1713
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Original Canto of Spencer.

An Original Canto of Spencer: design'd as Part of his Fairy Queen, but never printed. Now made Publick, by Nestor Ironside, Esq.

Rev. Samuel Croxall


46 Spenserians. Samuel Croxall's very witty satire on the Harley administration casts the Prime Minister as Archimago and Queen Anne as Britomart. It went through multiple editions and a sequel, Another Original Canto (1714), but seems to have been neglected by later Spenserians, probably dismissed as political hack work by a man best known for his translation of Aesop's Fables. The inspiration for the piece may have been a Tory imitation of Mother Hubberds Tale, written on the same subject: The Beasts in Power, or Robin's Song ... Taken out of an old Copy of Verses, suppos'd to be writ by John Lidgate" (1709), possibly by William King.

Croxall's imitations reinforced the connection between Spenser and Whig doctrines recently made by Addison, Steele, and Ambrose Philips, a connection that would be developed in scores of eighteenth-century poems that cite or imitate the Faerie Queene in the cause of Liberty and Reform. As the Tory party slid slowly into oblivion it clung to Virgilian ideals and ceded Elizabeth and Romance to the Whigs. Whatever Spenser might have thought about Whiggery, there is no question that Whig control of the patronage system after 1714 did much to advance eighteenth-century Spenserianism.

The Tories responded to Croxall in The Examiner: "The Contrivance and Fable of the Poem, are Uncouth and Antick enough. Britomart is introduc'd, as a war-like Maid, whom Archimago, a Magician, tries to persuade, and win over to a more peaceable Temper; but failing in that Attempt, he strikes her with a Wand, puts her under Enchantment, and binds her to a Rock. After this, he appoints a Guard over her, of Dogs of several kinds, Bull-dogs, Spaniels, Curs, Whelps, and Hell-dogs: Some of which endeavour to free her, but are prevented by Archimago. In the mean time, Sir Bourbon, his Squire, and Lady Romania, are brought in as triumphing over the Distresses of Britomart, and attempting to get her into their Power: But the Iron Man Talus is dispatch'd to Sir Arthegall, and brings him over to her Relief. The Diction and Sentiments imitate Spencer, even to a degree of Affectation: Only I find, the Author runs Riot in that way; which is call'd the Turpe & Indecorum; and uses some Ideas, that are nauseous and loathsome; such as 'Gobbet Offals', 'Bags of Carnage', 'Kenneling', 'Lapping of Filth' and 'Upspewing'. These Expressions are offensive to the Stomach, and scarce excusable in Spencer's description of Gluttony" The Examiner, 14-18 December 1713.

Harko Gerrit De Maar: "That Croxall took as background of his Spenserian poem a political conflict is hardly surprising. Spenser too had sought to combine the three elements of romance, moral teaching, and comment on current politics Sir Kenelme Digby in the Observations on the 22 Stanza in the 9th Canto of the 2nd Book of Spencer's Faery Queen (1644) had long before Croxall seized upon the political interpretation of Spenser's allegory. Besides, the age of Queen Anne was the age of the political pamphlet. The political basis of his allegory had not debarred Spenser from a world of mysterious beauty, nor did it prevent Croxall from writing of 'vile enchantments', 'magic dose', 'palmer old and gray', 'paynim country', 'ungentle knights' 'glittering spear', 'crested helm', 'sturdy giants', 'enslaved wight' and all the romantic paraphernalia of Spenser. Nor is the seriousness but a mask for the smile of the satirist; knights, damsels, giants, dragons and enchanters are all frankly accepted as an integral element of the romantic convention" History of Modern English Romanticism (1924) 81-82.

Hoxie Neale Fairchild: "Gloriana is Queen Anne; Arthegall, the Elector of Hanover; Talus, Marlborough; Archimago, Harley; Duessa, Mrs. Masham" Religious Trends in English Poetry (1939) 1:225.



Fair Liberty, bright Goddess, Heavenly-born,
So high esteem'd by ev'ry living Wight;
O how deprest with Thraldom and with Scorn
Are they who want thy kind refreshing Light?
How, when we're banisht from thy lovely Sight,
Sitting in Clouds of Darkness evermore,
Wrapt up in Errors of eternal Night,
Do we, with deep surrounding Sorrows sore,
In vain our wretched State with dismal Cries deplore?

In this sad Plight behold fair Britomart,
Alas! we must awhile with-holden see
By that false Archimago's cunning Art,
By whom fair Una could misleaden be:
In vile Enchantments all excelled He,
And whosoever dar'd him to oppose,
Soon fell, or swiftly did before him flee;
Or else to them he gave a magick Dose,
By which they calmly slept, and sildom more arose.

