Verse > Anthologies > Hunt and Lee, eds. > The Book of the Sonnet
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Hunt and Lee, comps.  The Book of the Sonnet.  1867.
 
On Spenser’s “Faery Queen”
By Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618)
 
METHOUGHT 1 I saw the grave where Laura lay,
Within that temple where the vestal flame
Was wont to burn; and passing by that way,
To see that buried dust of living fame
Whose tomb fair Love and fairer Virtue kept,        5
All suddenly I saw the Faery Queen:
At whose approach the soul of Petrarke wept,
And from thenceforth those Graces were not seen
(For they this Queen attended); in whose stead
Oblivion laid him down on Laura’s hearse.        10
Hereat the hardest stones were seen to bleed,
And groans of buried ghosts the heavens did perse;
  Where Homer’s spright did tremble all for grief,
  And curst the access of that celestial thief. 2
 
Note 1. Headed by the author, “A Vision upon this conceipt of the Faery Queen”; for it was published among the prefatory verses. [back]
Note 2. Two persons, I have no doubt, were included in the magnificent flattery of this sonnet,—Queen Elizabeth as well as Spenser; for she it was whom the poet expressly imaged in his Queen of Fairyland; and Sir Walter was not the man to let the occasion pass for extolling the great woman, their joint mistress. The Italics in the sonnet are copied from Todd’s edition of Spenser, and I have no doubt appeared in the original edition, and are the writer’s own.
  Raleigh’s abolition of Laura, Petrarca, and Homer, all in a lump, in honor of his friend Spenser, is in the highest style of his wilful and somewhat domineering genius; but everything in the process is as grandly as it is summarily done; and welcome indeed from such a “courtier of the Queen” must have been this testimony to the great but no less courtly poet,—“that celestial thief.” [back]
 
 
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