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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

XI. The Poetry of Spenser

§ 16. Colin Clout’s Come Home Again

Language of this kind seems to show plainly that the poet’s advancement at court was barred by political obstacles. But he also had to encounter a certain opposition in the change of taste. In 1591, after a year spent with the English court, he returned to what he considered exile in Ireland, and there, in the form of an allegorical pastoral, called Colin Clout’s Come Home Again, he gave expression to his views about the contemporary state of manners and poetry. While exalting the person of the queen, with imagery never surpassed in richness, and paying noble compliments to those of her courtiers who had duly appreciated the beauties of The Faerie Queene, he reflects severely, through the mouth of Colin Clout, on the general state of courtly taste, especially in respect of love poetry:

  • Not so, (quoth he) Love most aboundeth there.
  • For all the walls and windows there are writ,
  • All full of love, and love, and love my deare,
  • And all their talke and studie is of it.
  • Ne any there doth brave valiant seeme
  • Unlesse that some gay Mistresse badge he beares:
  • For with lewd speeches, and licentious deedes,
  • His mightie mysteries they do prophane,
  • And use his ydle name to other needs.
  • But as a complement for courting vaine.