SIX
MARRIAGE SONG: A CODA

IN APRIL, 1580, Spenser writes to his friend Harvey: "I minde shortely at convenient leisure, to sette forth a Booke in this kinde, whiche I entitle, Epithalamion Thamesis, whiche Booke I dare undertake wil be very profitable for the knowledge, and rare for the Invention, and manner of handling. For in setting forth the marriage of the Thames: I shewe his first beginning, and offspring, and all the Countrey, that he passeth through, and also describe all the Rivers throughout Englande, whiche came to this Wedding, and their righte names."1

Thus early marriage becomes a Spenserian theme--in this instance a means of unifying what was to him and to his age a serious type of poetry; and we find this topographical-historical element completely metamorphosed many years later in the loveliest of his fables, the elopement of the rivers Mulla and Bregog in Colin Clout, and in his great betrothal song. The perennial freshness of this symbolism, which had such lasting hold on Spenser's imagination, has been recently recaptured by Milles' great sculptured group in St. Louis of the marriage of the Missouri and the Mississippi.

English history and the English countryside, so vitally important to Spenser, are among the tributaries enriching his marriage symbolism. In the Faerie Queene his historical interest shifts from places to people; consequently love becomes increasingly important to this symbol of union. His particular concern with Elizabeth and her Court disturbs and qualifies, but only temporarily impedes the triumphant current of his conception that married love is paramount in human relations.

In the Elisa Song of the Calender the union of the white and red roses, the marriage of the warring factions of Lancaster and

-193-

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