Edmund Spenser Biography: His 8 Significant Works Including his Epic Poem The Faerie Queen
Edmund Spenser Biography: One of the most significant and remarkable personality of 16th century Elizabethan period, Spenser was born in the year 1552 on London’s east Smithfield locality. He took his education from Cambridge’s Pembroke College. He got married to Machabyas Childe but after her untimely death in the year 1594, Spenser married to Elizabeth Boyle.
During Tyron’s rebellion which was started in the year1593 and ended in 1603, it is also termed as nine years war, Spenser was forced to leave his native land and his cherished possession Kilcolman Castle was also destroyed and burned down but Soon Spenser returned back and after his death in the year 1599, he was buried at poet’s corner in Westminster Abbey.
Writing style of Edmund Spenser: Due to his poetic genius and brilliant detailed description style, he is often called as English Vergil. He was greatly inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer and his writing style. In all his major poems including the faerie queen the influence of Chaucer and brilliant and effective use of antiquated and archaic expressions and language can be visibly seen.
Spenser presented a very graceful and elevated blend of classicism with native tone and he even experimented with foreign expressions and also coining new terms to make his poetry more effectively ornamented and effective at the same time.
Spenser believed and revered poetry as divine blessing and power which must be used as guiding light for the welfare of society and the mankind. He never restricted himself to any particular set of rules while writing his poetry and experimented and used extensively all the available literary devices to put forward his themes and viewpoints.
Significant Works of Edmund Spenser:
1. The Shepherds Calendar
● This allegorical poem was his first chief work published in the year 1579.
● Spenser dedicated this work to his contemporary poet Sir Philip Sydney.
● Edmund Spenser has published this work under the pseudonym Immerito.
● It is based on the work the eclogues written by Virgil.
● It is a pastoral poem which talks about the folk character named Colin clout.
● Shepherds calendar is a series of 12 eclogues representing and depicting the every month of the year starting from January.
● It takes place in the form of dialogues between the shepherds.
● Colin clout appears in two eclogues; june and December.
2. Amoretti and Epithalamion
● These 2 are the two parts of the same book addresses to his second wife Elizabeth Boyle.
● This book was first published in the year 1595.
● Amoretti include 89 sonnet sequences written in Petrarchan model.
● Epithalamion; a nuptial song or in other words marriage ode was divided in 24 stanzas consisting of 365 lines where number of stanzas depicts the no. of hours in a day and line depicts the no. of days in a year.
● Published in 1596, this poem or nuptial song was composed on the occasion of the twin marriage of the Catherine Somerset with William Petre and Elizabeth Somerset with Henry Guildford.
● T.S.Eliot in his masterpiece the wasteland has used a very famous line of this poem, “sweet Thames run softly till I end my song”.
● This bridal song begins with the portrayal of two beautiful women near the bank of Thames River picking flowers for the crown of the bride.
● It is a pastoral elegy.
● It was written by Spenser on the death of Sir Philip Sydney.
5. Colin Clout Come Home Again
● It is a pastoral eclogue which he dedicated to Sir Walter Raleigh.
● This poem is mostly autobiographical which talks about his stay and time spent in London.
6. Mother Hubbard’s Tale
● This poem was published in his collection named complaints.
● This poem talks about the allegorical story of an ape and a fox.
● On a metaphorical level it denounces the clergy as well as points on the neglect of art and culture and it ridicules Lord Burghley as well.
7. A View of the Present State of the Ireland
● This pamphlet was written in the year 1596 but it was not published during his life time and later in 1633 it was published posthumously.
● A prose pamphlet written in the form of dialogue between two Englishmen.
8. The Faerie Queen
● It is an incomplete epic poem written in 6 books by Edmund Spenser.
● Earlier Spenser planned to write this epic in total 12 books but only 6 books got completed and 7th was only started which never got finished.
● This epic was published in two sections; the first three books got published in the year 1590 and other three books in the year 1596.
● Spenserian stanza (9 lines stanza) was first introduced and used by Edmund Spenser in this epic poem named the faerie queen.
● This poem has taken its inspiration from Aristotle’s Orlando Furiosio.
● This work celebrates the Tudor dynasty and it was written in the admiration of Queen Elizabeth- I represented by character of Faerie Queen named Gloriana in the poem. The character named Belphoebe also represent the queen Elizabeth I.
● The complete epic chronicles the journey and adventures of King Arthur.
● Due to this remarkable work Edmund Spenser was granted the pension of 50$ for life by Queen Elizabeth.
● Each book of the epic talks about one knight and each knight represent a unique virtue of their own. The list of knights and their virtues are as follows:-
First book – Red Cross knight represents the holiness of the Anglican Church.
Second book – Sir Gayon represents temperance or self control.
Third book – Britomatis; the lady night represents chastity or purity.
Fourth book – Trimond and Campbell represents friendship.
Fifth book – Artegall represents justice.
Sixth book – Sir Calidore represents courtesy.
Seventh book – Incomplete book named Mutability cantos.
● At the end of this epic poem the faerie queen, King Arthur marries the Faerie Queen Gloriana.
Some comments on Edmund Spenser by other prominent authors and poets:
17th century poet John Milton referred Edmund Spenser as “our sage and serious Spenser”.
Famous 18th century poet and essayist Charles Lamb called him “poet’s poet” due his brilliant and distinctive use of archaic language and other literacy tools.
Alexander Pope wrote about Spenser as “a mistress whose faults we all see but, but love her with them all”.