JOHN GUILLORY


The Image of Source in
"The Faerie Queene"

The passage quoted here, from Book IV [of The Faerie Queene], follows the long catalogue of rivers comprising the pageant that celebrates the marriage of the Thames and the Medway:

O what an endlesse worke haue I in hand,
To count the seas abundant progeny,
Whose fruitfull seede farre passeth those in land,
And also those which wonne in th'asure sky?
For much more eath to tell the starres on hy,
Albe they endlesse seeme in estimation,
Then to recount the Seas posterity;
So fertile be the flouds in generation,
So huge their numbers, and so numberlesse their nation.

Therefore the antique wisards well inuented,
That Venus of the fomy sea was bred;
For that the seas by her are most augmented.

(FQ IV.xii.1-2)

The marriage of the Thames and the Medway is a Spenserian "invention," a myth of origination, and perhaps also one of the generative pre-texts of The Faerie Queene. The apparent hopelessness of the task set out in these lines is belied by the fact that Spenser has already named ("contained") a number of rivers large enough to counterfeit the infinity that he seems to argue lies beyond the power of the artist to represent. The act of naming is

____________________
From Poetic Authority: Spenser, Milton, and Literary History. Copyright © 1983 by Columbia University Press.

-219-

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