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Graces, Colin Clout, poetry


Colin Clout's vision of the Graces is the imaginative center of Book VI, and in a sense of the whole Faerie Queene, "the sacred noursery / Of vertue" (VI. Proem 3), wherein both the Knight of Courtesy and the reader are instructed in the "vertuous and gentle disciple" of the imagination ("Letter to Raleigh," II, 495). Spenser's readers have been virtually unanimous in their agreement with C. S. Lewis, that the vision on Mount Acidale is "the key to Spenser's whole conception of Courtesy." But there has been considerably less agreement about the precise significance of Spenser's vision. In particular, Colin Clout's rather prosaic gloss on his own vision raises at least as many questions as it answers. Surely we are not meant to read the vision in the narrowly reductive way that Colin himself seems to doo, as a didactic essay on "Ciuility." But how, then, ought we to construe those "gracious gifts" bestowed by the Muse (x.23)? The mere presence of Spenser, thinly disguised, as a character in his own fiction raises a whole series of further questions: How, precisely, are we intended to conceive the relation between the visionary poet and his fugitive inspiration? or between that inspiration and its visible enactment? How, finally, are we to construe the relation between the poet's unconscious inspiration, the "goodly fury" infused in him by the Muse (Pr. 2), and his conscious imagination, the "diuine resemblaunce" (x.27) which represents the poet's vision to his audience?