This noble Maiden, whose avenging Spear
So many Tyrant Enemies had slain;
Whose very Name had fill'd all Hearts with Fear,
Whose very Sight had caused erst much Pain,
In many a Castle fair, and many a Plain;
Of Life forlorn, or Liberty more sweet,
Was now bereft, (O foul ignoble Stain!)
By one vile Caitiff whom too well I weet,
Ere he came near she mote lay sprauling at her Feet.

But she with Talus, Groom to Arthegall,
In quest of Fame was pacing on her Way;
Ne dreamt she then of any Harm at all,
Nor saw from whom she might expect a Fray:
When He, in shape of Palmer old and gray,
Dissembling, her approacht; in his left Hand
He held an artificial Bough of Bay,
And in his right he wav'd a taper Wand,
While thus his cunning Speech in comely wize he scan'd.

I humbly crave the Cause (said he) fair Knight,
Why in this Land, where nought but Peace should dwell,
You thus appear yclad in Armour bright,
Right fully bent some lusty Foe to quell,
When here are none but Friends that mean you well:
Let me advize to quit your fierce Intent,
And banish Discord to its native Hell;
Me here the Princes of this Land have sent
To offer Terms of Peace and happy Agreement.

With modest Semblant thus he fram'd his Tong;
But Britomartis prudently foresaw
That his dissembled Words intended Wrong,
Listing her into deadly Snares to draw;
And thus she spoke in Words commanding Aw.
Full well I know what Peace is to be found
In Paynim Country, where withouten Law
Ungentle Knights by force of Arms are crown'd,
And exercise their baleful Tyranny around.

By Breach of Publick Faith and guileful Art
Full many a noble Knight they have undone;
By crafty Sleight they ever play their Part,
But never ought by worthy Valour wone.
These therefore (false old Man) must be my Fone;
On them I strait-way will just Vengeance reek,
On them, who Justice yet have shew'd to none;
These are the Rebels which I ever seek,
With sharpen'd Steel of my avenging Lance to streek.

This said, she onward spur'd her mettled Steed,
And in her Rest coucht well her glittring Spear,
And faithful Talus, her Commands to reed,
With yron Flail beside her ran full near,
So that she mought no living Mortal fear.
Whereat the Carle enrag'd now bolder grew,
His Magick Wand aloft he gan uprear,
And after her with secret Speed he flew,
And stroke her so, ah Gods! the Wound she'l ever rew.

For soon as she th' enchaunting Touch did feel,
The Life-Blood faded in her youthful Cheek,
Her crested Helm and Sword, of temper'd Steel,
Did into Thousand Pieces crumbling break,
Ne could she with her Tongue her Ailment speak.
Down from her lofty Steed she trembling fell,
And on the Earth's cold Bosom lay so meek,
Who erst could Knights and sturdy Giants quell,
Before this sad Mishap so sodain her befell.

As when some purple Flowre bedecks the Fields,
With Gold enameld, interwove with Green,
Which through the Air its dewy Odours yields,
Fit to perfume the Bosom of some Queen;
(So fair a Flowre I trow is sildom seen,)
Yet, when the blasting Mildew's dreary Bane
With noisom Breath infects the Welkin sheen,
Its colourd Leaves no longer then remain,
But droop and fade away, and die along the Plain.

So faded Britomartis, fairest Flowr;
Her ample Spear beside her useless lay,
Her foltring Spright in that accursed Hour
Was dampt with deadly Shame and sore Dismay:
Which cruel Sight did Talus quight affray,
And filld his Senses with Abashment great,
So that with eager Hast he fled away,
Ne stayed with that Villain Chorle to treat,
Who toward him came with angry Looks and bitter Threat.

Tho when he had the Virgin thus at will,
He seized first her Spear and Shield so bright;
Yet thus despoild of Arms he nould her kill,
Sith Death is sweet to the enslaved Wight,
Who with his Freedom foregoes all Delight:
In Bondage her he meaned for to keep,
That she might make some Sport for Paynim Knight,
Who would rejoyce to see her wail and weep,
Emprisoned full close in Dungeon dark and deep.

The Trophies won in many a Battle fair
(Foul Sight to see!) the Villein undertrod,
And shore away her golden curled Hair
Beseeming well to grace some heav'nly God:
Her dradded Plumes that whilom wont to nod,
And from her Crest shone like the Ev'ning Star,
Languidly faded, struk with that same Rod,
Whose influencing Vapours from afar
Shed Pestilence, and all that seemed fair did mar.

