1820
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Written at the close of Canto II, Book V, of The Faerie Queene.]

Plymouth and Davenport Weekly Journal (4 July 1830).

John Keats


One Spenserian stanza, written in the copy of Spenser John Keats was copying out for Fanny Brawne about July 1820 (now lost). In the newspaper in which it was first published Charles Armitage Brown as "the last stanza of any kind that [Keats] wrote before his lamented death" Poems, ed. Allott (1970) 742. In this brief allegory, the Giant is refitted for his task by the sage "Typographus," alluding to the power of the press. In addition to the general political sense, the stanza may have a specifically literary application. A younger generation of Spenserians were struggling with the academic critics controlling the reviews of the era; many of these poets had learned their craft from "Typographus" — books and magazines — rather than in grammar schools and colleges. Blackwood's Magazine, for one, regularly charged the "Cockney" poets with vulgarity and ignorance.

John Scott: "It is impossible, — however we may regret the extravagant course his Knight-errantry has taken, — not to feel our wishes and sympathies on the side of the knight of the Sorrowful countenance in this encounter. His spirit is a gallant one; his brain is full of high feats; his heart beats in real devotion to a Dulcinea whom he has clad with fine attributes in his imagination, though, certainly, we believer her to be much less a lady than he imagines her. His delusion, however, is the offspring of a romantic temperament; whereas his maulers are but things of brute matter, machines for grinding grist; — 'plates hung on pins to turn with the wind,' — acquiring a murderous power from their specific levity" London Magazine 2 (September 1820) 318.

Richard Monkton Milnes: "The copy of Spenser which Keats had in daily use, contains the following stanza, inserted at the close of Canto II. Book V. His sympathies were very much on the side of the revolutionary 'Gyant,' who 'undertook to repair' the 'realms and nations run awry,' and to suppress 'tyrants that make men subject to their law,' ' and lordings curbe that commons over-aw,' while he grudged the legitimate victory, as he rejected the conservative philosophy, of the 'righteous Artegall' and his comrade, the fierce defender of privilege and order. And he expressed, in this ex post facto prophecy, his conviction of the ultimate triumph of freedom and equality of the power of transmitted knowledge" Life, Letters and Literary Remains of John Keats (1848) 1:281.

The key to the epigram, if one can call it that, is the sage Typographus "of mickle lore." Writers like Keats, who acquired their education from books and periodicals rather than the formal education offered in public schools and colleges, were beginning to challenge the literary standards set up by the reviewers tormenting the likes of John Keats. Much of the new "untutored" poetry was written in Spenserian stanzas inspired by James Beattie's The Minstrel and Robert Burns's Cotter's Saturday Night, particularly in the 1820s.

Herbert E. Cory: "In his maturity he was, at times, a perfect reincarnation of Spenser. Yet at the close of his life he could write Spenserian Stanzas on Charles Armitage Browne in a vein of good-humoured personal satire much cultivated in the Eighteenth Century and given consummate expression, as we shall see in Thomson's Castle of Indolence. Like any Augustan-Spenserian, he gave his own turn to the episode of Artegall and the giant in a Spenserian Stanza of political allegory.... The episode in question occurs in The Faerie Queene, 5, 2. To Spenser the giant's radical notions were naturally revolting and the henchmen of Justice kicked him off a cliff. To Keats, with his eyes dilated by the French Revolution and by many new political visions, the giant's spirit of revolt was crude but far more worthy than Artegall's inflexible conservatism" "Spenser, Thomson, and Romanticism" PMLA 26 (1911) 73 &n.

Greg Kucich: "The resurrection of this rough Giant, deepened in his sensitivity for the oppressed and schooled to strike down political and moral tyranny, seems no less than a brief allegory of the redemption of Spenser's own innate but limited sympathy for the 'weake state of sad afflicted man.' A reeducated Spenser, so the allegory implies, gives birth to the 'artist' of 'after time'" Keats, Shelley, and Romantic Spenserianism (1991) 228-29.



In after-time, a sage of mickle lore
Yclep'd Typographus, the Giant took,
And did refit his limbs as heretofore,
And made him read in many a learned book,
And into many a lively legend look;
Thereby in goodly themes so training him,
That all his brutishness he quite forsook,
When, meeting Artegall and Talus grim,
The one he struck stone-blind, the other's eyes wox dim.

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