widows and maidens in distress. Some of Meliziuss knights, as, for instance, Courtesy and Justice, appear among Spensers paladins.
It is after hearing a description of La Bel Pucells surpassing beauty and worth that Graund Amour falls in love and determines to win his ideal. Spenser represents Arthur as having seen in a dream or vision the Faerie Queene, with whose beauty ravished, he, awaking, resolved to seek her out.
Graund Amour in
and Spensers Red Cross Knight wear the same armour, the Christian soldiers panoply described by St. Paul, whose
Epistle to the Ephesians
is expressly referred to in each of the three instances.
there is a dragon with three headsthe world, the flesh and the devilwhich must be defeated before Lady Cleanness is won; and the Red Cross Knight must overcome the same three foes before he wins Lady Una.
is a fair lady riding on a goat, and in
The Faerie Queene,
a man upon a bearded goat. In the former poem, Pride is an old lady in a castle on an elephants back, in the latter, a lady in a coach drawn by peacocks. Hawes writes of the park of Pride, Spenser of the garden of Pride.
When fighting with the seven-headed giant, Graund Amour leaps aside to evade the stroke of the ponderous axe, which then crashes into the ground three feet and more. In a similar way, Orgoglios club misses its mark and ploughs three yards into the ground.
Humility is warden of the castle in
and porter of Spensers house of Holiness.
The claim asserted by Mutability in Spensers fragmentary seventh book resembles Fortunes claim to universal rule, as set forth by Hawes in both his poems.
Envy, Disdain and Strangeness contrive Hawess monster Privy Malice; Spensers blatant beast, Slander, is urged on by Detraction and Envy.
The list of resemblances might be extended, but to no purpose; and of the many verbal coincidences one must suffice. Spenser (Book V, canto Xi, stanzas 55, 56) makes Artegall say to Burbon:
Die rather than do aught that mote dishonour yield.
Fie on such forgery!
Under one hood to shadow faces twain:
Knights ought be true, and truth is one in all.
With this, compare three passages from
Minerva exhorts Graund Amour:
And rather deye in ony maner of wyse,
To attayne honour and the lyfe dyspyse,
Than for to lyve and remayne in shame. Chap.
Fortune is described as a lady of pride and of perfect excellence,
But that she had two faces in one hode. Chap.
Sir Truth says that he guards the door of the chamber of chivalry,
That no man enter into it wrongfully,
Without me, Trouthe, for to be chivalrous. Chap.
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