Edmund spenser is considered to be the chilf of the renaissance and the reformation. His poetic reputation was recognized with the publication of the shepherd’s calendar (1579). This poem was inspired by Virgil and Theocritus. It is known for its richness and warm pictorial beauty. Spenser fell in love with Elizabeth, an Irish girl and wrote Amaretti (1594), sonnets, in her honour.
In 1594 he married Elizabeth, celebrating his wedding with his Epithalamion. He published Astrophel in 1595, an elegy on the death of his friend Sidney. His major poetical works The Faerie queene reveals spenser’s creative imagination at its peek. The main theme of the book is “eternal war between food and evil.” This epic is not only an allegory of love but it is also an allegory of man’s spiritual and moral life. Views of the state of Ireland 91596), his only prose work, in which he submits a plan for “pecifying the oppressed and rebellious people.”
Spenser is keenly alove to the sensuous beauty and his poetry reveals that he is a master of pictorial phrasing and rhythmic music. He has been called the “Poet’s poet” by Charles lamb. Thomson caller him “My master poet.” Like Sidney he believed that the true end of poetry was “delightful teaching.” In the words of George Sampson, he “lives as an exquisite words painter of widely differing scenes, and as supreme poet-musician using with unrivalled skill a noble stanza of his own invention, unparalleled in any other language.
Characteristics of Spenser’s poetry:- the five main characteristics of spenser’s poetry are
- A perfect melody
- A rare sense of beauty
- A splendid imagination, which could gather into one poems heroes, knights, ladies, dwarfs, demons and dragons, classic mythology, stories of chivalary and the throning ideas of the renaissance—all passing in gorgeous procession across an ever changing and ever-beautiful landscape
- A lofty moralpurity ad seriousness
- A delicate idealism, which could make all nature and every common thing beautiful.
- The Faerie Queene:
- In the prefatory letter to Sir Walter Raleigh describing the plan of Faerie Queene. Spenser says that its aim was “to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline.” In other words the author wanted to portray an ideal gentleman.
- Prince Arthur falls in love with Gloriana, the fairy queen, whom he sees in a dream. He sets out on his journey to her court in fairyland where sje is holding her annual twelve-day festival. On each of these days a knight presenting one of the virtues undertake an adventure. Artur is brought into these adventures which end successfully through his aid. The subjects of these six are as follows:
Book I: The adventure of the Red Cross Knight or Holiness who protects Una or true Religion (Prostant Church) against the enchanter Archimago ot Hypocrisy and Duessa or Falsehood (Roman Catholic Church).
Book II: the adventures of sir Guyin orr Temperance, the chief of which are his visits to the cave of Mammon and destruction of Acrasia or Intemperance and her Bower of Bliss
Book III: the adventure of the femal Knight Britomartis or Chestity.
Book IV: the legend of Triamond and cambell symbolizing friendship.
Book V: the adventures if Artegall or Justice, with ripeness to various historical events of Elizabeths reign, such as the Spanish defeat in Netherlands, the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.
Book VI: the adventure of Sir Calidore or Courtesy.
The faeires queene was inspired by Aristo’s Orlando Furioso—Orlando means mad in love.
The Faerie Queene as a political Allegory
The Faerie Queene is Spenser’s masterpiece. This would have secured for him the first place among Elizabethans other than the playwrights. The poem is devoted to the greatness of the glory of England and her kings or queens. The poem is complex and allegorical which have discouraged the readers in turning to it. Spenser is seen to be a professor of morals and assumes the grave air of preacher. He wrote a vast allegory in order to fashion a gentleman of noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline. In line with Aristo he created a fairy like chivalry but wanted each of his knights to represent one of the twelve private moral virtues, as Aristo and advised.
In the first book the allegory id continuous and the moral is prominent. But in the later books both are obscured and the romance dominant. Spenser dies not shine as an allegorist. There is no “simple restrained line of a great allegorist.” There is no central idea, the ardent passion or the unity of design required for a powerful and effective allegory. There is complication instead of unity. His characters are both moral and historical personages. His King Arthur in love with fairy queen is magnificence the supreme virtue that includes all others; he is also the symbol of divine grace. Moreover he suggests Leicester, Elizabeth’s favourite. Arthegall is justice personified and represents Lord Grey of Wilton. The allegorical story is thus been moral and political. The adventures of the Red cross Knight represent the alternatives offered by Protestantism.