With Witchchraft vild he then enwrapt her round
In magick Chains of many a mazie Fold,
And to a chalky Cliff fast backward bound,
Expos'd to sunny Heat and frory Cold;
Torment too bitter ever to be told.
Ah warlike Maid! who sees thy sad Estate
With Eyes that can from trickling Tears with-hold?
What hostile Breast so fraught with deadly Hate,
But must lament thy Lot, and pity thy hard Fate?

Yet not content with this his cruel Deed,
The false Enchaunter aggravates her Pain
With taunting Words that make her Heart to bleed;
And thus he frames his Speech with light Disdain:
Small need has Knight thus guarded to complain;
What Fear of Harm while I thus watchful stand?
Then banish from your Mind all Sorrows vain,
For by the Powr of this Almighty Wand,
I can approching Dangers far away command.

And as a Proof of this my Courtesie,
Which is not feignd, but real and most trew,
A trusty Legion shall be placed nie,
Of Courage stout, a goodly seeming Crew,
To reed your high Behests as is most dew.
With that a bugle Horn he strait-way wound,
Whose shrilling Musick through the Welkin flew,
So that remotest Parts mote hear the Sound,
Which through Hills, Vales and hollow Rocks went ecchoing round.

Eftsoons an ugly and deformed Brood,
That with their hideous Yellings rent the Sky,
Forth issued swiftly from the neighbour Wood,
And round the captivd Nymph gan loudly cry;
Such Hell-hounds nere were seen by mortal Eye.
Some few like British Bull-dogs stern and stout,
But most like fawning Spaniels low did ly,
And meanly to the Wizard's Motions lout,
Performing what he would when so he cast about.

Yet they not all obeyd his cursed Meed,
But on chast Innocence some Pity took;
Those Bull-dogs stout of goodly British Breed
With Treachery so foul could never brook,
Ne bear on injur'd Goodness thus to look.
To free fair Britomart they fiercely strove,
(Sith Vertue never is by all forsook)
And joyning all their Force in common Drove,
They vow'd her iron Chains and Fetters to remove.

Which when the crafty Archimago saw,
Afraid lest now his wretched Work should fall,
He gins a new devized Scheme to draw,
And ties his Hounds in Couples severall,
That he might still be Soverain over all:
The gen'rous Cur, and Spaniel base of Blood,
Were linkt together in one servile Thrall,
That those who still his Meaning understood,
By hanging back might hinder These from doing good.

Those honest Hounds endeavour'd still full fain
To work the forlorn Maiden's Liberty;
Striving with knawing Teeth to wranch the Chain,
Which did her tender Limbs to th' Rock upty:
But these the baser Whelps with yelling cry
Bet off: and still as they approched near,
Perversely drew their collar'd Necks awry,
So that they mought not see that Virgin dear,
Ne pity her sad State, nor dread Complainings hear.

For this their Office good, the Sorcerer
Forth from a Wallet which beside him hung,
Threw many gobbet Offals of good Cheer,
Which they devour'd with Cries that loudly rung,
And wagg'd their Tails, and lilled out their Tung:
Yet when his Bags of Carnage empty grew,
And to their greedy Jaws he all had flung,
The unjust Carle provokt the goodly Few,
'Till from their inly Maw their Loads they did upspew.

Which when the other Hell-dogs did espy,
With much fell Ravin and fierce Greediness,
They lapt up that same Filth that near did ly,
And rent and tore, and yell'd without Redress,
Joying they mote the others thus oppress:
And to aggrate their magick Lord the more,
Who much delighted in such Wickedness,
They deaft their Ears with foul outrageous Rore,
And filthy Poison belcht, of which they had much Store.

Thereat the others, mov'd with fell Despight,
Their noble Blood high-swelling in their Heart,
Would have ytorn the Sorcerer outright
For playing this so villeinous a Part,
At which for very Grief their Soul did smart:
Ne could the Hell-dogs stop their furious Heat,
Perdie nor Archimago with his Art;
For they impetuous grinn'd a ghastly Threat,
And with their sharpen'd Fangs the Mongrils off did beat.

O now fair Britomartis' Sprite returns
With shining Glimpse of Hope's reviving Light,
The purple Blood within her pale Cheeks burns;
Once more her Eyes she opens sparkling bright,
That erst enshadow'd lay in darksome Night:
Swift-flying Joy orespreads her lovely Face,
When she beheld that unexpected Sight,
And merry Transport with beseeming Grace
Breaks forth; sure Tokens of her great illustrious Race!

