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THE HOUSE OF MORPHEUS.
Archimago, a hypocritical magician, lures Una and the Red-cross Knigh
into his abode; and while they are asleep, sends to Morpheus, the god o sleep, for a false dream, to produce discord between them.
A little lowly hermitage it was
Thereby a crystal stream did gently play
Arrived there the little house they fill,2
He told of saints and popes, and evermore
The drooping night thus creepeth on them fast;
Then choosing out few words most horrible
Great Gorgon, prince of darkness and dead night;
And forth he call'd out of deep darkness dread
The one of them he gave a message to,
He maketh speedy way through spersèd air,
In silver dew his ever-drooping head,
Whose double gates he findeth locked fast;
And unto Morpheus comes, whom drowned deep
And more to lull him in his slumber soft,
No other noise, nor people's troublous cries,
The messenger approaching to him spake
The sprite then ʼgan more boldly him to wake,
He bids thee to him send for his intent
The god obeyed; and calling forth straightway
1 Wellèd forth alway.
The modulation of this charming stanza is exquisite. Let us divide it into its pauses, and see what we have been hear. ing :
A little lowly hermitage it was |
There was a holy chapel edified,
Thereby a crystal stream did gently play |
Mark the variety of pauses, of the accentuation of the sylla. bles 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.
2 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.
3 Nor look for entertainment where none was.
“ Entertainment” is here used in the restricted sense of treat. ment 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.
6 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. 305.
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 be. lieve, the only account of this very rare god, except what is abridged from his pages in a modern Italian mythology, and fur. nished 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 first book of his Genea