“Epithalamion,” is a marriage ode written by the English Renaissance poet Edmund Spenser. This poem was published originally with his sonnet sequence . It might sound like scientific jargon, but Edmund Spenser’s ‘Epithalamion’ is actually a sort of love poem! Explore this lesson to discover more. Epithalamion: Epithalamion, marriage ode by Edmund Spenser, originally published with his sonnet sequence Amoretti in The poem celebrates Spenser’s.

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These were printed in one volume in It is unlikely that all the sonnets of Amoretti were written at one time, or that all were originally addressed to Elizabeth Boyle, whose marriage to Spenser is celebrated in the Epithalamion.

It is possible that the form of the volume, which presents a sonnet sequence dealing with the vicissitudes of a courtship, crowned by a marriage-ode, is accidental: If so, he had an original mind: It seems more likely that Spenser collected existing sonnets, adding to their number with such an arrangement in mind. The figure of Charissa Charity- Faerie Queene I, 10and the quest of Britomart which is to end in marriage, present the same essential image.

The work begins with two sonnets in which the speaker addresses his own poetry, attempting to invest his words with the power to achieve his goal the wooing of Elizabeth Boyle.

From the third sonnet through the sixty-second sonnet, the speaker is in an almost constant state of emotional turmoil and frustrated hopes. Edmunr beloved refuses to look favorably upon his suit, so his reaction ranges from despairing self-deprecation to angry tirade against her stubbornness. Epithalamionn often the speaker dwells summxry his beloved’s beauty, both inner and outer, and the overpowering effects this beauty has upon him. He uses a variety of motifs to explicate his feelings and thoughts toward the subject of his ardor: Each of these is intended to convey some aspect of his beloved’s character or his own fears and apprehensions.

His use of sonnets written in praise of other beauties would be in keeping with this Platonic conception of Love, for in Elizabeth Boyle he saw a closer approximation to the Idea of Beauty itself than in all other women: As Donne says in The Good Morrow: But this, all pleasures fancies be. If ever any beauty I did see. Spenser is in fact putting his earlier work to its proper purpose, now revealed to him in the beauty of his beloved.

The sonnets are in Spenser’s own rhyme scheme, which appears occasionally elsewhere in his work: The sequence is made up of eighty-nine sonnets, with three lyric pieces at the end. The subject of the sonnets is love for a woman whose epithaalamion and virtue show their divine origin. They deal not so much with this human revelation of beauty, as with the lover’s reaction to it.

Each sonnet presents a point of view, a part of the whole subject. The presentation of the actual, personal relationship is disciplined at every point by the appropriate conventions of thought and expression. Spenser owes much to other writers, notably Desportes and Tasso, as well as Petrarch.

This magnificent sequence is far too complex in its detail to examine closely, but certain points may be noted. At the opening it is spring: Again, the penitential season of Lent has its parallel in the devotions of the lover: In the sixtieth sonnet he says his courtship has now lasted a year, and in the sixty-second hopes that the passing of winter may bring him grace: This year it is not Lent but Easter which suggests a more direct plea this sonnet is often-disastrously-sung as a hymn: So let us love, dearer love, lyke as we ought.


Such an application of religion to love is not blasphemous: The sequence ends on a minor tone, and the imagery is autumnal. This melancholy conclusion, to be reversed by the triumph of the Epithalamionperhaps an effect of the convention by which sonnet sequences end, for the most part, either in rejection and despair, or as in Petrarch’s case, with the loss of the beloved through death: One of the most interesting aspects of the courtship is Spenser’s approach to his beloved.

At first, he adores her from afar, overawed by her beauty and right pride. He is her servant, not her equal. This recalls the end of the Epithalamionwhen he bids his song: Be to her a goodly ornament.

The three lyrics at the end of the Amoretti provide a transition to the triumphant joy of the Epithalamion. They are slight, witty exercises, on the theme of Cupid’s arrows, and recall the March Eclogue.

The song begins before dawn and progresses through the wedding ceremony and into the consummation night of the newlywed couple. It is written within an established genre, for which there are many models in classical antiquity, notably in the work of Catullus and Theocritus.

Spenser would also have been familiar with examples in French. Of all the traditions available to him he makes full use. It is interesting to compare this poem with the various epithalamia of other writers of the period, especially Herrick and Donne, a little later.

Spenser’s inventive genius for devising verse forms here reaches its supreme triumph. He has developed a verse of eighteen lines, with the most complex orchestration of rhyme, and varying line lengths, and a refrain- ‘The woods shall to me answer and my Eccho ring’- subtly altered as the poem proceeds, tracing the progress of the wedding-day from dawn to night.

