|Died||13 January 1599 46–47) (aged|
|Resting place||Westminster Abbey|
|Language||Early Modern English|
|Alma mater||Pembroke College, Cambridge|
|Notable works||The Faerie Queene|
|Spouse||Machabyas Childe (c. 1579–c. 1593, her death)|
Elizabeth Boyle (m. 1594–1599, his death)
Edmund Spenser ( // ; 1552/1553 – 13 January 1599) was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene , an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognized as one of the premier craftsmen of nascent Modern English verse and is often considered one of the greatest poets in the English language.
Edmund Spenser was born in East Smithfield, London, around the year 1552; however, there is still some ambiguity as to the exact date of his birth. His parenthood is obscure, but he was probably the son of John Spenser, a journeyman clothmaker. As a young boy, he was educated in London at the Merchant Taylors' School and matriculated as a sizar at Pembroke College, Cambridge.While at Cambridge he became a friend of Gabriel Harvey and later consulted him, despite their differing views on poetry. In 1578, he became for a short time secretary to John Young, Bishop of Rochester. In 1579, he published The Shepheardes Calender and around the same time married his first wife, Machabyas Childe. They had two children, Sylvanus (d. 1638) and Katherine.
In July 1580, Spenser went to Ireland in service of the newly appointed Lord Deputy, Arthur Grey, 14th Baron Grey de Wilton. Spenser served under Lord Grey with Walter Raleigh at the Siege of Smerwick massacre.When Lord Grey was recalled to England, Spenser stayed on in Ireland, having acquired other official posts and lands in the Munster Plantation. Raleigh acquired other nearby Munster estates confiscated in the Second Desmond Rebellion. Sometime between 1587 and 1589, Spenser acquired his main estate at Kilcolman, near Doneraile in North Cork. He later bought a second holding to the south, at Rennie, on a rock overlooking the river Blackwater in North Cork. Its ruins are still visible today. A short distance away grew a tree, locally known as "Spenser's Oak" until it was destroyed in a lightning strike in the 1960s. Local legend claims that he penned some of The Faerie Queene under this tree.
In 1590, Spenser brought out the first three books of his most famous work, The Faerie Queene , having travelled to London to publish and promote the work, with the likely assistance of Raleigh. He was successful enough to obtain a life pension of £50 a year from the Queen. He probably hoped to secure a place at court through his poetry, but his next significant publication boldly antagonised the queen's principal secretary, Lord Burghley (William Cecil), through its inclusion of the satirical Mother Hubberd's Tale .He returned to Ireland. He was at the centre of a literary circle whose members included his lifelong friend Lodowick Bryskett and Dr. John Longe, Archbishop of Armagh.
In 1591, Spenser published a translation in verse of Joachim Du Bellay's sonnets, Les Antiquités de Rome, which had been published in 1558. Spenser's version, Ruines of Rome: by Bellay, may also have been influenced by Latin poems on the same subject, written by Jean or Janis Vitalis and published in 1576.
By 1594, Spenser's first wife had died, and in that year he married a much younger Elizabeth Boyle, a relative of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork. He addressed to her the sonnet sequence Amoretti . The marriage itself was celebrated in Epithalamion .They had a son named Peregrine.
In 1596, Spenser wrote a prose pamphlet titled A View of the Present State of Ireland. This piece, in the form of a dialogue, circulated in manuscript, remaining unpublished until the mid-seventeenth century. It is probable that it was kept out of print during the author's lifetime because of its inflammatory content. The pamphlet argued that Ireland would never be totally "pacified" by the English until its indigenous language and customs had been destroyed, if necessary by violence.
In 1598, during the Nine Years' War, Spenser was driven from his home by the native Irish forces of Aodh Ó Néill. His castle at Kilcolman was burned, and Ben Jonson, who may have had private information, asserted that one of his infant children died in the blaze.
In the year after being driven from his home, 1599, Spenser travelled to London, where he died at the age of forty-six – "for want of bread", according to Ben Jonson; one of Jonson's more doubtful statements, since Spenser had a payment to him authorised by the government and was due his pension.His coffin was carried to his grave in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey by other poets, who threw many pens and pieces of poetry into his grave with many tears. His second wife survived him and remarried twice. His sister Sarah, who had accompanied him to Ireland, married into the Travers family, and her descendants were prominent landowners in Cork for centuries.
