Amoretti LXXIX- Edmund Spenser

Men Call You Fair

Men call you fair, and you do credit it, 

For that your self ye daily such do see: 

But the true fair, that is the gentle wit, 

And vertuous mind, is much more prais’d of me. 

For all the rest, how ever fair it be, 

Shall turn to naught and lose that glorious hue: 

But only that is permanent and free 

From frail corruption, that doth flesh ensue. 

That is true beauty: that doth argue you 

To be divine, and born of heavenly seed: 

Deriv’d from that fair Spirit, from whom all true 

And perfect beauty did at first proceed. 

He only fair, and what he fair hath made, 

All other fair, like flowers untimely fade.

Amoretti LXXIV – Edmund Spenser

 Most Happy Letters
Most happy letters, fram’d by skilful trade, 

With which that happy name was first design’d: 

The which three times thrice happy hath me made, 

With gifts of body, fortune, and of mind. 

The first my being to me gave by kind, 

From mother’s womb deriv’d by due descent, 

The second is my sovereign Queen most kind, 

That honour and large richesse to me lent. 

The third my love, my life’s last ornament, 

By whom my spirit out of dust was raised: 

To speak her praise and glory excellent, 

Of all alive most worthy to be praised. 

Ye three Elizabeths for ever live, 

That three such graces did unto me give.

Edmund Spenser

 
Edmund Spenser 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 recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English language. 
Life 

Edmund Spenser was born in East Smithfield, London around the year 1552 though there is some ambiguity as to the exact date of his birth. 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 July 1580 Spenser went to Ireland, in the service of the newly appointed Lord Deputy, Arthur Grey, 14th Baron Grey de Wilton. Then he served with the English forces during the Second Desmond Rebellion. After the defeat of the native Irish he took lands in County Cork that had been confiscated in the Munster Plantation during the Elizabethan conquest of Ireland. Among his acquaintances in the area was Walter Raleigh, a fellow colonist. 

Through his poetry Spenser hoped to secure a place at court, which he visited in Raleigh’s company to deliver his most famous work, The Faerie Queene. However, he boldly antagonised the queen’s principal secretary, Lord Burghley, and all he received in recognition of his work was a pension in 1591. When it was proposed that he receive payment of 100 pounds for his epic poem, Burghley remarked, “What, all this for a song!” 

In 1596 Spenser wrote a prose pamphlet titled, A View of the Present State of Ireland. This piece remained in manuscript until its publication and print in 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. Spenser recommended scorched earth tactics, such as he had seen used in the Desmond Rebellions, to create famine. Although it has been highly regarded as a polemical piece of prose and valued as a historical source on 16th century Ireland, the View is seen today as genocidal in intent. Spenser did express some praise for the Gaelic poetic tradition, but also used much tendentious and bogus analysis to demonstrate that the Irish were descended from barbarian Scythian stock. 

Two of Ireland’s historians of the early modern period, Ciaran Brady and Nicholas Canny, have differed in their view of Spenser’s View of the State of Ireland. Brady’s essential proposition is that Spenser wished the English government to undertake the extermination of most of the Irish population. He writes that Spenser preferred to write in dialogue form so that the crudity of his proposals would be masked. Canny undermines Brady’s conclusion that Spenser opted for “a holocaust or a “blood-bath”, because despite Brady’s claims Spenser did not choose the sword as his preferred instrument of policy. Canny argues that Spenser instead chose not the extermination of the Irish race but rather a policy of ‘social reform pursued by drastic means’. Canny’s ultimate assertion was that Brady was over-reacting and that Spenser did not propose a policy to exterminate the Irish race. 

However, within one page he moves on to argue that no ‘English writer of the early modern period ever proposed such a drastic programme in social engineering for England, and it was even more dramatic than Brady allows for because all elements of the Irish population including the Old English of the towns, whom Brady seems to think were exempt were subject to some element of this scheme of dispersal, reintegration and re-education’. Here, Canny argues that this policy was more ‘dramatic than Brady allows’, in that Brady’s description was one of ‘bloodshed’, ‘extermination’ and ‘holocaust’ only of the native Irish but Canny’s was one of dispersal, reintegration and re-education of both the native Irish and the settler English. Even though Canny writes that ‘substantial loss of life, including loss of civilian life, was considered by Spenser’, he considers that that falls short of Brady’s conclusion. 

