The Poetry of Edmund Spenser: A Study

By William Nelson | Go to book overview

Prince of Poets

IN THE LONG LIST of English poets whose works are remembered there are a very few who devoted their lives to their art inspired by the idea that it was the most powerful for good within human reach. That Edmund Spenser was one of this number we learn from the spirit of his works rather than from the bits of information about his life that have survived. For one described on his funeral monument as "the Prince of Poets in his tyme" there remains remarkably little material that the biographer can rely on; the inscription itself is wrong both in the date of his birth and in the date of his death. What we have is a scattering of official records, a few letters exchanged with his friend Gabriel Harvey, chance references in the writings of his contemporaries, and such information as can be drawn from his poems and their dedications. 1 Yet even these details suggest the career which his poems make manifest, a career conforming to that humanist ideal which called upon learned eloquence to be at once the servant and the guide of the commonwealth.

Spenser tells us in one way or another that he was born in London in 1554 or a year or two before, that his mother's name was Elizabeth, and that he was kin to the Spencers of Wormleighton in Warwickshire and Althorp in Northamptonshire, a family grown noble and rich in the time of Henry VII. He attended the Merchant Taylors

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The Poetry of Edmund Spenser: A Study
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xiii
  • Prince of Poets 1
  • Colin Clout 30
  • The World's Vanity 64
  • Love Creating 84
  • That True Glorious Type 116
  • The Legend of Holinesse the Cup and the Serpent 147
  • The Legend of Temperaunce - Prays-Desire and Shamefastnesse 178
  • The Legend of Chastitie Maid and Woman 204
  • The Legend of Friendship the Hermaphrodite Venus 236
  • The Legend of Justice the Idol and the Crocodile 256
  • The Legend of Courtesie - The Rose Revealed 276
  • Cantos of Mutabilitie the Ever-Whirling Wheel 296
  • Notes 315
  • Index 337
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