Thomas Fuller, in Worthies of England, included a story where the Queen told her treasurer, William Cecil, to pay Spenser one hundred pounds for his poetry. The treasurer, however, objected that the sum was too much. She said, "Then give him what is reason". Without receiving his payment in due time, Spenser gave the Queen this quatrain on one of her progresses:
I was promis'd on a time,
To have a reason for my rhyme:
From that time unto this season,
I receiv'd nor rhyme nor reason.
She immediately ordered the treasurer to pay Spenser the original £100.
This story seems to have attached itself to Spenser from Thomas Churchyard, who apparently had difficulty in getting payment of his pension, the only other pension Elizabeth awarded to a poet. Spenser seems to have had no difficulty in receiving payment when it was due as the pension was being collected for him by his publisher, Ponsonby.
The Shepheardes Calender is Edmund Spenser's first major work, which appeared in 1579. It emulates Virgil's Eclogues of the first century BCE and the Eclogues of Mantuan by Baptista Mantuanus, a late medieval, early renaissance poet.An eclogue is a short pastoral poem that is in the form of a dialogue or soliloquy. Although all the months together form an entire year, each month stands alone as a separate poem. Editions of the late 16th and early 17th centuries include woodcuts for each month/poem, and thereby have a slight similarity to an emblem book which combines a number of self-contained pictures and texts, usually a short vignette, saying, or allegory with an accompanying illustration.
Spenser's masterpiece is the epic poem The Faerie Queene. The first three books of The Faerie Queene were published in 1590, and the second set of three books was published in 1596. Spenser originally indicated that he intended the poem to consist of twelve books, so the version of the poem we have today is incomplete. Despite this, it remains one of the longest poems in the English language.It is an allegorical work, and can be read (as Spenser presumably intended) on several levels of allegory, including as praise of Queen Elizabeth I. In a completely allegorical context, the poem follows several knights in an examination of several virtues. In Spenser's "A Letter of the Authors", he states that the entire epic poem is "cloudily enwrapped in allegorical devises", and that the aim behind The Faerie Queene was to "fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline".
Spenser published numerous relatively short poems in the last decade of the sixteenth century, almost all of which consider love or sorrow. In 1591, he published Complaints , a collection of poems that express complaints in mournful or mocking tones. Four years later, in 1595, Spenser published Amoretti and Epithalamion. This volume contains eighty-eight sonnets commemorating his courtship of Elizabeth Boyle. In Amoretti , Spenser uses subtle humour and parody while praising his beloved, reworking Petrarchism in his treatment of longing for a woman. Epithalamion , similar to Amoretti, deals in part with the unease in the development of a romantic and sexual relationship. It was written for his wedding to his young bride, Elizabeth Boyle. Some have speculated that the attention to disquiet, in general, reflects Spenser's personal anxieties at the time, as he was unable to complete his most significant work, The Faerie Queene . In the following year, Spenser released Prothalamion , a wedding song written for the daughters of a duke, allegedly in hopes to gain favour in the court.
Spenser used a distinctive verse form, called the Spenserian stanza, in several works, including The Faerie Queene . The stanza's main metre is iambic pentameter with a final line in iambic hexameter (having six feet or stresses, known as an Alexandrine), and the rhyme scheme is ababbcbcc. He also used his own rhyme scheme for the sonnet. In a Spenserian sonnet, the last line of every quatrain is linked with the first line of the next one, yielding the rhyme scheme ababbcbccdcdee. "Men Call you Fayre" is a fine Sonnet from Amoretti. The poet presents the concept of true beauty in the poem. He addresses the sonnet to his beloved, Elizabeth Boyle, and presents his courtship. Like all Renaissance men, Edmund Spenser believed that love is an inexhaustible source of beauty and order. In this Sonnet, the poet expresses his idea of true beauty. The physical beauty will finish after a few days; it is not a permanent beauty. He emphasises beauty of mind and beauty of intellect. He considers his beloved is not simply flesh but is also a spiritual being. The poet opines that he is beloved born of heavenly seed and she is derived from fair spirit. The poet states that because of her clean mind, pure heart and sharp intellect, men call her fair and she deserves it. At the end, the poet praises her spiritual beauty and he worships her because of her Divine Soul.
Though Spenser was well-read in classical literature, scholars have noted that his poetry does not rehash tradition, but rather is distinctly his. This individuality may have resulted, to some extent, from a lack of comprehension of the classics. Spenser strove to emulate such ancient Roman poets as Virgil and Ovid, whom he studied during his schooling, but many of his best-known works are notably divergent from those of his predecessors.The language of his poetry is purposely archaic, reminiscent of earlier works such as The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer and Il Canzoniere of Petrarch, whom Spenser greatly admired.
