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Edmund Spenser was a great metrical artist. He was the first conscious inventor of a distinct kind of poetic diction and prosody. He knew and studied to his best advantage three metrical systems prevailing in his time. (i) The quantitative system of the classics, (ii) the syllabic system of the French writers and (iii) the system of Chaucer. Spenser experimented with all the three and learned something from each.

The most brilliant invention of Spenser in the field of versification is the Spenserian stanza- a stanza form which has made him immortal. The Spenserian stanza is a long stanza consisting of nine lines; the first eight lines are iambic Pentameter. The ninth line is a longer one. It consists of twelve syllables, or in other words, it is an Alexandrine. The rhyme scheme of Spenser's stanza is ab ab bc bc c. It will be seen that one rhyme 'b' is repeated four times and the other 'c' three times. This makes the stanza a very difficult one, for the poet who uses it must find for every stanza as many as four words having the same end sound. But Spenser has showed great skill in use.

Spenser is the master of music and melody and he knows the art of creating harmony. He uses the following devices to produce music in his verse.

First of all, he uses in quick succession a number of liquid vowels and consonants as 'o' 'u' 'l' 'm' 'n' etc. Secondly, he makes judicious use of onomatopoeic words i.e. words whose sound echoes their sense. These two devices are best illustrated by the passage below;

And more to lulle him in his slumber soft, A trickling stream from high rocke tumbling downe,And ever drizzling raine upon the loft. Mixed with this murmuring winde much like the sowne; Of swarming Bees did cast him in a swowne."

Thirdly, he makes effective use of medial rhymes and alliteration. He allures the readers along with "cunning baits of alliteration." Alliteration with him is not a mere embellishment as with lesser poets. It has a music of its own, as it continually echoes the sense. Spenser also employs rhyme and assonance to create music. For this, he frequently duplicate the effect of end rhyme through unobtrusive sound echo or medial assonance within the verse:

Lo! now she is that stone; from whose two heads As from two weeping eyes, fresh streams do flow, Yet cold through fear and old conceived dreads; And yet the stone her semblance seems to show; Shapt like a maid, that such ye may her know

To sum up, Spenser's stanza form is suited to all the purposes of a long poem like The Faerie Queene. It is suited to a description of landscape, to the elaborate epic simile, to a description of particular scenes, situations and events. It is also suited to the sketches of persons and to the analysis of thoughts and feelings.


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