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Quitten, 1.213, 'quit' or 'stopped.'
Weren, 1.211, 'were.'
Couth, 1.190, M. E. cuð.
Wonned, 1.119, 'were wont' (Herford).
Painted words, 1.166, "false, a coloring of the matter” (Herford). Cf. Piers
Plowman, B. 30, 144; Lydgate's De Guil. Pilgrim., 10, 947.
romances. 3. Archaic words and meanings appear as follows: a. Nouns: Coronall, 1. 178, "garlands” (E. K.). Prior to Spenser's time this word meant
a circlet of gold. Spenser gives it the meaning of a wreath of flowers. It
is an old word with a new meaning.
Aman. 95; Lydgate, Chron. of Troy 15.
used of cattle; hence a flock (of sheep). b. Adjectives: Fitter, 1. 100, 'more fit,' ‘more proper.' “Fit in this sense first used in 1440”
(N. E. D.). Revived by Spenser. Sike, 1. 211, 'such. This is a M. E. survival which was still common in
Lancashire (N. E. D.). c. Verbs:
Accloieth, 1. 135, “encombreth” (E. K.). M. E. acloieth.
of the sixteenth century" (N. E. D.).
common in Chaucer. Threat, 1. 117, 'to threaten.' M. E. breaten, prete. d. Adverbs: Eftsones, 1. 225, 'orthwith,' 'soon afterwards.' This is a M. E. survival
occasionally used in poetic diction.
Mochell, 1. 109, ‘much.' M. E. muchel.
used by Chaucer.
Fr. en aventure. In this selection from The Shepheardes Calendar, probably the most archaic passage in all Spenser's works, I have discovered, counting repetitions, thirty-four words and phrases which may be considered to have been archaic in Spenser's time. These thirty-four archaisms are distributed through a passage containing approximately 1065 words; the frequency of occurrence, therefore, is one in thirty-one. While only a little more than three per cent of this passage is archaic, a comparison with a non-pastoral selection will show that the percentage of archaisms in the latter is even smaller.
In The Faerie Queene Spenser has turned from pastoral to chivalric or epic poetry. It comprises the bulk of his work during the middle period of his career. I have therefore selected Canto One of Book One as the basis of study for this period and shall list the archaisms which it contains. 1. Archaic forms: a. Infinitive in -en:
Vewen, 1. 201, 'to view.' b. Prefix dropped:
Joying, 1. 58, 'delighting,' 'enjoying.'
Spersed, 1. 343, 'dispersed,' 'scattered.'
Yclad, 1. 58, 254, 'clad,' 'clothed.'
Vrockt, 1.491 'rocked.'
Lad, 1. 76, 'led.'
Welke, 1. 200, 'to fade,' 'to wane.' 2. Archaic words and meanings: a. Nouns: Boughtes, 1. 129, 'coils," "folds," 'knots.' Common in Northern dialect for
curve or bend (N. E. D.). Entraile, 1. 139, 'twist," "coil.' "The action of the verb entrail” (N. E. D.). Fit, 1. 360, state or condition. “Occasionally used in the 16th century" (N. E.
Needments, 1.49, 'necessaries.'
Noyance, 1, 205, 'annoyance.'
Combrous, 1. 203, ‘harassing,' 'troublesome.'
Perceable, 1. 60, 'penetrable,' from M. E. percen.
Amate, 1. 454, 'to dismay,' 'daunt,' 'cast down.'
Cf. Piers Plowman, B 15. 393.
use in Scotland and Kent” (E. D. D.).
Weare, 1. 277, 'spend,' 'pass.'
Effraide, 1. 136, 'frightened. Cf. Dunbar's Thistle and Rose, 68.
In this non-pastoral selection from the middle period of Spenser's poetic writings there appear to be only thirty-four archaisms in an approximate total of 4200 words. This gives a ratio of one archaic expression to about 123 non-archaic expressions, or a percentage of less than one. From this it would appear that Spenser uses fewer archaisms in non-pastoral than in pastoral poetry. It would also appear that he is following the language of the early romances and of Chaucer, much of which was in good standing with the Elizabethans.
Lest it be objected that the above comparison is not representative, which is a valid objection, I wish to make a similar study of Colin Clouts Come Home Againe, which is probably Spenser's latest pastoral. My study is based on the first two hundred lines of this poem. 1. Archaic forms appear as follows: a. Prefix y- retained in participle:
Ycleepe, 1. 65, 'call.'
Yshrilled, 1. 62, 'sounded,' 'rang out.' b. Intrusive h:
Threasure, 1.47, 'treasure.'
2. Archaic words and meanings:
Hond, 1. 72, 'hand.' M. E. spelling.
Sith, 11. 19, 30; sythe, 1, 23 'time.' A. M. E. survival.
Listfull, 1. 7, 'attentive.' From M. E. hlusten.
Aemuling, 1. 72.
Weld, 1. 130, ‘govern,''dominate,''control,' N. E. welde.
(N. E. D.).
Emong, 1. 154, ‘among,' as above. This selection from Spenser's late political pastoral appears to contain, counting repetitions as in the previous studies, seventeen archaisms. Since the selection contains approximately 1550 words, the ratio of the archaic to non-archaic diction is one to ninety-one. This affords a basis for an interesting comparison with the diction of the moral-allegorical pastoral in the February Eclogue of The Shepheardes Calendar, in which it was necessary to veil the allegorical implications, where the ratio is one to thirty-one. The comparison with the chivalric Faerie Queene, in which the archaisms appear in a ratio of one to one hundred and twentythree is no less interesting and suggestive. These comparisons lead to obvious conclusions.8
These studies show that the percentage of archaisms in Spenser's diction ranges from 3.19 in the extreme case of the early moral-allegorical February Eclogue of The Shepheardes Calendar to .81 in the later chivalric Faerie Queene, and to 1.10 in the late political-allegorical Colin Clouts Come Home Againe. From these facts two conclusions regarding Spenser's diction may be drawn. The first is that it is not as archaic as the statements of commentators would sometimes seem to indicate, statements influenced largely, perhaps, by Johnson's unfounded dictum that “Spenser in affecting the ancients writ no language.” The second is
8 I am well aware of the fact that I have included in the above lists some words which occur in the writings of Spenser's contemporaries and that I have excluded others which occur only rarely in such writings. I have tried, however, to include all words which would appear archaic to an educated contemporary and to exclude such as would not.
that Spenser's pastoral poetry is purposely more archaic than his nonpastoral poetry. The fact that the pastoral Colin Clout is more archaic in diction than the earlier chivalric Faerie Queene shows that Spenser, following the well established pastoral tradition, consciously used a specialized diction for pastoral poetry.