Edmund Spenser

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Spenser, Edmund

Spenser, Edmund, 1552?–1599, English poet, b. London. He was the friend of men eminent in literature and at court, including Gabriel Harvey, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Robert Sidney, earl of Leicester. After serving as secretary to the Bishop of Rochester, Spenser was appointed in 1580 secretary to Lord Grey, lord deputy of Ireland. Afterward Spenser lived in Ireland, holding minor civil offices and receiving the lands and castle of Kilcolman, Co. Cork. In 1589, under Raleigh's sponsorship, Spenser went to London, where he apparently sought court preferment and publication of the first three books of The Faerie Queene. After the Tyrone rebellion of 1598, in which Kilcolman Castle was burned, he returned to London, where he died in 1599. He is buried in Westminster Abbey. Recognized by his contemporaries as the foremost poet of his time, Spenser was not only a master of meter and language but a profound moral poet as well. Patterning his literary career after that of Vergil, Spenser first published 12 pastoral eclogues of The Shepheardes Calender (1579), which treat the shepherd as rustic priest and poet. His Complaints and Daphnaida, the latter an elegy on Douglas Howard, both appeared in 1591. In 1595 Colin Clouts Come Home Againe, a pastoral allegory dealing with Spenser's first London journey and the vices inherent in court life, and Astrophel, an elegy on Sir Philip Sidney, were published. In the same year Amoretti, Spenser's sonnet sequence commemorating his courtship of Elizabeth Boyle, and Epithalamion, a beautiful and complex wedding poem in honor of his marriage in 1594, were also published. Fowre Hymnes, which explains Spenser's Platonic and Christian views of love and beauty, and Prothalamion appeared in 1596. Also in 1596 the first six books of The Faerie Queene, Spenser's unfinished masterpiece, appeared. Although the poem is an epic, his method was to treat the moral virtues allegorically. The excellence of The Faerie Queene lies in the complexity and depth of Spenser's moral vision and in the Spenserian stanza (nine lines, eight of iambic pentameter followed by one of iambic hexameter, rhyming ababbcbcc), which Spenser invented for his masterpiece. Spenser's only extended prose work, A View of the Present State of Ireland, was first printed in 1633.


See variorum edition of his works (ed. by E. Greenlaw et al., 1932–49), the three-volume edition of the poetical works (J. C. Smith and E. de Selincourt, 1909–10), and the four-volume edition of the minor works (W. L. Renwick, 1928–34). See biographies by A. C. Judson (1945) and A. Hadfield (2012); studies by W. Nelson (1963), W. L. Renwick (1925, repr. 1965), D. Cheney (1966), P. Bayley (1971), A. L. DeNeef (1983), and H. Berger, Jr. (1988); C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love (1936, repr. 1958) and F. Kermode, Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne (1971).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Spenser, Edmund


Born circa 1552, in London; died there Jan. 13 or 16,1599. English poet.

Spenser studied at Cambridge University, where he received a master’s degree. His Shepherds’ Calendar (1579) is a pastoral consisting of 12 eclogues, each associated with a different month. Spenser drew on traditional allegory for purposes of satire in Colin Clout’s Come Home Again (1591; published 1595) and in the fable Mother Hubberd’s Tale (1591). He also wrote lyric hymns (1596) and the cycle of lyric sonnets Amoretti (1591–95).

Spenser’s greatest work is the unfinished allegorical narrative poem The Faerie Queene (1590–96), which is permeated by humanist aspirations. The work made use of the Arthurian legends and developed the traditions of the classical epic and of the narrative poems of the Italian Renaissance.

Spenser’s allegories deal with court life and politics. The characters in his magic world have the traits of living people; in its own way, his peotry is realistic. He contributed the Spenserian stanza to English versification.


Works, vols. 1–8. Baltimore, Md., 1932–47.
In Russian translation:
In Khrestomatiia po zapadnoevropeiskoi literature: Epokha Vozrozhdeniia, 3rd ed. Compiled by B. I. Purishev. Moscow, 1947.


Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 1, fasc. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1943.
Renwick, W. L. Edmund Spenser. London [1964].
Spenser: The Critical Heritage. Edited by R. M. Cummings. London [1971].
Atkinson, D. F. Edmund Spenser: A Bibliographical Supplement. New York, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Acknowledgment The present study is a modified and largely extended version of the following article: Stroe MA (2011) Edmund Spenser's mystique of light: The Hymns to beauty and love in the context of modern science.
The first interpretive chapter deals with Edmund Spenser and hyperbaton, a reordering of the elements of a grammatical sentence in order to preserve meter in Latin and social decorum in English.
EDMUND SPENSER (1554-99) decided while still a student to make himself into the great English poet on the model of Vergil.
Cast of Characters: Edmund Spenser and The Faerie Queene
The appropriation of skeltonic verse by Protestant propagandists such as Luke Shepherd, and Edmund Spenser's use of Skelton's pastoral lament from Collyn Clout as a vehicle for interrogating his own poetic persona in The Shepheardes Calendar, each follows Skelton in locating meaning in the negotiation between the poet-writer and his receptive readers.
I was in fact twenty-five years old and a graduate student preparing to write a dissertation on Edmund Spenser's Elizabethan epic, The Faerie Queene, when I first opened Look Homeward, Angel.
The 16th century poet, Edmund Spenser, spoke about "the sacred hunger of ambitious minds" and Shakespeare wrote: "Tis common proof, that lowliness is young ambition's ladder."
This is certainly true of the atmospheric outer movements (from The Tempest) of Sea Change (1983), the turbulent, semi-pitched setting of Edmund Spenser in the third providing satisfying contrast.
But last year filming in the Black Mountains near Abergavenny in late April where conditions were perfect for cuckoos, we didn't hear a single one.': What do we know about the cuckoo?:According to folklore: 'The cuckoo sings in April, The cuckoo sings in May, The cuckoo sings in part of June and then she flies away.' The cuckoo's song inspired the 16th century poet, Edmund Spenser to write of The merry cuckoo, messenger of spring, while Delius was moved to compose his rhapsody, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring.
Debora Shuger's article, "Irishmen, Aristocrats, and Other White Barbarians," works to analyze the process of civilizing a nation as it was understood by Edmund Spenser and Sir John Davies and as it is revealed in their respective works, A View of the Present State of Ireland (1596) and A Discovery of the True Causes Why Ireland Was Never Entirely Subdued (1612).
Those known to have taken part in the siege include the poet Sir Edmund Spenser and the explorer, coloniser, pirate and Munster plantation owner, Sir Walter Raleigh.
Being an insurance man, what few focused thoughts I can muster on the subject have turned to the perils inherent in falling in love, and to Edmund Spenser's adage, "And all for love, and nothing for reward."