PETER SACKS


"Astrophel"

The most obvious change as one moves from Spenser's earlier elegiac works to "Astrophel" is that the poet seems to have crossed into an apparently less unreal world. The pastoral garb is more loosely worn, and the poem is not as enclosed as the Calender, with its cycle of months and its entire cast of shepherds. Nor is it located within the realm of quasi-visionary encounters such as in "The Ruines of Time" or "Daphnaida." The mourning voice is that of the poet himself, and he seems to speak from within our world:

Shepheards that wont on pipes of oaten reed,
Oft times to plaine your loves concealed smart:
And with your piteous layes have learnd to breed
Compassion in a countrey lasses hart
Hearken ye gentle shepheards to my song,
And place my dolefull plaint your plaints emong.

To you alone I sing this moumfull verse,
The moumfulst verse that ever man heard tell:
To you whose softened hearts it may empierse,
With dolours dart for death of Astrophel.

(lines 1-10)

This is clearly an assured bid for inclusion in the company of poets. Unlike the isolated Colin Clout addressing Pan, Spenser is now speaking directly to his fellow poets, commanding their audience. Some of these poets are the other elegists whose poems are published here with Spenser's. In fact, Spenser has maneuvered these poets, all of whose elegies preceded

____________________
From The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre from Spenser to Yeats. Copyright © 1985 by The Johns Hopkins University Press.

-239-

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