Edmund Spenser was one of the most famous English poets of the 16th century whose main achievement was the creation of the epic poem, The Faerie Queene.
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This poem is considered to be a successful example of how the stanzas may be organized, and Spencer’s contribution to the development of fixed verses was considerable. In this paper, the two beginning verses of the poem will be analyzed in order to comprehend the motives of the author as well as the main messages sent from the end of the 16th century.
Each line of The Faerie Queene is a kind of brick that creates a magnificent path to the door that opens the world of Faerie knights, ladies, and emotions which develop various types of relations.
There are two verses of 9 lines each which are introduced in the iambic pentameter ended with one Alexandrine line. Such combination of lines facilitates the reading process and shows that more interest appears with each new line offered.
Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds. (Spenser and Kaske 3)
The author admits that he is not ready to disclose his personality but still underlines that he has certain skills to introduce a story as he has Muse that had already inspired him long time ago.
Am now enforst a farre unfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds. (Spenser and Kaske 3)
These lines show that the author has to take a serious step in his life and undergo a number of changes to meet the expectations of the society. Though he is not sure whether he is ready to take such a step, he makes an attempt and wants to succeed.
And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds,
Whose prayses having slept in silence long.
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
To blazon broad emongst her learned throng:
Fierce warres and faithful loves shall moralize my song. (Spenser and Kaske 3)
His task now is to describe the life of knights and their ladies, and his previous duties were far from evaluating such amazing times of honor, prudence, and passion. Though the stories about those past times are hidden to the reader, the author wants to disclose the peculiarities of human lives. Fights, love, and glory are the main aspects of the poem.
Helpe then, O holy Virgin chiefe of nine,
Thy weaker Novice to performe thy will. (Spenser and Kaske 4).
The author is not afraid to ask for help and admit his own weaknesses. Still, he has to perform the will set, and he will ask anyone for help to succeed in his activities.
Lay forth out of thine everlasting scryne
The antique rolles, which there lye hidden still,
Of Faerie knights and fairest Tanaquill,
Whom that most noble Briton Prince so long
Sought through the world, and suffered so much ill,
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That I must rue his undeserved wrong:
O helpe thou my weake wit, and sharpen my dull tong. (Spenser and Kaske 4)
In these lines, the author introduces one of the main ideas of the poem, and “fairest Tanaquill”, the queen of the Land that is considered in the story. Not much information is available about people, the land, and the activities of the queen, this is why it is so interesting to investigate the events from the past and describe their urgency for the reader.
Suffering and pain have been inherent to the times of the queens and knights, and it is a human duty to appreciate personal past and be aware of how different people fight for their freedom, love, and honor. Life is divided into the parts, and the main task of the knight is to find his own place in the world and his mistress in order to make the life complete.
In general, the idea of the two first verses of the poem is clear indeed: there are some themes from the past that have to be disclosed to the reader, and the author takes the responsibility to introduce the world of the knights and queens from his own perspective. Of course, he understands that he is not powerful enough to describe properly each aspect of past life; this is why he is ready to admit his weakness and to ask higher powers for help and inspiration.
Spenser, Edmund and Kaske, Carol. “The First Booke of the Faerie Queene. Contayning. The Legend of the Knight of the Red Crosse, or of Holinesse.” The Faerie Queene: Book One. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.: 2006.