Later on, during the Nine Years War in 1598, Spenser was driven from his home by the native Irish forces of Aodh Ó Néill. His castle at Kilcolman, near Doneraile in North Cork was burned, and it is thought one of his infant children died in the blaze – though local legend has it that his wife also died. He possessed a second holding to the south, at Rennie, on a rock overlooking the river Blackwater in North Cork. The ruins of it 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 has it that he penned some or all of The Faerie Queene under this tree. 

In the year after being driven from his home, Spenser travelled to London, where he died in distressed circumstances (according to legend), aged forty-six. It was arranged for his coffin to be carried by other poets, upon which they threw many pens and pieces of poetry into his grave with many tears. 

The Faerie Queene 

Spenser’s masterpiece is an extensive poem The Faerie Queene. The first three books of The Faerie Queene were published in 1590, and a second set of three books were published in 1596. This extended epic poem deals with the adventures of knights, dragons, ladies in distress, etc. yet it is also an extended allegory about the moral life and what makes for a life of virtue. Spenser originally indicated that he intended the poem to be twelve books long, hence there is some argument about whether the version we have is in any real sense complete. 

Structure of the Spenserian Stanza and Sonnet 

Spenser used a distinctive verse form, called the Spenserian stanza, in several works, including The Faerie Queene. The stanza’s main meter 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. 

The Spenserian Sonnet is based on a fusion of elements of both the Petrarchan sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet. It is similar to the Shakespearan sonnet in the sense that its set up is based more on the 3 quatrains and a couplet,a system set up by Shakespeare; however it is more like the Petrarchan tradition in the fact that the conclusion follows from the argument or issue set up in the earlier quatrains. 

There is also a great use of the parody of the blason and the idealisation or praise of the mistress, a literary device used by many poets. It is a way to look at a woman through the appraisal of her features in comparison to other things. In this description, the mistress’s body is described part by part, i.e., much more of a scientific way of seeing one. As William Johnson states in his article “Gender Fashioning and Dynamics of Mutuality in Spenser’s Amoretti,” the poet-love in the scenes of Spenser’s sonnets in Amoretti, is able to see his lover in an objectified manner by moving her to another, or more clearly, an item. The purpose of Spenser doing this is to bring the woman from the “transcendental ideal” to a woman in everyday life. “Through his use of metonymy and metaphor, by describing the lady not as a whole being but as bodily parts, by alluding to centuries of topoi which remove her in time as well as space, the poet transforms the woman into a text, the living ‘other’ into an inanimate object” (503). 

The opposite of this also occurs in The Faerie Queen. The counter-blason, or the opposition of appraisal, is used to describe Duessa. She is not objectified, but instead all of her flaws are highlighted. In this context it should be noted that in Amoretti Spenser actually names his loved one as “Elizabeth” and that he puns humorously and often on her surname “Boyle”. S

Sonnet LX – Edmund Spenser

THey that in course of heauenly spheares are skild, 

To euery planet point his sundry yeare: 

in which her circles voyage is fulfild, 

as Mars in three score yeares doth run his spheare 

So since the winged God his planet cleare, 

began in me to moue, one yeare is spent: 

the which doth longer vnto me appeare, 

then al those fourty which my life outwent. 

Then by that count, which louers books inuent, 

the spheare of Cupid fourty yeares containes: 

which I haue wasted in long languishment, 

that seemd the longer for my greater paines. 

But let me loues fayre Planet short her wayes 

this yeare ensuing, or else short my dayes.

Sonnet LVI – Edmund Spenser

FAyre ye be sure, but cruell and vnkind, 

As is a Tygre that with greedinesse 

hunts after bloud, when he by chance doth find 

a feeble beast, doth felly him oppresse. 

Fayre be ye sure but proud and pittilesse, 

as is a storme, that all things doth prostrate: 

finding a tree alone all comfortlesse, 

beats on it strongly it to ruinate. 

Fayre be ye sure, but hard and obstinate, 

as is a rocke amidst the raging floods: 

gaynst which a ship of succour desolate, 

doth suffer wreck both of her selfe and goods. 

That ship, that tree, and that same beast am I, 

whom ye doe wreck, doe ruine, and destroy.