Spenser’s love for the Irish countryside is clear through his vivid descriptions of the natural world surrounding the couple, while his political views regarding English supremacy is hinted at in the relationship between the bride and groom themselves.

Analysis of Sonnets 58 to This set of sonnets continues to express and explore the ongoing struggle of the speaker in dealing with an unresponsive beloved. He reiterates previous motifs, such as the battle and the contrast of fire and ice. He also introduces another motif of analogies: The beloved is the hunting beast, ferocious and bloody, while the suitor is her prey, helpless and–in one case–submissive to her attack.

He knows he will be devoured; he wants only to stay the pain in favor of a quick kill. The speaker also voices desperation at his beloved’s enduring indifference to his love. He goes so far as to seek solace in the fact that she continues to torment him with rejection: On this increasingly precarious ground the speaker stands, desperate to squeeze some hope out of his miserable plight.

LITERARY CRITICISM:FREE NOTES: A note [Summary] on Epithalamion by Edmund Spenser.

Despite the threat of sorrow, this section of the sonnet cycle does take a turn for the better. The speaker has won the hand of this beloved and is eager to set a wedding-date. His former criticism of her cruelty and pride are all but gone–even evmund pride becomes a source of admiration rather than frustration for the speaker, to the point that he defends her seeming haughtiness as a misperception based in the envy of her critics.

He also reverses two major motifs: The predator edmknd prey image changes to the speaker-as-hunter and the beloved-as-exhausted-deer, finally accepting her inevitable capture.

The battle motif sees the suitor in the role of victor, with the beloved a vanquished and submissive captive. Both give higher place to the suitor than previous sonnets, but also insist that he will be a epithakamion winner unlike the beloved and there will be lasting peace between the two of them. The long-sought beloved has acceded to the speaker’s request, making her his fiancee. Several sonnets of rejoicing occur, followed by several expressing epithalamuon speaker’s impatience at the lengthy engagement prior to the wedding day.


Here, too, the speaker turns his attention from his earlier aspects of the beloved’s physical beauty–her eyes and her hair in particular–and begins to be more familiar with her, to the point of describing in detail the scent of her breasts. From Sonnet 63 through Sonnet 85, the speaker revisits many of his earlier motifs, changing them to suit the new relationship between himself and his beloved.

Now he is the hunter and she is the game; he is the victor, and she the vanquished. His earlier criticisms of her pride and stubbornness also change to become admiration for her constancy and strength of mind. From Sonnet 86 to the end of the sonnet-cycle proper Sonnet 89division enters into the relationship. Sonnet 86 marks a moment of wrath on the part of the fiancee, a result of some lie told to her by an individual whom the speaker curses in no uncertain terms.

Epithalamion (poem) – Wikipedia

Sonnets 87 through 89 dwell upon the speaker’s misery at being separated from his beloved, but there is an implied expectation that they will, eventually, be reunited. The sonnet-cycle ends with a set of stanzas returning to the poem’s title character, Cupid.

The first set of stanzas describe how Cupid led the speaker into harm when he was young by drawing his attention to a hive full of honey; when the speaker epithalamiln for the honey, he was stung by the resident bees and Cupid flew away. Later, Cupid wounds the speaker with an arrow plaed there by Diane, goddess of the hunt. Instead of instilling passionate love into the speaker, it instead causes pain. The next set of stanzas turn Cupid’s attention from the speaker and toward the beloved.

They describe an incident in which Cupid comes across the speaker’s beloved, but mistakes her for his own mother, Venus, goddess of love and beauty. The speaker tells Cupid that the mistake is understandable, as he has not been the first to confuse the two. The final set of stanzas focus almost entirely on an incident involving Cupid and Venus. As a child, Cupid is annoyed by a bee buzzing around him as he tries to rest. His mother warns him to leave the bee alone, but Cupid instead impetuously grabs the bee in his hand.

He is, of course, stung and releases the bee; his mother attempts to soothe him while summqry him a lesson: Cupid, however, misses the lesson entirely and goes on arbitrarily firing his arrows at mortals without thought for the consequences of unrequited love.


The speaker returns to himself as the target of Cupid’s indifferent attentions, resigning himself to languish in unconsummated love until Cupid sees fit to end his suffering.

Fair is my love, when her fair golden hairs. With the loose wind ye waving chance to mark: Fair, when the rose in her red cheeks appears.

Or in her eyes the fire of love does spark: Fair, when her breast, like a rich laden bark. With precious merchandise she forth doth lay: Fair, when that cloud of pride, which oft doth dark. Her goodly light, with smiles she drives away. But fairest she, when so she doth display. The gate with pearls and rubies richly dight. Through which her words so wise do make their way. To bear the message of her gentle sprite. The rest be works of nature’s wonderment.