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At length, compositions professedly allegorical, with which that
age abounded, were resolved into allegories for which they were never intended. In the famous RoMAUNT OF THE Rose, written about the year 1310, the poet couches the difficulties of an ardent lover in attaining the object of his passion, under the allegory of a Rose, which is gathered in a delicious but almost inaccessible garden. The theologists proved this rose to be the white rose of Jericho, the new Jerusalem, a state of grace,
divine wisdom, the holy Virgin, or eternal beatitude, at none of which obstinate heretics can ever arrive. The chemists
pretended, that it was the philosopher's stone; the civilians, that it was the most consummate point of equitable decision ; and the physicians, that it was an infallible panacea. In a word, other professions, in the most elaborate commentaries, explained away
the lover's rose into the mysteries of their own respective science. In conformity to this practice, Tallo allegorised his own poem : and a flimsy structure of morality was raised on the chimerical conceptions of Ariosto's ORLANDO. 1577, a translation of a part of Amadis de Gaule appeared in France; with a learned preface, developing the valuable stores of profound instruction, concealed under the naked letter of the old romances, which were discernible only to the intelligent, and totally unperceived by common readers ; who, instead of plucking the fruit, were obliged to rest contented with le fimple FLEUR de la Lecture litterale. Even Spenser, at a later period, could not indulge his native impulse to descriptions of chivalry, without framing such a story, as conveyed, under the dark conceit of ideal champions, a set of historic transactions, and an exemplification of the nature of the twelve moral virtues. He presents his fantastic queen with a rich romantic mirrour, which Thewed the wonderous achievements of her magnificent ancestry.
In the year
And thou, O faireft princess under sky,
And thine own realmes in Lond of Faery, And in this antique image thy great ancestry. It was not, however, solely from an unmeaning and a wanton spirit of refinement, that the fashion of resolving every thing into allegory so universally prevailed. The same apology may be offered for the cabalistical interpreters, both of the classics and of the old romances. The former not willing that those books should be quite exploded which contained the antient mythology, laboured to reconcile the apparent absurdities of the pagan system to the christian mysteries, by demonstrating a figurative resemblance. The latter, as true learning began to dawn, with a view of supporting for a while the expiring credit of giants and magicians, were compelled to palliate those monstrous incredibilities, by a bold attempt to unravel the mystic web which had been wove by fairy hands, and by shewing that truth was hid under the gorgeous veil of Gothic invention.
« B. ü. INTROD, St. vi.
UR communications and intercourse with Italy, which
began to prevail about the beginning of the sixteenth
century, not only introduced the studies of classical literature into England, but gave a new turn to our vernacular poetry. At this period, Petrarch still continued the most favorite poet of the Italians; and had established a manner, which was universally adopted and imitated by his ingenious countrymen. In the mean time, the courts both of France and England were distinguished for their elegance. Francis the first had changed the state of letters in France, by mixing gallantry with learning, and by admitting the ladies to his court in company with the ecclesiastics". His carousals were celebrated with a brilliancy and a festivity unknown to the ceremonious shews of former princes. Henry the eighth vied with Francis in these gaieties. His ambition, which could not bear a rival even in diversions,
• See fupr. vol. ii. p. 414.
was seconded by liberality of disposition and a love of ostentation. For Henry, with many boisterous qualities was magnificent and affable. Had he never murthered his wives, his politeness to the fair sex would remain unimpeached. His martial sports were unincumbered by the barbaric pomp of the antient chivalry, and softened by the growing habits of more rational manners. He was attached to those spectacles and public amusements, in which beauty assumed a principal share ; and his frequent masques and tournaments encouraged a high spirit of romantic courtesy. Poetry was the natural accompaniment of these refinements. Henry himself was a leader and a chief character in these pageantries, and at the same time a reader and a writer of verses. The language and the manners of Italy were esteemed and studied. The sonnets of Petrarch were the
great models of composition. They entered into the genius of the fashionable manners : and in a court of such a complexion, Pe. trarch of course became the popular poet. Henry Howard earl Surrey, with a mistress perhaps as beautiful as Laura, and at least with Petrarch's passion if not his taste, led the way to great improvements in English poetry, by a happy imitation of Petrarch, and other Italian poets, who had been most successful in painting the anxieties of love with pathos and propriety.
Lord Surrey's life throws fo much light on the character and subjects of his poetry, that it is almost impossible to consider the one, without exhibiting a few anecdotes of the other. He was the son and grandson of two lords treasurers dukes of Norfolk ; and in his early childhood discovered the most promising marks of lively parts and an active mind.
While a boy, he was habituated to the modes of a court at Windsor-castle ; where he resided, yet under the care of proper instructors, in the quality of a companion to Henry Fitzroy, duke of Richmond, a natural son of king Henry the eighth, and of the highest expectations. This young
nobleman, who also bore other titles and honours, was the child of Henry's affection : not so much on account of