DONALD CHENEY


Envy in the Middest of
the 1596 "Faerie Queene"

It is not easy to make generalizations about the overall structure of Spenser's Faerie Queene. Whether we ascribe this fact to the problems of allegory or symbolism, of epic or romance, or to Spenser's amiable mixing of various modes and genres, probably every reader of the poem has had the experience of seeming to find a pattern there which lasts long enough to quicken his pulse and kindle his ambition, but which then vanishes by the time he has gotten to the next canto or book, or to his index cards, or his typewriter, or his colleagues. Even Milton, that fittest member of Spenser's audience, may be expressing a similar experience of his great predecessor when he speaks of a belated peasant who "sees, / Or dreams he sees" the midnight revels of faerie elves, "numberless" to his ignorant eyes, intent on their dance, charming his ear with their music "while overhead the moon / Sits arbitress"; a sight which finally eludes his comprehension:

... far within
And in their own dimensions like themselves
The great seraphic lords and cherubim
In close recess and secret conclave sat
A thousand demi-gods on golden seats,
Frequent and full.

We can sense the grace and purposeful energy of Spenser's antique images; but he has not made it easy for us to take their measure, or his. Frequently we feel excluded from the inner conclave of his deliberations. Perhaps he

____________________
Published for the first time in this volume. Copyright © 1986 by Donald Cheney.

-267-

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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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