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Thursday, 28 June 2018

Comment on the achievement of Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser is one of the brightest stars in the sky of English poetry. He has appeared n the field of English literature after nearly one hundred and seventy years of Geoffrey Chaucer's death .He is able to contribute a lot in this respect. He drives away the ebb-tide of English literature. He is the greatest poet of the Elizabethan England .His greatness is immediately recognized with his first publication. "The Shepherd's Calendar" in 1579.His fame and popularity continues to grow till Spenser comes to be called the "Prince of poets of his time." He has taught more poets than any other writer of English verse .A host of poets followed him throughout the 17th,  18th and 19th centuries.They regard him as their master. They exalt him as their guide and a wise as well as faithful adviser.Charles Lamb rightly calls Spenser the "Poets' Poetc.He minutely observes his vivid influence on the works of subsequent poets.But we should not forget that Spenser is not a poet for the layman but for poets and scholars.
achievement of Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser 

Spenser's poetical achievement are very great in number and full of variety. He has composed epic , elegy,  sonnet and many other forms of poetry .The most outstanding of his works are "The Faerie Queene","Amoretti","Astrophel", "Four Hymns","The Epithalamion" and "The Prothalamion ". At the outset of our discussion , "The Shepherd's Calendar " has been mentioned. It is modelled on the artificial pastoral popularized by the Renaissance. It is a pastoral having a series of twelve eclogues .Technically,  it is a poem of considerable merit.It shows great power in dealing with various old time metres in a free and mastery way. The combination of lines and rhymes of the poem is so variously rich and novel. It is unprecedented . So the poem has a remarkable influence on subsequent literature .

"The Faerie Queene"is the masterpiece of Spenser.Its chief characters are dragons,  Knights and enchanters.It is a mediaeval romance and an allegory .It fuses the spirit of the Renaissance and the spirit of Reformation .It sets out to be a story with twelve knights of Elizabeth who undertake various enterprises in her honour.  Actually,  Queen Elizabeth is in the guise of Queen Gloriana,the  Fairly Queen . On the other hand, Prince  Arthur is historically the Earl of Leicester. He stands for the Christ's figure. Through this epic , Spenser is not merely content to tell an entertaining story but to present this vision in a framework of high and noble purpose .It deals with the adventures stories of twelve knights. It has the deeds of chivalry,  pictorial fantasies and rare moralizings.

The epic is an incomparable creation in English Literature .It has been composed for twenty years .It enjoys five kinds of allegory moral,  political , spiritual,  chivalric and Aristotelian .The whole poem consists of twelve cantos . Spenser has devised a stanza from afterwards known as the Spenserian stanza .In this stanza pattern, the first eight lines are iambic pentametre.But the last line is an Alexandrine, that is, iambic hexametre.The allegory of "The Faerie Queene"is continuous and the moral is very prominent. It is essentially a picture gallery .It reveals a sober, chaste and sensitive spirit .The poet represent himself to be highly romantic and sensuous . Keats was fired by his verse.


"Amoretti" is a collection of sonnets. It contains eighty eight sonnets. These sonnet are addressed to Elizabeth Boyle,  betrothed wife of the sonneteer.  Here Spenser expresses his feeling without recourse to allegory. In the Elizabethan Period,  sonnet was popularized by Sir Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard and Sir Philip Sidney. Shakespeare,  Daniel and Drayton also wrote sonnet.  Spenser's sonnets are distinct in from and sentiment .They are unique by their purity.They tell a story of love without sin or remorse. They are love poems having the charm of a harmonious and pure atmosphere. They are different from the English or Shakespearean Sonnet only in the rhyme scheme . In addition to his sonnet sequence,  Spenser has written some elegies.  "The Complaints " and "The Tears of the Muses " are his famous elegiac poems . "Astrophel" is an allegory of sir philip Sidney's life and death .  "The Epithalamion " is the most beautiful nuptial poem in English .It celebrates the wedding of the poet to Elizabeth Boyle.  "An Hymn in Honour of Love", "An Hymn in Honour of Beautie". " An Hymn of Heavenly Love" and "An Hymn of Heavenly Beautie" are written under the title,  " Four Hymns"."The Prothalamion" is another wedding song.

Edmund Spenser is a learned man. He is well versed in the literature and mythology of ancient Greece and Rome. He is also conscious of the literature of his own age.  In the age of Renaissance , there is a great revival of ancient learning .Spenser and other scholars dive themselves into treasures of classical learning.  So on one can hope to understand and enjoy his poetry easily.  The reader will assimilate his poetry  if he is acquainted with classical mythology and literature . Moreover,  Spenser mixes and blends this mythology with medieval superstitions . So in order to appreciate Spenser , one must also be familiar with the medieval institution of chivalry and with the various peculiar belief of the age .in other words , he is not for the common man.  He is for the learned few.  He is not a poet for the general people.  He is a poet for the poets and scholars .He is truly a "Poets' Poet" and not a poet for all and sundry . Common readers are usually unable to catch the depth and profoundness of his multi-purposed allegorical significance.

An eminent critic says, "If Chaucer is called the father of English poetry,  Spenser may rightly be called the second father."Because it is Spencer,  and not Chaucer,  who is able to give to the poets a high and noble conception of their calling.He believes that every poet is a creator like God . So a poet can share some of his immorality.  Spenser thinks that poetry is permanent and a divine gift.  His high sense of vocation differentiates him from other poets. It has made him the leader and the prince of poets.Spenser has made England the leader in the realm of poetry through his magnificent achievements.

In considering our discussion,  we can say that the poetry of Spenser marks both a culmination and a new beginning in English poetry.  It is the culmination of the allegorical verse tradition excels his predecessors in this respect.  He proves to be the poetic master . He has been able to erect English language to the standard of other language as a vehicle of a great poetry. His fruitful use of metres and figures of speech shows path to the subsequent generations.His fertile imagination,  his sensuous imagery and melodic language have enchanted and influenced his poetic brethren. He is a romantic poet and a pictorial artist . Milton has paid him warm tribute and pope admitted to his compelling magic.  Keats,  Tennyson and Rossetti are greatly indebted to him. Thus Spenser and his poetic works have been a source of encouragement of English poets forever.

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