Sonnet LIX – Edmund Spenser

THrise happie she, that is so well assured 

Vnto her selfe and setled so in hart: 

that nether will for better be allured, 

ne feard with worse to any chaunce to start, 

But like a steddy ship doth strongly part 

the raging waues and keepes her course aright: 

ne ought for tempest doth from it depart, 

ne ought for fayrer weathers false delight. 

Such selfe assurance need not feare the spight, 

of grudging foes, ne fauour seek of friends: 

but in the stay of her owne stedfast might, 

nether to one her selfe nor other bends. 

Most happy she that most assured doth rest, 

but he most happy who such one loues best.

Sonnet XI – Edmund Spenser

DAyly when I do seeke and sew for peace, 

And hostages doe offer for my truth: 

she cruell warriour doth her selfe addresse, 

to battell, and the weary war renew’th. 

Ne wilbe moou’d with reason or with rewth, 

to graunt small respit to my restlesse toile: 

but greedily her fell intent poursewth, 

Of my poore life to make vnpitteid spoile. 

Yet my poore life, all sorrowes to assoyle, 

I would her yield, her wrath to pacify: 

but then she seekes with torment and turmoyle, 

to force me liue and will not let me dy. 

All paine hath end and euery war hath peace, 

but mine no price nor prayer may surcease.

Sonnet LXXXII – Edmund Spenser

Ioy of my life, full oft for louing you 

I blesse my lot, that was so lucky placed: 

but then the more your owne mishap I rew, 

that are so much by so meane loue embased. 

For had the equall heuens so much you graced 

in this as in the rest, ye mote inuent 

som heuenly wit, whose verse could haue enchased 

your glorious name in golden moniment. 

But since ye deignd so goodly to relent 

to me your thrall, in whom is little worth, 

that little that I am, shall all be spent, 

in setting your immortall prayses forth. 

Whose lofty argument vplifting me, 

shall lift you vp vnto an high degree.

Sonnet LXXXV  – Edmund Spenser

THe world that cannot deeme of worthy things, 

when I doe praise her, say I doe but flatter: 

so does the Cuckow, when the Mauis sings, 

begin his witlesse note apace to clatter. 

But they that skill not of so heauenly matter, 

all that they know not, enuy or admyre, 

rather then enuy let them wonder at her, 

but not to deeme of her desert aspyre. 

Deepe in the closet of my parts entyre, 

her worth is written with a golden quill: 

that me with heauenly fury doth inspire, 

and my glad mouth with her sweet prayses fill. 

Which when as fame in her shrill trump shal thunder 

let the world chose to enuy or to wonder.

Sonnet XlIIII – Edmund Spenser

When those renoumed noble Peres of Greece, 

thrugh stubborn pride amongst the[m]selues did iar 

forgetfull of the famous golden fleece, 

then Orpheus with his harp theyr strife did bar. 

But this continuall cruell ciuill warre, 

the which my selfe against my selfe doe make: 

whilest my weak powres of passions warreid arre. 

no skill can stint nor reason can aslake. 

But when in hand my tunelesse harp I take, 

then doe I more augment my foes despight: 

and griefe renew, and passions doe awake, 

to battaile fresh against my selfe to fight. 

Mongst whome the more I seeke to settle peace, 

the more I fynd their malice to increace.

Sonnet XIX – Edmund Spenser

THe merry Cuckow, messenger of Spring, 

His trompet shrill hath thrise already sounded: 

that warnes al louers wayt vpon their king, 

who now is comming forth with girland crouned. 

With noyse whereof the quyre of Byrds resounded 

their anthemes sweet devized of loues prayse, 

that all the woods theyr ecchoes back rebounded, 

as if they knew the meaning of their layes. 

But mongst them all, which did Loues honor rayse 

no word was heard of her that most it ought, 

but she his precept proudly disobayes, 

and doth his ydle message set at nought. 

Therefore O loue, vnlesse she turne to thee 

ere Cuckow end, let her a rebell be.

Sonnet X – Edmund Spenser

VNrighteous Lord of loue what law is this, 

That me thou makest thus tormented be: 

the whiles she lordeth in licentious blisse 

of her freewill, scorning both thee and me. 

