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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

IX. Stephen Hawes

§ 7. His Relation to Spenser

The Passetyme of Pleasure and The Example of Virtue belong to the group of allegorical poems culminating in The Faerie Queene; and it is generally agreed that Hawes influenced Spenser. Opinions, however, differ as to the extent of this influence. On the one hand E. B. Browning calls The Passetyme one of “the four columnar marbles, the four allegorical poems, on whose foundation is exalted into light the great allegorical poem of the world, Spenser’s Faery Queen.” On the other hand, Saintsbury admits only a faint adumbration of The Faerie Queene in The Passetyme and The Example: “its outline without its glorious filling-in, its theme without its art, its intellectual reason for existence without any of its aesthetic justification thereof. It is not improbable that Spenser did know Hawes; but, if so, he owed him a very small royalty.” The extent of this influence, or indebtedness, is easy to overstate and very difficult, or, rather, impossible, to prove. Mere coincidences may readily be mistaken for borrowing. It does not follow that, when two writers speak in very similar terms of the seven deadly sins, one has borrowed from the other. For, from the time of Piers the Plowman, the seven deadly sins had appeared again and again in allegory, in morality play and in pageant: they are found, too, along with other miscellaneous information, in that perpetual almanac, The Kalendar of Shepherds. It seems better, then, simply to enumerate points of resemblance—grouped together they make a striking list—than to attempt to define where the limit of Spenser’s indebtedness to Hawes should be fixed.

Hawes’s main idea is to describe the discipline a man must undergo and the obstacles he must surmount to attain moral purity, in The Example, or win worldly glory, in The Passetyme. Spenser states that his general aim is “to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline.”

Spenser follows the lead of Hawes in adopting the paraphernalia of chivalry as allegorical symbolism. The knights of The Faerie Queene put into practice what Melizius enunciates in The Passetyme as the underlying idea of chivalry—not fighting in every quarrel, but fighting for the truth or for the commonweal, and helping widows and maidens in distress. Some of Melizius’s knights, as, for instance, Courtesy and Justice, appear among Spenser’s paladins.

It is after hearing a description of La Bel Pucell’s surpassing beauty and worth that Graund Amour falls in love and determines to win his ideal. Spenser represents Arthur as having “seen in a dream or vision the Faerie Queene, with whose beauty ravished, he, awaking, resolved to seek her out.”

Graund Amour in The Passetyme, Youth in The Example, and Spenser’s Red Cross Knight wear the same armour, the Christian soldier’s panoply described by St. Paul, whose Epistle to the Ephesians is expressly referred to in each of the three instances.

In The Example there is a dragon with three heads—the world, the flesh and the devil—which must be defeated before Lady Cleanness is won; and the Red Cross Knight must overcome the same three foes before he wins Lady Una.

Lechery, in The Example, is a fair lady riding on a goat, and in The Faerie Queene, a man upon a bearded goat. In the former poem, Pride is an old lady in a castle on an elephant’s back, in the latter, a lady in a coach drawn by peacocks. Hawes writes of the park of Pride, Spenser of the garden of Pride.

When fighting with the seven-headed giant, Graund Amour leaps aside to evade the stroke of the ponderous axe, which then crashes into the ground three feet and more. In a similar way, Orgoglio’s club misses its mark and ploughs three yards into the ground.

Humility is warden of the castle in The Example, and porter of Spenser’s house of Holiness.

The claim asserted by Mutability in Spenser’s fragmentary seventh book resembles Fortune’s claim to universal rule, as set forth by Hawes in both his poems.

Envy, Disdain and Strangeness contrive Hawes’s monster Privy Malice; Spenser’s blatant beast, Slander, is urged on by Detraction and Envy.

The list of resemblances might be extended, but to no purpose; and of the many verbal coincidences one must suffice. Spenser (Book V, canto XI, stanzas 55, 56) makes Artegall say to Burbon:

  • Die rather than do aught that mote dishonour yield.
  • Fie on such forgery!
  • Under one hood to shadow faces twain:
  • Knights ought be true, and truth is one in all.
  • With this, compare three passages from The Passetyme. Minerva exhorts Graund Amour:

  • And rather deye in ony maner of wyse,
  • To attayne honour and the lyfe dyspyse,
  • Than for to lyve and remayne in shame.Chap. XXViii.
  • Fortune is described as a lady of pride and of perfect excellence,

  • But that she had two faces in one hode.Chap. XXVii.
  • Sir Truth says that he guards the door of the chamber of chivalry,

  • That no man enter into it wrongfully,
  • Without me, Trouthe, for to be chivalrous.Chap. XXVIII.