An Anglicanand a devotee of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth, Spenser was particularly offended by the anti-Elizabethan propaganda that some Catholics circulated. Like most Protestants near the time of the Reformation, Spenser saw a Catholic Church full of corruption, and he determined that it was not only the wrong religion but the anti-religion. This sentiment is an important backdrop for the battles of The Faerie Queene .
Spenser was called "the Poet's Poet" by Charles Lamb,and was admired by John Milton, William Blake, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Lord Byron, Alfred Tennyson and others. Among his contemporaries Walter Raleigh wrote a commendatory poem to The Faerie Queene in 1590, in which he claims to admire and value Spenser's work more so than any other in the English language. John Milton in his Areopagitica mentions "our sage and serious poet Spenser, whom I dare be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas". In the eighteenth century, Alexander Pope compared Spenser to "a mistress, whose faults we see, but love her with them all".
In his work A View of the Present State of Irelande (1596), Spenser discussed future plans to establish control over Ireland, the most recent Irish uprising, led by Hugh O'Neill having demonstrated the futility of previous efforts. The work is partly a defence of Lord Arthur Grey de Wilton, who was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1580, and who greatly influenced Spenser's thinking on Ireland.[ citation needed ]
The goal of the piece was to show that Ireland was in great need of reform. Spenser believed that "Ireland is a diseased portion of the State, it must first be cured and reformed, before it could be in a position to appreciate the good sound laws and blessings of the nation".In A View of the Present State of Ireland, Spenser categorises the "evils" of the Irish people into three prominent categories: laws, customs and religion. According to Spenser, these three elements worked together in creating the supposedly "disruptive and degraded people" who inhabited the country. One example given in the work is the Irish law system termed "Brehon law", which at the time trumped the established law as dictated by the Crown. The Brehon system had its own court and methods of punishing infractions committed. Spenser viewed this system as a backward custom which contributed to the "degradation" of the Irish people. A particular legal punishment viewed with distaste by Spenser was the Brehon method of dealing with murder, which was to impose an éraic (fine) on the murderer's family. From Spenser's viewpoint, the appropriate punishment for murder was capital punishment. Spenser also warned of the dangers that allowing the education of children in the Irish language would bring: "Soe that the speach being Irish, the hart must needes be Irishe; for out of the aboundance of the hart, the tonge speaketh".
He pressed for a scorched earth policy in Ireland, noting its effectiveness in the Second Desmond Rebellion:
"'Out of everye corner of the woode and glenns they came creepinge forth upon theire handes, for theire legges could not beare them; they looked Anatomies [of] death, they spake like ghostes, crying out of theire graves; they did eate of the carrions, happye wheare they could find them, yea, and one another soone after, in soe much as the verye carcasses they spared not to scrape out of theire graves; and if they found a plott of water-cresses or shamrockes, theyr they flocked as to a feast… in a shorte space there were none almost left, and a most populous and plentyfull countrye suddenly lefte voyde of man or beast: yett sure in all that warr, there perished not manye by the sworde, but all by the extreamytie of famine ... they themselves had wrought.'"
Washington University in St. Louis professor Joseph Lowenstein, with the assistance of several undergraduate students, has been involved in creating, editing, and annotating a digital archive of the first publication of poet Edmund Spenser's collective works in 100 years. A large grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities has been given to support this ambitious project centralized at Washington University with support from other colleges in the United States.
The Faerie Queene is an English epic poem by Edmund Spenser. Books I–III were first published in 1590, then republished in 1596 together with books IV–VI. The Faerie Queene is notable for its form: at over 36,000 lines and over 4,000 stanzas, it is one of the longest poems in the English language; it is also the work in which Spenser invented the verse form known as the Spenserian stanza. On a literal level, the poem follows several knights as a means to examine different virtues, and though the text is primarily an allegorical work, it can be read on several levels of allegory, including as praise of Queen Elizabeth I. In Spenser's "Letter of the Authors", he states that the entire epic poem is "cloudily enwrapped in Allegorical devices", and that the aim of publishing The Faerie Queene was to "fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline".
Joachim du Bellay was a French poet, critic, and a founder of the Pléiade. He notably wrote the manifesto of the group: Défense et illustration de la langue française, which aimed at promoting French as an artistic language, equal to Greek and Latin.
