Edmund Spenser 's Epithalamion is an ode written to his bride, Elizabeth Boyle, on their wedding day in It was first published in in London by William Ponsonby as part of a volume entitled Amoretti and Epithalamion. Written not long since by Edmunde Spenser. The volume included the sequence of 89 sonnets Amoretti , along with a series of short poems called Anacreontics and the Epithalamion , a public poetic celebration of marriage.
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Nowadays, it's not rare to find couples who write their own wedding vows, but the practice of marriage songs being written by grooms has actually been around for quite some time. Such a piece is known as an epithalamion , which is a poem composed to celebrate a marriage, usually containing suggestive language and innuendo. This folk tradition eventually became a literary one, and several ancient Greek poets produced examples of epithalamia.
The poetic form was also widely popular among Roman writers, particularly Catullus , who even composed an epithalamion for Peleus and Thetis, the legendary parents of Achilles. Like Catullus and many other writers of epithalamia before him, the poet Edmund Spenser begins his own with an invocation of the muses.
He asks their assistance in his artistic endeavor, but he also entreats them to round up all the nymphs they can find and to urge his sleeping love to wake. With the bride awake and her beauty praised, the poet transitions into a depiction of the procession to the church.
As is common in epithalamia, we find young boys and girls prominently displayed in the festivities as minstrels and others sing the Hymen Hymenaeus - a traditional ritual chant dedicated to the Greco-Roman god of marriage. The poet now digresses once more to comment on his bride's loveliness, with his assessments ranging from innocent praise of her white attire and 'eyes lyke Saphyres' to more overtly lusty descriptions of her breasts and other erogenous zones which we won't show here. The poem quickly takes a more reverent tone as the celebrants enter the church.
The language becomes decidedly more Christian with 'praises of the Lord' and the bride's inward beauty as the couple partakes in the sacrament of matrimony. Once the nuptials are complete, though, it's time for revelry and feasting. As the long-awaited night begins to fall, the groom becomes increasingly anxious to end the festivities so he may consummate the union.
With night fallen, the poet rebukes the idea of any curses or evil creatures that might ruin their happiness as the couple makes their way to the bridal bed. Blessings of childbearing, fidelity, and all the good things of heaven are also asked for as the poet closes his work and dedicates it to his new blushing bride. Take a look at some of the buildings and monuments in Washington, D. That's because architects and other artisans have been emulating this classical style out of reverence for centuries, and it's no different with literary artists.
Edmund Spenser's Epithalamion, which he composed to celebrate his marriage to Elizabeth Boyle in June of , is one such example of a more recent author's participation in these ancient traditions. Although he uses conspicuously Christian language and imagery for his depiction of the wedding sacrament, Spenser fills his poem with a plethora of pagan elements and references. Of course, there's the numerous appeals to various deities i.
We don't have to examine too closely to recognize the sexual underpinnings of modern bachelor or bachelorette parties, the origins of which are actually shared with the earliest folk traditions of epithalamia. For this reason, figures like Hymen , the god of marriage and consummation, and other instances of overt sexuality are extremely prominent in epithalamia and certainly no less so in Spenser's own example. Spenser's Amoretti 89 sonnets written in the months leading up to his wedding contain several other instances in which the poet displays his obvious zeal for sexual activity.
However, his Epithalamion definitely focuses on sex as a source of not only pleasure, but of children and marital bonds, as well. This 'song made in lieu of many ornaments' is the poet's wedding gift to his bride and, as many such works have before, serves to immortalize her beauty and their love.
However, whether Spenser intended it or not, Epithalamion also stands to eternally preserve the primeval rites our ancestors observed and as 'an endlesse moniment' to the literary tradition that stemmed from them. An epithalamion is a poem composed to celebrate a marriage, usually containing suggestive language and innuendo. Its name is derived from two Greek words meaning 'to the bridal chamber' since it evolved from the music of ancient wedding processions.
