Friday, February 24, 2012

The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser

     Lately  I've been reading Book 3 of Spenser's classic poem, and I've enjoyed some of the cantos immensely. There's the usual elegance of his verbal music, some of the most graceful rhythms in all of English literature. I especially enjoyed this passage in a description of Venus taking care of Adonis as he slept:
Where him to sleepe she gently would persuade, 
Or bathe him in a fountaine by some couert glade. 
And whilst he slept, she ouer him would spred 
Her mantle, colour’d like the starry skies, 
And her soft arme lay vndemeath his hed, 
And with ambrosiall kisses bathe his eyes.
     In a way, Spenser's rhythms are fairly simple -- mostly alliteration with a strict adherence to iambic pentameter -- but in that simplicity he manages to create music of great beauty.

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