ISABEL G. MACCAFFREY


Allegory and Pastoral
in "The Shepheardes Calender"

To read the large-scale masterpieces of Elizabethan literature with something of the agility they assume and demand is an art which must be self-consciously cultivated by us today. The Shepheardes Calender, an early, relatively brief essay in a complex mode, provides exercise for our wit in smaller compass. We ought, I believe, to bring to it something of the same resources that we bring to Spenser's larger work. As Ernest de Selincourt wrote, "It lies along the high-road that leads him to Faery land." It is the product of the same sensibility, and in it we can discern the special proclivities of the poet's imagination: the preference for radical allegory and "iconographical ambiguity"; the search for a form that will contain variety and unify it without violating its subtle life-patterns; the exploitation of a setting that can also serve as a complex controlling metaphor. The great invention of Faerie Land is anticipated by Spenser's evocation of the archetypal hills, valleys, woods, and pastures of the Calender.

Early critics tended to read the work as a kind of anthology, a series of experiments in various verse-forms; Spenser's themes, conceived as subordinate to his forms, could be subsumed under E. K.'s categories, plaintive, moral, and recreative. The poem's reputation has taken an upward turn in the past few years, accompanied by a critical tendency to stress the unifying power of its metaphors, and there have been several attempts to reduce its pattern to a single thematic statement. The reconstruction of the poem's composition by Paul McLane suggests the difficul-

____________________
From English Literary History 1, vol. 36 ( March 1969). Copyright © 1969 by The Johns Hopkins University Press.

-141-

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Edmund Spenser
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Edmund Spenser *
  • Edmund Spenser *
  • Contents *
  • Editor's Note ix
  • Introduction 1
  • The Structure of Imagery in "The Faerie Queene" 23
  • The Structure of Allegory in Books I and II of "The Faerie Queene" 41
  • Mutability and the Theme of Process 57
  • The Marriage of the Thames and Medway 73
  • Gardens of Adonis 81
  • The Bower of Bliss 97
  • The "Mutabilitie Cantos": Archaism and Evolution in Retrospect 111
  • Allegory and Pastoral in "The Shepheardes Calender" 141
  • Imagery and Prophecy in "The Faerie Queene" 161
  • The Romance of Romance 181
  • Spenser and the City: the Minor Poems 191
  • Mythologies and Metrics in Spenser 211
  • The Image of Source in "The Faerie Queene" 219
  • "Astrophel" 239
  • "The Footing of His Feet": Spenser's Early Error 251
  • Envy in the Middest of the 1596 "Faerie Queene" 267
  • Chronology 285
  • Contributors 287
  • Bibliography 289
  • Acknowledgments 295
  • Index 297
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