See how the Tyrannesse doth ioy to see 

the huge massacres which her eyes do make: 

and humbled harts brings captiues vnto thee, 

that thou of them mayst mightie vengeance take. 

But her proud hart doe thou a little shake 

and that high look, with which she doth comptroll 

all this worlds pride bow to a baser make, 

and al her faults in thy black booke enroll. 

That I may laugh at her in equall sort, 

as she doth laugh at me & makes my pain her sport.

Sonnet XIVIII – Edmund Spenser

INnocent paper whom too cruell hand, 

Did make the matter to auenge her yre: 

and ere she could thy cause wel vnderstand, 

did sacrifize vnto the greedy fyre. 

Well worthy thou to haue found better hyre, 

then so bad end for hereticks ordayned: 

yet heresy nor treason didst conspire, 

but plead thy maisters cause vniustly payned. 

Whom all the carelesse of his griefe constrayned 

to vtter forth th’anguish of his hart: 

and would not heare, when he to her complayned, 

the piteous passion of his dying smart. 

Yet liue for euer, though against her will, 

and speake her good, though she requite it ill.

Sonnet XXX – Edmund Spenser

MY loue is lyke to yse, and I to fyre; 

how comes it then that this her cold so great 

is not dissolu’d through my so hot desyre, 

but harder growes the more I her intreat? 

Or how comes it that my exceeding heat 

is not delayd by her hart frosen cold: 

but that I burne much more in boyling sweat, 

and feel my flames augmented manifold? 

What more miraculous thing may be told 

that fire which all things melts, should harden yse: 

and yse which is congeald with sencelesse cold, 

should kindle fyre by wonderfull deuyse. 

Such is the powre of loue in gentle mind, 

that it can alter all the course of kynd.

Sonnet XV – Edmund Spenser

YE tradefull Merchants that with weary toyle, 

do seeke most pretious things to make your gain: 

and both the Indias of their treasures spoile, 

what needeth you to seeke so farre in vaine? 

For loe my loue doth in her selfe containe 

all this worlds riches that may farre be found, 

if Saphyres, loe her eies be Saphyres plaine, 

if Rubies, loe hir lips be Rubies found: 

If Pearles, hir teeth be pearles both pure and round; 

if Yuorie, her forhead yuory weene; 

if Gold, her locks are finest gold on ground; 

if siluer, her faire hands are siluer sheene, 

But that which fairest is, but few behold, 

her mind adornd with vertues manifold.

The Tamed Deer – Edmund Spenser 

Like as a huntsman after weary chase 

Seeing the game from him escaped away, 

Sits down to rest him in some shady place, 

With panting hounds beguiled of their prey: 

So, after long pursuit and vain assay, 

When I all weary had the chase forsook, 

The gentle deer returned the self-same way, 

Thinking to quench her thirst at the next brook. 

There she beholding me with milder look, 

Sought not to fly, but fearless still did bide; 

Till I in hand her yet half trembling took, 

And with her own good-will her firmly tied. 

Strange thing, me seemed, to see a beast so wild 

So goodly won, with her own will beguiled.

Poem – Easter – Edmund Spenser

Most  glorious Lord of Life! that, on this day, 

Didn’t make the triumph over death and sin; 

And, having harrowd hell, didn’t  bring away 

Captivity thence captive, us to win: 

This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin; 

And grant that we, for whom thou didn’t die,

Being with the dear blood clean wasn’t from sin, 

May live for ever in felicity! 
And that the love we weighing worthily, 

May likewise love thee  for the same again;

And for the sake, that all like dear didn’t buy, 

With love may one another entertain! 

   So let us love, dear Love, like as we ought, 

   Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

Poem – My Love Is Like To Ice – Edmund Spenser

My love is like to ice, and I to fire: 

How comes it then that this her cold so great 

Is not dissolved through my so hot desire, 

But harder grows the more I her entreat? 

Or how comes it that my exceeding heat 

Is not allayed by her heart-frozen cold, 

But that I burn much more in boiling sweat, 

And feel my flames augmented manifold? 

What more miraculous thing may be told, 

That fire, which all things melts, should harden ice, 

And ice, which is congeal’s with senseless cold, 

Should kindle fire by wonderful device? 

Such is the power of love in gentle mind, 

That it can alter all the course of kind.