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The Faerie Queene
Penguin Classics / 1988 / Paperback
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It was the first epic in English and established the possiblities of heroic poetry in the English tradition. Milton called Spenser a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas, and the rythmical music and rhetorical control of The Faerie Queene, no less than its learning, have delighted poets for four centuries. Eighteenth century poets imitated Spenser with abandon and Wordsworth, Keats and Tennyson were deeply influenced by the sensuousness of the work. Spenser's intention was to rival, or surpass, the epic romances of the Italian poets Ariosto and Tasso through the "darke conceit" of his poem, which brilliantly unites the medieval romance and renaissance epic. Spenser is the culmination of an ancient tradition begun by Virgil, yet the tone and atmosphere of The Faerie Queene are distinctively his own.
Great Lady of the greatest Isle, whose light
The Faerie Queene was one of the most influential poems in the English language. Dedicating his work to Elizabeth I, Spenser brilliantly united Arthurian romance and Italian renaissance epic to celebrate the glory of the Virgin Queen. Each book of the poem recounts the quest of a knight to achieve a virtue: the Red Crosse Knight of Holinesse, who must slay a dragon and free himself from the witch Duessa; Sir Guyon, Knight of Temperance, who escapes the Cave of Mammon and destroys Acrasias Bowre of Bliss; and the lady-knight Britomarts search for her Sir Artegall, revealed to her in an enchanted mirror. Although composed as a moral and political allegory, The Faerie Queenes magical atmosphere captivated the imaginations of later poets from Milton to the Victorians.
This edition includes the letter to Raleigh, in which Spenser declares his intentions for his poem, the commendatory verses by Spensers contemporaries and his dedicatory sonnets to the Elizabethan court, and is supplemented by a table of dates and a glossary.
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