The Poetry of Edmund Spenser: A Study

By William Nelson | Go to book overview

The World's Vanity

WITH THE NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS of Muiopotmos and Mother Hubberds Tale Spenser's "complaints and meditations of the worlds vanitie, verie grave and profitable," are not the most attractive of his works. Most of the poems included in the volume entitled Complaints, as well as the elegies Daphnaida and Astrophel, are characterized by a rhetorical lushness and an exaggeratedly emotional utterance that the modern reader is likely to find distasteful, however fashionable these traits were in Elizabethan times. Nevertheless, they repay study if only because they display the range of Spenser's virtuosity in literary construction and because they reflect, in one way or another, the conceptions which underlie his greater works.

A complaint of the world's vanity arises from a sense of the inevitable decay of sublunary things. Although such meditation is to be found in the poetry of every age, there are differences in attitude which mirror differences in intellectual and spiritual temper. Like the Middle Ages, the Renaissance relied in its search for the enduring upon its hope for heaven, and rather more than the Middle Ages upon its faith in the permanence of poetry. While the late medieval concern was primarily with the end to which mankind comes, that dance of death which joins in one charnel house king and bishop, tinker and peasant, the Renaissance was

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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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