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Essay on Epithalamion
Epithalamion is an interesting mixture of negatives and positives for me. I found parts of it interesting and well written. However, I found other parts that I am less enthusiastic about. Spenser used many different devices in this poem that make it stand out from many other similar poems from the same time period.
Epithalamion is a wedding song, traditionally sung on the threshold of the bedchamber. It was usually "narrated" by a sort of emcee, but Spenser changes it around, to make himself both the bridegroom and the narrator. So, it ceases to be an oration by an outside observer, and it becomes a "passionate lyric utterance" (p. 864). The genre to which Epithalamion belongs goes back centuries to ancient Greek times. It usually involves an "invocation of the Muses, followed by a celebratory description of the procession of the bride, the religious rites, the singing and dancing at the wedding party, the preparations for the wedding night, and the sexual consummation of the marriage" (p. 864).
In my opinion, this poem was not as interesting literally as The Faerie Queene. I enjoyed the story of The Faerie Queene because of the, shall we say, variety of the stanzas. Each stanza was interesting to me. However, in Epithalamion, I found many of the stanzas quite boring. This may be due to the fact that they are written in Middle English, a language of which I am not a native. It was also due to the fact that he used so many classical references. I am sure if I understood even half of the symbolism involved in this piece, then it would interest me a great deal more.
It wasn't the worst poem I have ever read. It has many wonderful qualities. For example, I love the part where Spenser says "And let them also with them bring in hand, / Another gay girland / For my fayre love of lillyes and roses, / Bound truelove wize with a blew silke riband" (lns. 41-44). I love the imagery in these lines. I see the Nymphes coming to him with piles and piles of lilies and roses bound with blue ribbon. I can imagine the soft milky beauty of the flowers, their healthy fullness, and the wonderful scent of them. I can also imagine the softness of the ribbon as it is tied around the masses of flowers. I enjoy this because of the vivid imagery it contains.
Another reason I enjoyed this poem is because of its inner symbolism. Spenser chose to make this poem a work of art, to entwine symbolism, not just in the words, but in the structure itself! So, at the, shall we say, molecular structure of the poem, there is poetry. Only the best poets realize that the words are not always enough. In Epithalamion, Spenser wrote 365 long lines (5 feet or more) that correspond to the number of days in a year. He also wrote twenty-four stanzas, which matches the number of hours in a day. In these stanzas, the first sixteen are about daylight and the sights and sounds that are related to day. The last eight are about the night. This is important because in Ireland, where Spenser was from, at the summer solstice-which is mentioned in this poem as St. Barnaby's Day-there are sixteen hours of daylight before night falls.
Overall, I enjoyed this poem on most levels. I enjoyed the use of symbolism, even if at times it was confusing to me. I also enjoyed the use of vivid imagery. However, most of all, I enjoyed the symbolism of the structure of the poem, and the work that had to go into it to make it perfect.
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Epithalamion. EssayMania.com. Retrieved on 11 Oct, 2010 from