Like as when Phoebus, crownd with golden Beams,
Through mirky Clouds that veil the Firmament,
His unresisted Fulgour brightly streams,
And clears the Sky with Vapours overhent:
So the bright Flames that from her Eyes were sent
Disspred a radiant Glory all around,
And eas'd the Pain of her sad Captivement,
Who lay, with many a sore and bitter stound,
Fast lockt with iron Fetters to the stony Ground.

Ah hapless Maid! Fate's firm and fix'd Decree
Awhile withstands thy growing Happiness;
And who so strong to conquer Destinee,
Or the Resolves of Heaven to repress?
That wyly Man, who wrought thy Wretchedness,
Can stubborn Sprites and griesly Gorgons tame;
Albe thy Prowess far excells, nathless
If he his dark mysterious Charms but name,
Loud Storms roar through the Sky, and shake Earth's solid Frame.

Soon as this Tumult bad the Wizard saw,
Which like a swelling Torrent fiercely rold,
And great Destruction on him seem'd to draw;
Yet he undaunted: stood and ever bold,
Counting them one by one their Number told;
To know how many did against him fight,
And eke how many with him seem'd to hold,
That he from thence mought work his Guiles aright,
And on th' Offenders execute his fell Despight.

Musing a-while with steddy serious Look,
He nodded to and fro in pensive Mood;
Then with his all-bewitching Staff he strook
The hollow-sounding Lay on which he stood;
The quaking Earth trembled full many a Rood.
Eftsoons, the Glebe dividing, there upsprung
Six Couple more of that same Mongril Brood,
Who prostrate lickt his Feet with fawning Tong,
Then kennelled themselves the other Pack emong.

As when old Nilus with his fatning Wave,
Oreflows the fruitful Plains of Egypt's Lond,
His slimy Streams the flowry Meadows lave,
Manuring als the dry and barren Sond
With Mud, that overspreds the delug'd Strond:
Soon as the ebbing Stream sinks down again,
Strange Births emong the teeming Clods are fond;
Unheard of Monsters fright the rural Swain,
And half-form'd Bodies rear their Heads above the Plain.

So this unlookt for Product quite affrayd
Th' avenging Spirit of that angry Crew,
And dampt the Hopes of the reviving Maid,
Whose Sorrows now afresh gan to renew,
At this so dreadfull and astounding View:
For now the Magick Wight, with his base Herd,
Could all the rest full easily subdew,
Ne to afflict them furiously he spar'd;
So that his threatfull Look and Rage by all was fear'd.

Then with his Horn again he loudly sung,
And blew the Sound aloft into the Air,
That Woods and lowly Dales full widely rung,
And many a Lake and many a River fair:
Eftsoons there forward came a comely Pair,
On stately pacing Coursers mounted high,
Who in their Gate Majestick Prowess bare;
The Knight in Paynim Land bore Sovereinty,
The Lady was his Leman fair, and rode him by.

He was, I ween, the Great Sir Burbon hight,
Whom late fair Britomartis did defeat;
A bloody, murdrous and abhorred Knight,
Who All with Rage despighteous did entreat,
To rise in Fame, and make his Empire great:
Him the false Archimago did enshroud
(Fav'ring with wondrous Art his base Retreat)
Envelopt safe within a Sable Cloud,
Else had he scant appear'd so blythe and vainly proud.

Yet she, that valiant Maid, had first bereft
The Heathenish Tyrant of his blazon'd Shield,
And certes would his Paynim Skull have cleft,
Or made him with full low Obeysance yield,
But that enshrowded thus Fear wingy-heel'd
Him bore far off; ne durst he venture more
Gainst Britomart his Coward Sword to wield:
Who on his guilty Corse had struck full sore,
And bath'd his brazen Arms in Streams of Purple Gore.

But at his Friend old Archimago's Call,
He soon yode forth to seize the wonted Pray;
For well he wote some wretched Wight in Thrall,
He had entrapt on that same craggy way,
Withouten Blows, or Dint of bloody Fray:
Tho when he saw his latest dradded Foe,
On stony Rock disarm'd and cast astray,
For sodain Joy his Fear he did foregoe,
And grenn'd aloud at Britomart's heart-breaking Woe.

Yet such a Dread of his late bleeding Smart,
And foul Reproches ignominious Stain,
Sate deep engraven in his fearfull Heart,
That he nould venture her too near again,
So well him warned had his former Pain:
But smiling on the Treachour stood aloof,
And casting forth his vaunting Speeches vain,
Upbraided her with villainous Reproof,
And Slaunder heap'd on Slaunder, as was his Behoof.

