Virgil and Spenser

Virgil and Spenser

Virgil and Spenser

Virgil and Spenser

Excerpt

This monograph was begun at Harvard University in 1920 as one of several essays on various classical influences upon the poetry of Spenser. One of those essays was published as "Spenser and the Greek Pastoral Triad" in April, 1923, in Studies in Philology. Its conclusion was that the Theocritean reminiscences in The Shepheardes Calendar were better to be understood as a result of Spenser's reading of the poetry of the Pléiade than as evidence that his imagination was haunted by direct recollections of the Sicilian poets. No such simple conclusion can be drawn from this essay. Spenser owed a very small and almost entirely indirect debt to Virgil Eclogues but he must have loved the Hellenistic poems of Virgil youth, the Culex and the Ciris, which the learned world may never quite agree to believe that Virgil really wrote. Unlike Ariosto, however, Spenser was certainly not an habitual reader of the Aeneid during his creative prime. His Virgilian echoes in The Faerie Queene seem like the memories of a time-hallowed but time-dimmed reverence for the Aeneid.

This little book will appeal to an audience which will inevitably be few and fit. The writer hopes that for Spenserians, although it repeats many things which Spenser's editors have said, it may throw some new light upon his poetry and upon his mind. For Virgilians it may have some interest as a kind of fragmentary sequel to Comparetti's great volumes on Virgil in the Middle Ages. To lovers of poetry in general, and of the poetry of the English Renaissance in particular, it may offer a few scattered flashes of imperfect penetration into the mystery of one poet's mind.

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