Monday, April 25, 2011

Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser (1552–1599) is best known for his epic poem The Faerie Queene. Spenser himself described it as an allegory, with the knights which appear in the various books symbolizing various Christian virtues. The Redcrosse Knight in Book 1, for example, represents holiness, and also suggests the patron saint of England — St. George. It was the C.S. Lewis book The Allegory of Love (1936) which helped to re-establish the importance of The Faerie Queene.

Spenser was not born to an influential family, but gained attention with the assistance of such contemporaries as Sir Philip Sydney and Sir Walter Raleigh.

The spelling in his poetry traditionally is not standardized since he often deliberately wrote in an archaic style, partly in tribute to Chaucer. He was an influential innovator in poetic forms, including what is called the Spenserian sonnet (with a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b-b-c-b-c-c-d-c-d-e-e) as exemplified in the following poem.

Sonnet #68

Most glorious Lord of lyfe, that on this day,
---Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
---And having harrowd hell, didst bring away
---Captivity thence captive us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin,
---And grant that we for whom thou diddest dye
---Being with thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
---May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
---May likewise love thee for the same againe:
---And for thy sake that all lyke deare didst buy,
---With love may one another entertayne.
So let us love, deare love, lyke as we ought,
---Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca