Birth Passages: Maternity and Nostalgia, Antiquity to Shakespeare

By Theresa M. Krier | Go to book overview

4

The Scandal of Similitude:
The Song of Songs in Spenser's
Wedding Volume

I bewail nothing me-thinks so much, as [Spenser's] Version
of the Canticles. . . . never was Man better made for such a
Work, and the Song it self so directly suited, with his
Genius . . . that it could not but from him receive the last
Perfection, whereof it was capable out of its Original.

—Samuel Woodford

Well before the death of Edmund Spenser in 1599, there were rumors that he had translated the Song of Songs. No such text has ever been found; it and other of Spenser's “lost works” remain a mystery, or a wish, as in Samuel Woodford's lament cited above. 1. But it is plausible that we already have Spenser's translation in the 1595 book of sonnets, anacreontics, and wedding ode entitled Amoretti and Epithalamion, often called his wedding volume since it celebrates his marriage to Elizabeth Boyle in 1594. 2.

The author of the wedding volume sets for himself, or discovers, an

____________________
1.
Samuel Woodford, preface to A Paraphrase Upon the Cantciles (1679), cited in Spenser Allusions in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, ed. William Wells (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972), 273.
2.
See Israel Baroway, “The Imagery of Spenser and the Song of Songs, ” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 33 (1934): 23-45.

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