Thomas Warton was an English literary historian, critic, and poet. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1785, following the death of William Whitehead.
This article is a summary of the literary events and publications of 1595.
The Shepheardes Calender was Edmund Spenser's first major poetic work, published in 1579. In emulation of Virgil's first work, the Eclogues, Spenser wrote this series of pastorals at the commencement of his career. However, Spenser's models were rather the Renaissance eclogues of Mantuanus. The title, like the entire work, is written using deliberately archaic spellings, in order to suggest a connection to medieval literature, and to Geoffrey Chaucer in particular. The poem introduces Colin Clout, a folk character originated by John Skelton, and depicts his life as a shepherd through the twelve months of the year. The Calender encompasses considerable formal innovations, anticipating the even more virtuosic Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, the classic pastoral romance by Sir Philip Sidney, with whom Spenser was acquainted. It is also remarkable for the extensive commentary or gloss included with the work in its first publication, ascribed to an "E.K." E.K. is an intelligent, very subtle, sometimes wrong, and often deeply ironic commentator, who is sometimes assumed to be an alias of Spenser himself. The term sarcasm (Sarcasmus) is first recorded in English in Spenser's poem (October).
A sonnet sequence is a group of sonnets thematically unified to create a long work, although generally, unlike the stanza, each sonnet so connected can also be read as a meaningful separate unit.
Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.
Sonnet 54 is one of 154 sonnets published in 1609 by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is considered one of the Fair Youth sequence. This sonnet is a continuation of the theme of inner substance versus outward show by noting the distinction between roses and canker blooms; only roses can preserve their inner essence by being distilled into perfume. The young man's essence or substance can be preserved by verse.
Amoretti is a sonnet cycle written by Edmund Spenser in the 16th century. The cycle describes his courtship and eventual marriage to Elizabeth Boyle.
— Last lines from William Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, published this year and, four centuries later, still "eternal lines"
William Ponsonby was a prominent London publisher of the Elizabethan era. Active in the 1577–1603 period, Ponsonby published the works of Edmund Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, and other members of the Sidney circle; he has been called "the leading literary publisher of Elizabethan times."
Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.
— From Sir John Harington, A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax
Colin Clouts Come Home Againe is a pastoral poem by the English poet Edmund Spenser and published in 1595. It has been the focus of little critical attention in comparison with the poet's other works such as The Faerie Queene, yet it has been called the "greatest pastoral eclogue in the English language". In a tradition going back to Petrarch, the pastoral eclogue contains a dialogue between shepherds with a narrative or song as an inset, and which also can conceal allegories of a political or ecclesiastical nature.
Lodowick Bryskett, was a poet, translator, diplomat and Irish official. He served as Special Ambassador from England to Tuscany in 1600-01.
Epithalamion is an ode written by Edmund Spenser to his bride, Elizabeth Boyle, on their wedding day in 1594. It was first published in 1595 in London by William Ponsonby as part of a volume entitled Amoretti and Epithalamion. Written not long since by Edmunde Spenser. The volume included the sequence of 89 sonnets (Amoretti), along with a series of short poems called Anacreontics and the Epithalamion, a public poetic celebration of marriage. Only six complete copies of this first edition remain today, including one at the Folger Shakespeare Library and one at the Bodleian Library.
Complaints is a poetry collection by Edmund Spenser, published in 1591. It contains nine poems. Its publisher, William Ponsonby, added an introduction of his own.
Kilcolman Castle is a tower house located in County Cork, Ireland. It was formerly the residence of the poet Edmund Spenser.
A View of the Present State of Irelande is a 1596 pamphlet by English writer, poet and soldier Edmund Spenser. The text is written in the form of a dialogue between two Englishmen, Eudox and Irenius; the former has never been to Ireland, while the latter has recently returned from the island while it was in the midst of the Tudor conquest. Through the text, Spenser argued for employing scorched earth tactics to subdue Irish resistance to the conquest and criticised Ireland's culture, religion, language and legal system. The text was never published during Spenser's lifetime, though it was posthumously published by James Ware in 1633.
Anthea Hume is a British scholar of English literature, specialising in theological writings. She was a winner of the British Academy's Rose Mary Crawshay Prize in 1985. Born in London, she obtained her doctorate from the University of London in 1961 with a dissertation titled A study of the writings of the English protestant exiles, 1525–35, excluding their biblical translations.