So when the wyly Spider has beset
Some gallant Wasp, bedeckt with scales of Gold,
Enwrappen in his thinly-woven Net,
The strugling Fly he firmly doth with-hold,
Who still for Freedom plies both fierce and bold:
So that his Foe dares not approche him near,
Though close within the winding Clew enrold,
But from his rankling Sting keeps alway clear,
And at his fluttr'ing Motions trembles aye for Fear.

So Britomartis, though in Fetters bound,
That wicked Coward's Courage did affray,
That when her Visage stern she moved round,
His thrilling Heart was fill'd with sore Dismay:
Yet softly creeping up he did assay
His captive Shield from by her side to take,
And with light Heels it nimbly bore away
For Flourdelis his dearest Ladies sake,
Whose Portraiture thereon the Workman erst did make.

Yet not that Lady which beside him rode
Was Flourdelis, but fair Romania hight,
Who drew her boasted Lineage from some God,
And deem'd her self greater than mortal Wight:
She many Lovers had of Paynim Knight,
But chiefly with Sir Burbon chose to wonne,
Who All assayld to kill in bloody Fight,
And Thousand wretched Mortals had undone,
That would not leave their Loves, and worship her alone.

Upon a wanton Mule she proudly sate,
Clad in white Robes, enfring'd with Crimson Red:
Gold, Pearls and Diamonds in mighty State,
Her whole Attire did gayly overspred;
A triple Coronet adorn'd her Head.
And as she past in haughty Surquedry,
Like some great Queen thus richly garnished,
Where-ere she cast her supercilious Eye,
All with low Adoration down on Earth did lye.

Fast by her Side there ran a youthful Squire,
Who did with humble Duty on her wait,
Joying he mote her beauteous Form admire;
To whom Sir Burbon promised had late
Him to advance to Knighthood's fair Estate:
And now with Archimago gan devize,
His vainly fond Ambition to aggrate,
In Britomartis Armour to disguize,
Who seem'd his Peer to be in Height and shapely Size.

So gan they soon her Armoury unbrace,
Who lay astound through Force of magick Art,
And on that youthful Squire it tried to place,
Who thereat woxe right blythe and glad in Heart;
Yet nould the Armour fit in any Part:
Which, made for Angela the Saxon Queen,
Did only well beseem fair Britomart;
Ne ever was, ne ever will, I ween,
Be worn by fairer Wight, sith fairer maynt be seen.

The Tresses which adown her shoulders fell,
And veild her snowy Neck with comely Shade,
Which finest golden Wyre did far excell,
By skillfull Art of crafty Goldsmith made,
The Sorcerer shore off with Burbon's Blade,
And on his Helmet placed, him to grace:
Romania next with Menacings assayd
To make her idolize her strumpet Face,
And all by turns aggriev'd her in this wretched Case.

What iron Breast so hard that can endure
To work such Spight on Vertuous Innocence?
Or dare to violate, with Hands impure,
A Nymph so full of curteous Complacence?
O may the righteous Gods, that recompense
With Vengeance due the Guilt of Sinners foul,
Dart Thunder at their Heads of Wrath incense!
May flashing Clouds with forked Lightning scowl,
While Fiends and Hell-born Furies round the Miscreants howle!

But let us leave awhile this Damzell fair,
Detain'd by Paynim Foe in bitter Thrall;
And listen further, while I here declare
How she was free-ed by Sir Arthegall,
Whilom espoused in her Father's Hall:
Sage Merlin's cunning Art had thus foreshown,
Though the true Knight she nere had seen at all;
Absent he in the magick Glass was shown,
And what the Destinies decree shall sure be done.

That sturdy yron Man bold Talus hight,
Whom Archimago had affrayed so,
With wondrous Speed sought out this valiant Knight,
Where he was warring against Paynim Foe,
In Tilt and Giust with many a deadly Blow:
Eftsoons to him he told the doleful State
Of Britomartis over-whelm'd with Woe;
Wishing him strait, ere Tyde might be too late,
To hie with him, and snatch her from the Jaws of Fate.

Strait without Word or Answer forth he hent
Along as trusty Talus him did guide,
In Might and matchless Arms right fully bent
To free his Love, and quell the Paynim's Pride:
That Wight must needs be one Day glorifide,
Who against lawless Powre and tortious Wrong,
With fierce Avengement gallantly does ride.
Thus Arthegall, prickt inly, staid not long
From his Love's Lore; fit Matter for another Song.

[pp. 7-30]