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The Knight is led further on, and shown more treasures, and afterwards taken into the palace of Ambition; but all in vain.
Mammon emmovèd was with inward wrath;
With herbs and fruits, whose kinds must not be read:
There mournful cypress grew in greatest store ;14
With which the unjust Athenians made to die
The garden of Proserpina this hight;17
Clothed with leaves, that none the wood might see.
Their fruit were golden apples, gistering bright,
On earth like never grew, nor living wight
Here also sprung that goodly golden fruit,
Whom he had long time sought with fruitless suit;
The which amongst the gods false Até threw;
That many noble Greeks and Trojans made to bleed.
The warlike elf much wonder'd at this tree
So fair and great, that shadowed all the ground;
In which full many souls do endless wail and weep.
Which to behold, he climb'd up to the bank;
That with their piteous cries and yelling shrights
That drenched lay full deep under the garden side.
Deep was he drenched to the utmost chin,
Of the cold liquor which he waded in:
And, stretching forth his hand, did often think
To reach the food which grew upon the brink;
But both the fruit from hand and flood from mouth
The knight, him seeing labor so in vain.
Of whom high Jove wont whilom feasted be!
But, if that thou be such as I thee see,
Of grace I pray thee give to eat and drink to me !"
'Nay, nay, thou greedy Tantalus," quoth he; "Abide the fortune of thy present fate; And unto all that live in high degree, Example be of mind intemperate,
To teach them how to use their presert state. ' Then 'gan the cursed wretch aloud to cry, Accusing highest Jove and gods ingrate : And eke blaspheming Heaven bitterly, As author of injustice, there to let him die.
He look'd a little further, and espied
So lost his labor vain, and idle industry.
The knight him calling, asked who he was? Who, lifting up his head, him answered thus: "I Pilate am,23 the falsest judge, alas! And most unjust; that, by unrighteous And wicked doom, to Jews despiteous Delivered up the Lord of Life to die, And did acquit a murderer felonous; The whilst my hands I wash'd in purity; The whilst my soul was soil'd with foul iniquity."
Infinite more tormented in like pain
He then beheld, too long here to be told:
In which the damnèd souls he did behold,
All which he did to do him deadly fall
That dreadful fiend, which did behind him wait,
And now he has so long remained there,
Therefore great Mammon fairly he besought
Into the world to guide him back, as he him brought,
The god, though loth, yet was constrain'd t' obey,
13 That house's form within was rude and strong, &c.
Hazlitt, with his fine poetical taste, speaking of the two stanzas here following, and the previous one beginning, And over all, &c., says, that they are unrivalled for the "portentous massiveness of the forms, the splendid chiaroscuro and shadowy horror,"-" Lectures on the English Poets," third edition, p. 77. It is extraordinary that in the new "Elegant Extracts," published under his name, seven lines of the first stanza, beginning at the words, "from whose rough vault," are left out. Their exceeding weight, the contrast of the dirt and squalor with the gold, and the spider's webs dusking over all, compose chief part of the grandeur of the description (as indeed he has just said). Hogarth, by the way, has hit upon the same thought of a spider's web for his poor's-box, in the wedding-scene in Mary-le-bone church. So do tragedy and comedy meet.
15 “Not such as earth," &c.-Upton thinks it not unlikely that
Spenser imagined the direful deadly and black fruits which this infernal garden bears, from a like garden which Dante describes, Inferno, canto xiii., v. 4.
Non frondi verdi, ma di color fosco,
(No leaves of green were theirs, but dusky sad;
It is a human
Dante's garden, however, has no flowers. grove; that is to say, made of trees that were once human beings, an aggravation (according to his customary improvement upon horrors) of a like solitary instance in Virgil, which Spenser has also imitated in his story of Fradubio, book i., canto 2, st. 30.
16 There mournful cypress grew in greatest store, &c.
Among the trees and flowers here mentioned, heben, is ebony; coloquintida, the bitter gourd or apple; tetra, the tetrum solanum, or deadly night-shade; samnitis, Upton takes to be the Sabine, or savine-tree; and cicuta is the hemlock, which Socrates drank when he poured out to his friends his "last philosophy." How beautifully said is that! But the commentators have shown that it was a slip of memory in the poet to make Critias their representative on the occasion,-that apostate from his philosophy not having been present. Belamy is bel ami, fair friend,a phrase answering to good friend, in the old French writers.
17 The garden of Proserpina this hight.
The idea of a garden and a golden tree for Proserpina is in Claudian, De Raptu Proserpinæ, lib. ii., v. 290. But Spenser has made the flowers funereal, and added the "silver seat,' a strong yet still delicate contrast to the black flowers, and in cold sympathy with them. It has also a certain fair and ladylike fitness to the possessor of the arbor. May I venture, with all reverence to Spenser, to express a wish that he had made a