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THE HOUSE OF MORPHEUS.
Archimago, a hypocritical magician, lures Una and the Red-cross Knight into his abode; and while they are asleep, sends to Morpheus, the god of sleep, for a false dream, to produce discord between them.
A little lowly hermitage it was
Down in a dale, hard by a forest's side,
There was a holy chapel edified,
Arrived there the little house they fill,2
Nor look for entertainment where none was,
The drooping night thus creepeth on them fast;
As messenger of Morpheus, on them cast
Sweet slumbering dew; the which to sleep them bids
Where, when all drown'd in deadly sleep he finds,
He to his study goes, and their amids'
His magic books and arts of sundry kinds,
He seeks out mighty charms to trouble sleepy minds.
Then choosing out few words most horrible (Let none them read!)5 thereof did verses frame, With which, and other spells like terrible, He bad awake black Pluto's grisly dame, And cursed Heaven; and spake reproachful shame Of highest God, the Lord of life and light: A bold bad man, that dar'd to call by name Great Gorgon, prince of darkness and dead night; At which Cocytus quakes, and Styx is put to flight.
And forth he call'd out of deep darkness dread
He maketh speedy way through spersed air,
And low, where dawning day doth never peep,
His dwelling is; there Tethys his wet bed
Doth ever wash, and Cynthia still doth steep
While sad night over him her mantle black doth spread
Whose double gates he findeth locked fast;
The other all with silver overcast;
And unto Morpheus comes, whom drowned deep
In drowsy fit he finds; of nothing he takes keep.
And more to lull him in his slumber soft,
A trickling stream, from high rock tumbling down, And ever drizzling rain upon the loft,
Mix'd with a murmuring wind, much like the soun Of swarming bees, did cast him in a swoun :
No other noise, nor people's troublous cries,
The messenger approaching to him spake
Shook him so hard, that forced him to speak
As one then in a dream, whose drier brain
Is tost with troubled sights and fancies weak,
He mumbled soft, but would not all his silence break
The sprite then 'gan more boldly him to wake,
A fit false dream, that can delude the sleeper's sent."11
The god obeyed; and calling forth straightway
Deliver'd it to him, and down did lay
Whose senses all were straight benumb'd and stark.
1 Welled forth alway.
The modulation of this charming stanza is exquisite. Let us divide it into its pauses, and see what we have been hearing :
A little lowly hermitage it was
Down in a dale, | hard by a forest's side, |
There was a holy chapel edified, |
His holy things | each morn and eventide ;
Which from a sacred fountain wellèd forth alway.
Mark the variety of pauses, of the accentuation of the syllables and of the intonation of the vowels; all closing in that exquisite last line, as soft and continuous as the water it describes, The repetition of the words little and holy add to the sacred snugness of the abode. We are to fancy the little tenement on the skirts of a forest, that is to say, within, but not deeply within, the trees; the chapel is near it, but not close to it, more embowered; and the rivulet may be supposed to circuit both chapel and hermitage, running partly under the trees between mossy and flowery banks, for hermits were great cullers of simples; and though Archimago was a false hermit, we are to suppose him living in a true hermitage, It is one of those pictures which remain for ever in the memory; and the succeeding stanza is worthy of it.
? Arrived there the little house they fill,
Not literally the house, but the apartment as a specimen of the house; for we see by what follows that the hermitage must have contained at least four rooms; one in which the knight and the lady were introduced, two more for their bed-chambers, and a fourth for the magician's study,
Nor look for entertainment where none was.
"Entertainment" is here used in the restricted sense of treatment as regards food and accommodation; according to the old inscription over inn-doors-"Entertainment for man and horse,"
4 The noblest mind the best contentment has.
This is one of Spenser's many noble sentiments expressed in as noble single lines, as if made to be recorded in the copy-books
of full-grown memories. As, for example, one which he is fond
of repeating :
No service loathsome to a gentle kind.
And that fine Alexandrine,
Weak body well is chang'd for mind's redoubled force.
And another, which Milton has imitated in Comus
Virtue gives herself light in darkness for to wade.
5 "Let none them read."—As if we could!
And yet while we
smile at the impossibility, we delight in this solemn injunction of the Poet's, so child-like, and full of the imaginative sense of the truth of what he is saying.
A bold bad man that dared to call by name
This is the ineffable personage, whom Milton, with a propriety equally classical and poetical, designates as
The dreaded name
Par. Lost, Book ii., v. 965.
Ancient believers apprehended such dreadful consequences from the mention of him, that his worst and most potent invokers are represented as fearful of it; nor am I aware that any poet, Greek or Latin, has done it, though learned commentators on Spenser imply otherwise. In the passages they allude to, in Lucan and Statius, there is no name uttered. The adjuration is always made by a periphrasis. This circumstance is noticed by Boccaccio, who has given by far the best, and indeed, I believe, the only account of this very rare god, except what is abridged from his pages in a modern Italian mythology, and furnished by his own authorities, Lactantius and Theodontus, the latter an author now lost. Ben Jonson calls him "Boccaccio's Demogorgon." The passage is in the firs: book of his Genea