Mirror and Veil: The Historical Dimension of Spenser's Faerie Queene

By Michael O'Connell | Go to book overview

Epilogue

Escape from Mutability

What Spenser could not know was that he had predicted—with striking clarity—his own fate in the destruction of the pastoral world of book 6. Real-life brigands, Irish guerrillas, would drive him and his family from Kilcolman some two years after the publication of the second half of the poem. Whatever peace Spenser may have found before his death shortly thereafter had of necessity to come from his own mind, not from outward circumstances. For even allowing for exaggeration in Ben Jonson's assertion that he "died for want of bread in King Street," one cannot imagine much external satisfaction attending the death of a dispossessed colonial official, separated from his family and friends, whose very mission back to London bespoke the failure of policies of which he had been part. Without an inner defense, it would surely have seemed that the realities behind the Blatant Beast, Malengin, and Grantorto as well as the forces of mortal dissolution had triumphed over him.

And yet Spenser had in a sense anticipated the need to find permanence within destruction in the last part of The Faerie Queene he composed. While engaged in writing the View of the Present State of Ireland, he was also at work—defending himself psychologically and spiritually?—on the Mutability Cantos. In the cantos Spenser cautiously and obliquely brings together his two different senses of Ireland, and it must be for this reason that we feel here we are in the presence of some of his most personal and intimate poetry. The figure of Mutability personifies cosmic change, but as such she includes the change that operates in history and all the affairs of men and states. As a principle in the fallen world, she causes degeneration and decline in human polity:

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Mirror and Veil: The Historical Dimension of Spenser's Faerie Queene
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Mirror and Veil - The Historical Dimension of Spenser's Faerie Queene *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Explanatory Note xiii
  • Mirror and Veil *
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter 1 - The Method of the Poet His Torical 16
  • Chapter 2 - Holiness and Historical Fulfillment 38
  • Chapter 3 - History and the Poet's Golden World 69
  • Chapter 4 - Mirrors More Than One 99
  • Chapter 5 - Myth and History in the Legend of Justice 125
  • Chapter 6 - The Return to Pastoral Vision 161
  • Epilogue - Escape from Mutability 190
  • Notes 195
  • Works Cited 207
  • Index to the Faerie Queene 213
  • General Index 217
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