1591
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Orlando Furioso in English Heroical Verse.

Orlando Furioso in English Heroical Verse, by John Harington.

Sir John Harington


John Harington pays a compliment to Edmund Spenser in his famous translation of Ariosto.

Elizabeth Cooper: "Sir John appears to be a Gentleman of great Pleasantry, and Humour; his Fortune was easy, the Court his Element, and Wit not his Business, but Diversion. — 'Tis not to be doubted, but his Translation of Ariosto, was publish'd after Spencer's Fairy Queen; and yet, both in Language, and Numbers, is greatly Inferior" Muses' Library (1738) 297.

Thomas Warton: "It may indeed be urged, as an instance of Spenser's weak and undiscerning judgment, that he chose to follow Ariosto rather than Tasso, the plan and conduct of whose poem was much more regular and legitimate than that of his rival. To this objection it may be answered, in defence of our author, that he was reasonably induced to follow that poem which was most celebrated and popular: for tho' the French critics in general gave the preference to Tasso, yet in Italy the partisans, on the side of Ariosto, were by far the most numerous, and consequently in England; for Italy, in the age of queen Elizabeth, gave laws to our island in all matters of taste, as France has done ever since. It must, however, be confessed at the same time, that Spenser was in some measure influenced, from the natural biass of his mind, to prefer that plan, which would admit of the most extensive range for his unbounded imagination" Observations on Spenser (1754) 3.

Universal Magazine: "It is true that it is neither executed with spirit nor with accuracy: nevertheless, it contributed to enrich our poetry with new stores for the imagination, both of the romantic and comic species" 92 (November 1792) 343.

George L. Craik: "Sir John Harington's translation of the Orlando Furioso first appeared in 1591, when the author was in his thirtieth year. It does not convey all the glow and poetry of Ariosto; but it is, nevertheless, a performance of great ingenuity and talent" Compendious History of English Literature (1861) 1:575.

W. J. Courthope: "This poet was born in 1561. He was the son of Sir John Harington and his second wife, Isabella Markham, and was educated at Eton and Christ's College, Cambridge. He studied law at Lincoln's Inn, but most of his time seems to have been spent at Court, where, to amuse his companions, he translated the episode of Giocondo from the 28th canto of the Orlando Furioso. The Queen, who was his godmother, reproved him for his attempt to corrupt the morals of her ladies, and ordered him to leave the Court, and as a punishment, to translate in his own house the whole of the Orlando Furioso. His task accomplished, he returned to Court in 1591, but irrepressible in his wit, he scattered epigrams right and left, and in 1596 was again expelled, having incurred the Queen's anger through a satire called The Metamorphosis of Ajax, which was supposed to contain some reflections on the Earl of Leicester. He accompanied Essex into Ireland in 1598, and returned with the Earl when the latter sought to excuse himself to the Queen after the expedition against Tyrone. Elizabeth received him harshly, and bade him 'go home.' 'I did not stay,' says Harington, 'to be bidden twice: if all the Irish rebels had been at my heels, I should not have made better speed; for I did now flee from one whom I both loved and feared too.' To propitiate the Queen, he afterwards put into her hands a journal which he kept of Essex's proceedings in Ireland, thus saving himself by the sacrifice of his chief" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 3:74-75.

Peter V. Marinelli: "It reveals him sharing with Spenser not only an expected absorption in Ariosto but also the conception, recently expressed in Sidney's Defence of Poetry, that epic occupies the highest place in the hierarchy of poetry, as much for its comprehensiveness as for its ability to inculcate moral values through pleasurable means. There is an overt compliment to Spenser's poem in Harington's notes to canto 43, in which he mentions the fabliau ('to the like effect') of the Squire of Dames (FQ III vii 53-60)" Spenser Encyclopedia (1990) 347.




The hosts tale in the xxxviii book of this worke, is a bad one: M. Spencers tale of the squire of Dames, in his excellent Poem of the Faery Queene, in the end of the vii Canto of the third booke, is to the like effect, sharpe and well conceyted; in substance thus, that his Squire of dames could in three yeares travell, find but three women that denyed his lewd desire: of which three, one was a courtesan, that rejected him because he wanted coyne for her: the second a Nun, who refused him because he would not sweare secreacie; the third a plain countrie Gentlewoman, that of good honest simplicitie denyed him.


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