1790 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Arthur Gorges

Edmond Malone, in Works of Shakspeare (1790; 1821) 2:245-48.



Alcyon, who is next mentioned [in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe], is ascertained by another of Spenser's poems to have been Arthur Gorge, or Gorges, "a lover of learning and virtue," for whom he has himself told us he had "particular good will." This gentleman had married Douglas Howard, the daughter and heir of Henry Howard, afterwards Viscount Bindon; on the death of which lady in 1590, Spenser wrote a poem, in January, 1591-2, entitled Daphnaida, and addressed to Helena, Marchioness of Northampton, then the wife of Sir Thomas Gorges, a kinsman of Arthur. In that poem, as in the verse before us, the lady of Mr. Gorges is lamented under the name of Daphne. The designation (Alcyon) here given to her disconsolate husband, was evidently formed by rejecting the final letter in Alcyone, and thus converting a female name into that of a man: and Spenser may be presumed to have adopted it with a reference either to Alcyone the wife of Meleager, who died of sorrow for the loss of her husband; or of Alcyone the wife of Ceyx, king of Thrace; who, according to the fable, being overcome with immoderate grief for his death, was, in compassion to her sufferings, converted by the gods into the bird called a king's-fisher. What "the brave conceit" was, which Mr. Gorges had begun in his happier days, and which he is here exhorted to resume in the sweet scented arbour of Meriflure, it is now, I fear, too late to inquire. Of his lighter poetical effusions, I believe few have been transmitted to posterity; though while he was yet living, we are told by one of his sons, in the middle of the reign of James the First, that many of his productions were then preserved in manuscript; and in 1614, his translation of Lucan was published, which probably was begun many years before, and was, I suspect, "the brave conceit" alluded to by Spenser. His grief for the death of Daphne, however deep at the time, does not appear to have lasted many years after these verses were written; for in or before the year 1597, he married a second wife, Elizabeth, a daughter of Henry Clinton, Earl of Lincoln, by whom he had afterwards several children.