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SELECT POEMS OF SAMUEL DANIEL.
SELECT POEMS OF MICHAEL DIRAYTON.
LIFE OF SPENSER.
THE early efforts in poetry of all nations are necessarily rude and imperfect. Many attempts must be made, before a barbarous language can be so disciplined into correctness of diction, and melody of sound, as to afford a material which even genius itself can work into anything truly excellent. And when improvement has proceeded so far that lines and passages are to be found deserving of real admiration, these will long be of rare occurrence, like specks of gold in a matrix of brute earth. Productions of such a period, however interesting they may be to the critical enquirer into the history of national literature, will give more disgust than pleasure to one who reads for amusement only, and who has already formed his taste upon the best models of different ages and countries. It might be difficult to determine with whom of the English poets commences that degree of masterly execution which is capable of satisfying a cultivated taste; but that Spenser is within this limit, will hardly be questioned by any one who has sufficiently familiarised himself with his writings to disregard the uncouthness of an antiquated diction. His name, too, by long possession, has obtained a permanent rank among the major poets of the na
tion; so that the student of English verse cannot, even through regard to his reputation, safely remain altogether unacquainted with the works of one who fills such a space in the history of his art. As the undoubted head of a peculiar class of writers, Spenser, too, claims the notice of literary curiosity; for no adequate idea can be formed of the extent to which personification and allegory may be carried, without a perusal of parts of the Faery Queene. Few of the eminent English writers are less known by authentic biographical records than Spenser; and it is necessary to be contented with such a defective and partly dubious account of him as can be derived from a few traditionary notices, and from circumstances incidentally alluded to in his works. Edmund Spenser was born in London, probably of obscure parentage, since he has given us no information on that point. He was entered as a sizer (the lowest order of students) at Pembrokehall, Cambridge, in the year 1569. From this date may with probability be inferred that of his birth, which has been strangely misrepresented in the inscription on his tomb. Supposing him, when he entered at the university, to have been sixteen, the usual academical age at that period, he must have been born about the year 1553. He took the degrees of bachelor and master of arts, the latter in 1576, in which year he was an unsuccessful competitor for a fellowship. Mortification for this disappointment probably drove him from college; and we find that he took up his residence for some time in the north, but in what quality we do not learn. Here, an accident of importance in a poet’s life occurred, that of his falling in love. His mistress, whom he has commemorated under the name of Rosalinde, after leading him through the usual vicissitudes of a love adventure, finally deserted