Monday, January 13, 2020

Edmund Spenser*

Edmund Spenser (1552―1599) is considered one of the greatest English poets, for having glorified both England and its language through his epic The Faerie Queene. In the poem ― one of the longest in the English language ― he writes of knights, as a way of speaking allegorically of different virtues, reminiscent of “the armour of God” as described in Ephesians 6.

He was a highly original poet, who absorbed and re-envisioned the influences of ancient poets, such as Virgil, and Petrarch, and of his Italian contemporary Torquato Tasso. Ancient sources contributed to his understanding of structure, and to his vision ― taking the ideas of early philosophies, and pagan mythology, and weaving in his own experience of Christian faith.

from An Hymne of Heavenly Love

With all thy hart, with all thy soule and mind,
Thou must him love, and his beheasts embrace;
All other loves, with which the world doth blind
Weake fancies, and stirre up affections base,
Thou must renounce and utterly displace,
And give thy selfe unto him full and free,
That full and freely gave himselfe to thee.

Then shalt thou feele thy spirit so possest,
And ravisht with devouring great desire
Of his deare selfe, that shall thy feeble brest
Inflame with love, and set thee all on fire
With burning zeale, through every part entire,
That in no earthly thing thou shalt delight,
But in his sweet and amiable sight.

Thenceforth all worlds desire will in thee dye,
And all earthes glorie, on which men do gaze,
Seeme durt and drosse in thy pure-sighted eye,
Compared to that celestiall beauties blaze,
Whose glorious beames all fleshly sense doth daze
With admiration of their passing light,
Blinding the eyes, and lumining the spright.

Then shall thy ravisht soule inspired bee
With heavenly thoughts farre above humane skil,
And thy bright radiant eyes shall plainely see
The idee of his pure glorie present still
Before thy face, that all thy spirits shall fill
With sweet enragement of celestiall love,
Kindled through sight of those faire things above.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Edmund Spenser: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.