These songs and other practices were themselves products of much more primordial traditions dedicated to fertility rites. In the poet Edmund Spenser 's own Epithalamion which he wrote for his bride, Elizabeth Boyle , he is sure to maintain Christian ties where necessary while also staying true to the many pagan traditions that his work preserves. To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.
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It might sound like scientific jargon, but Edmund Spenser's 'Epithalamion' is actually a sort of love poem! Explore this lesson to discover more on the traditions behind this poem, as well as to see it summarized and analyzed. What Is an Epithalamion? Synopsis of Epithalamion by Edmund Spenser Like Catullus and many other writers of epithalamia before him, the poet Edmund Spenser begins his own with an invocation of the muses.
Try it risk-free No obligation, cancel anytime. Want to learn more? Lesson Summary An epithalamion is a poem composed to celebrate a marriage, usually containing suggestive language and innuendo. Lesson Glossary Epithalamion a poem composed to celebrate a marriage; it usually contains suggestive language and innuendo Catullus Roman writer who composed an epithalamion for Peleus and Thetis, parents of Achilles Edmund Spenser English poet who wrote epithalamia Hymen Hymenaeus traditional ritual chant dedicated to the Greco-Roman god of marriage Elizabeth Boyle Spenser's fiance whom he married in June of Hymen god of marriage and consummation Learning Outcomes After watching or reading this lesson, review what you learned in preparation to: Define epithalamion Recall the historical roots of this type of poem Summarize Edmund Spenser's Epithalamion Discuss the significance and background of Epithalamion.
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Edmund Spenser's Epithalamion: Definition, Summary & Analysis
Epithalamion is an ode written by Edmund Spenser as a gift to his bride, Elizabeth Boyle, on their wedding day. The poem moves through the couples' wedding day, from the groom's impatient hours before dawn to the late hours of night after the husband and wife have consummated their marriage. Spenser is very methodical in his depiction of time as it passes, both in the accurate chronological sense and in the subjective sense of time as felt by those waiting in anticipation or fear. As with most classically-inspired works, this ode begins with an invocation to the Muses to help the groom; however, in this case they are to help him awaken his bride, not create his poetic work.
The complexities of Spenser's compositional practices were lost on later readers; Robert Aikin is typical: "The Epithalamion composed for his own marriage, possesses feeling as well as fancy, and wants only judicious curtailment to make it a very pleasing piece" Works of Spenser 1:xlv-vi. Robert Southey : "The epithalamium on his own marriage is one of the very finest poems which was ever written; were but a few parts omitted, it might be pronounced perfect" Annual Review 4 Anna Jameson: "The Amoretti , as Spenser has fancifully entitled his Sonnets, are certainly tinctured with a good deal of the verbiage and pedantry of the times; but I think I have shown that they contain passages of earnest feeling, as well as high poetic beauty. Spenser married his Elizabeth, about the year , and he has crowned his amatory effusions with a most impassioned and triumphant epithalamion on his own nuptials, which he concludes with a prophecy, that it shall stand a perpetual monument of his happiness, and thus it has been.
Edmund Spenser's Amoretti and Epithalamion: A Critical Edition
Edmund Spenser is considered one of the preeminent poets of the English language. Prose Home Harriet Blog. Visit Home Events Exhibitions Library. Newsletter Subscribe Give.
Spenser's Amoretti and Epithalamion Summary and Analysis of Epithalamion Stanzas 1 through 12
Epithalamion , marriage ode by Edmund Spenser , originally published with his sonnet sequence Amoretti in Taken as a whole, the group of poems is unique among Renaissance sonnet sequences in recording a successful love affair culminating in marriage. The stanza poem begins with the predawn invocation of the Muses and follows the events of the wedding day. The speaker, reflecting on the private moments of the bride and groom, concludes with a prayer for the fruitfulness of the marriage. The mood of the poem is hopeful, thankful, and very sunny. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback.
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