(Poem #328) from The Faerie Queen
A gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine, Y cladd in mightie armes and siluer shielde, Wherein old dints of deepe wounds did remaine, The cruell markes of many' a bloudy fielde; Yet armes till that time did he neuer wield: His angry steede did chide his foming bitt, As much disdayning to the curbe to yield: Full iolly knight he seemd, and faire did sitt, As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fitt. But on his brest a bloudie Crosse he bore, The deare remembrance of his dying Lord, For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he wore, And dead as liuing euer him ador'd: Vpon his shield the like was also scor'd, For soueraine hope, which in his helpe he had: Right faithfull true he was in deede and word, But of his cheere did seeme too solemne sad; Yet nothing did he dread, but euer was ydrad. Vpon a great aduenture he was bond, That greatest Gloriana to him gaue, That greatest Glorious Queene of Faerie lond, To winne him worship, and her grace to haue, Which of all earthly things he most did craue; And euer as he rode, his hart did earne To proue his puissance in battell braue Vpon his foe, and his new force to learne; Vpon his foe, a Dragon horrible and stearne. A louely Ladie rode him faire beside, Vpon a lowly Asse more white then snow, Yet she much whiter, but the same did hide Vnder a vele, that wimpled was full low, And ouer all a blacke stole she did throw, As one that inly mournd: so was she sad, And heauie sat vpon her palfrey slow: Seemed in heart some hidden care she had, and by her in a line a milke white lambe she lad. So pure and innocent, as that same lambe, She was in life and euery vertuous lore, And by descent from Royall lynage came Of ancient Kings and Queenes, that had of yore Their scepters stretcht from East to Westerne shore, And all the world in their subiection held; Till that infernall feend with foule vprore Forwasted all their land, and them expeld: Whom to auenge, she had this Knight from far cõpeld
Like Chaucer, Spenser has left his indelible stamp on English Literature... Spenser was considered in his day to be the greatest of English poets, who had glorified England and its language by his long allegorical poem The Faerie Queene, just as Virgil had glorified Rome and the Latin tongue by his epic poem the Aeneid. Spenser had a strong influence upon his immediate successors, and the sensuous features of his poetic style, as well as his nine-line stanza-form, were later admired and imitated by such poets as Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley in the Romantic period of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He is widely studied today as one of the chief begetters of the English literary Renaissance and as a master who embodied in poetic myth a view of the virtuous life in a Christian universe. -- EB The Faerie Queen saw the introduction of the eponymous Spenserian stanza, a nine line stanza consisting of eight lines of five feet each (iambic pentameter) and a final line with six feet, the rhyme scheme being ababbcbcc. 'Spacious and slow moving', the Britannica calls it, and indeed there is something about the form that lends itself very nicely to the epic, giving it a gravity that the quicker heptametric ballads miss, and a refreshingly punctuated flow that the more common heroic couplets find hard to achieve. Of course, that stateliness seems archaic nowadays, and the Spenserian stanza has fallen into disuse, though whether as a cause or a consequence I cannot say. Also on the Spenserian stanza, here's a note by Roger Kuin on the spenser-l mailing list on reading FQ aloud: One thing they'll find: the "extra line" in Spenser's stanzas is surprisingly hard to handle - the sense-unit always seems to be just one line longer than one expects. -- Roger Kuin, (English, York University, Toronto, Canada) The list archives are at [broken link] http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/spenser-l/, and are well worth reading - the following message, for example, is a fascinating look at Spenser-in-his-time: [broken link] http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/spenser-l/msg00106.html Of course, there was more to FQ than the introduction of a verse form... What is most characteristic of Spenser in The Faerie Queene is his serious view of the capacity of the romance form to act as a paradigm of human experience: the moral life as quest, pilgrimage, aspiration; as eternal war with an enemy, still to be known; as encounter, crisis, the moment of illumination--in short, as ethics, with the added dimensions of mystery, terror, love, and victory and with all the generous virtues exalted. Modern readers' impatience with the obscure allusions in the poem, with its political and ecclesiastical topicalities, is a failure to share the great conflict of Spenser's time between Protestant England and Roman Catholic Spain--to Spenser, the war between good and evil was here and now. In The Faerie Queene Spenser proves himself a master: picture, music, metre, story--all elements are at one with the deeper significance of his poem, providing a moral heraldry of colours, emblems, legends, folklore, and mythical allusion, all prompting deep, instinctive responses. -- EB Like Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales', Spenser's FQ was a masterwork whose vaulting ambition overleaped itself... In its present form, The Faerie Queene consists of six books and a fragment (known as the "Mutabilitie Cantos"). According to Spenser's introductory letter in the first edition (1590) of his great poem, it was to contain 12 books, each telling the adventure of one of Gloriana's knights. Like other poets, Spenser must have modified his general plan many times, yet this letter, inconsistent though it is with various plot details in the books that are extant, is probably a faithful mirror of his thinking at one stage. The stories actually published were those of Holiness (the Red Cross Knight), Temperance (Sir Guyon), Chastity (Britomart, a female knight), Friendship (ostensibly concerning Triamond and Cambello, although these play a small part), Justice (Artegall), and Courtesy (Calidore). As a setting, Spenser invented the land of Faerie and its queen, Gloriana. but did not, of course, quite fall on the other .  and don't you wish Shakespeare would complete his Nor was FQ all Spenser wrote; other major works include the Shepherd's Calendar, and his celebrated Amoretti and Epithalamion, a sonnet sequence and a marriage ode celebrating Spenser's marriage to his second wife (Elizabeth Boyle) after what appears to have been an impassioned courtship in 1594. Says the Britannica, "This group of poems is unique among Renaissance sonnet sequences in that it celebrated a successful love affair culminating in marriage." Links: You can find a wealth of Spenser's works at [broken link] http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/ A biography and several essays can be found at http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/essays.htm#spenser And a chronology at [broken link] http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/chron.html The Elizabethans: Elizabethan literature: body of works written during the reign of Elizabeth I of England (1558-1603), probably the most splendid age in the history of English literature, during which such writers as Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, Roger Ascham, Richard Hooker, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare flourished. The epithet Elizabethan is merely a chronological reference and does not describe any special characteristic of the writing. The Elizabethan age saw the flowering of poetry (the sonnet, the Spenserian stanza, dramatic blank verse), was a golden age of drama (especially for the plays of Shakespeare), and inspired a wide variety of splendid prose (from historical chronicles, versions of the Holy Scriptures, pamphlets, and literary criticism to the first English novels). From about the beginning of the 17th century a sudden darkening of tone became noticeable in most forms of literary expression, especially in drama, and the change more or less coincided with the death of Elizabeth. English literature from 1603 to 1625 is properly called Jacobean, after the new monarch, James I. But, insofar as 16th-century themes and patterns were carried over into the 17th century, the writing from the earlier part of his reign, at least, is sometimes referred to by the amalgam "Jacobethan." -- EB A nice set of biographies of the main writers of the Elizabethan age can be found at [broken link] http://www.wtvl.k12.me.us/wshs/dept/english/ayers/timbg.htm m.