Of the greene alders by the Mallaes shore,
and try his fortune at the court of the great shepherdess Cynthia, and how he ultimately returned to Ireland. The verse marks, as might be expected, a considerable advance in smoothness and command of rhythm over the non-lyrical portions of the Calender, and the dialect, too, is much less harsh, being far advanced towards that peculiar poetic diction which Spenser adopted in his more ambitions work. On the other hand, in spite of a certain allegrezza in the handling, and in spite of the Rosalind wound being at least partially healed, the same minor key prevails as in the earlier poems. In the spring of the great age of English song Spenser’s note is like the voice of autumn, not the fruitful autumn of cornfield and orchard, but a premature barrenness of wet and fallen leaves—
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall.
Thus though time has purged the bitterness of his sorrow, the regret remains; his early love is still the mistress of his thoughts, but years have softened his reproaches, and he admits:
who with blame
can justly her upbrayd,
For loving not; for who can love compell?—
a petard, it may be incidentally remarked, which, sprung within the bounds of pastoral, is of power to pulverize in an instant the whole artificial system of amatory ethics.
The most notable points in the poem are the loves of the rivers Bregog and Mulla, the famous list of contemporary poets, and the presentation of the seamy side of court life, recalling the more direct satire of the probably contemporary Mother Hubberd’s Tale. The first of these belongs to the class of Ovidian myths already noticed in such works as Lorenzo’s Ambra. The subject, however, is treated in a more subtly allegorical manner than by Ovid’s direct imitators, and this mode of presentment likewise characterizes Spenser’s tale of Molanna in the fragment on Mutability. Browne returned to a more crudely metamorphical tradition in the loves of Walla and Tavy, while a similarly mythological Naturanschauung may be traced in Drayton’s chorographical epic.
Of the miscellaneous Astrophel, edited and in part composed by Spenser, which was appended to Colin Clout, and of the Daphnaida published in 1596, though, like the former volume, containing a dedication dated 1591, a passing mention must suffice. The former is chiefly remarkable as illustrating the uniformly commonplace character of the verse called forth by the death of one who, while he lived, was held the glory of Elizabethan chivalry. It contains, beside other verse, pastoral elegies from the pens, certainly of Spenser, and probably of the Countess of Pembroke, Matthew Roydon, and Lodowick Bryskett. The last-named, or at any rate a contributor with the same initiais, also supplied a ‘Pastorall Aeglogue’ on the same theme. Daphnaida is a long lament in pastoral form on the death of Douglas Howard, daughter of the Earl of Northampton.