Edmund Spenser oil painting

Portrait of a gentleman, said to be Edmund Spenser: the Kinnouil Portrait 1590s. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Edmund Spenser
Occupation Poet,
Signature 128px

Edmund Spenser (?1552 - 13 January 1599) was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognized as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English language.


Edmund Spenser (A Poet)05:53

Edmund Spenser (A Poet)

Spenser was born in London around 1552. As a young boy, he was educated in London at the Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood, and matriculated as a sizar at Pembroke College, Cambridge.[1][2] While at Cambridge he became a friend of Gabriel Harvey, and later consulted him, despite their differing views on poetry.

In July 1580 Spenser went to Ireland, in the service of the newly appointed Lord Deputy, Arthur Grey, 14th Baron Grey de Wilton. Spencer then served with the English forces during the Second Desmond Rebellion. After the defeat of the native Irish he was awarded lands in County Cork that had been confiscated in the Munster Plantation during the Elizabethan conquest of Ireland. Among his acquaintances in the area was Walter Raleigh, a fellow colonist.

Through his poetry Spenser hoped to secure a place at court, which he visited in Raleigh's company to deliver his most famous work, the Faerie Queene. However, he boldly antagonized the queen's principal secretary, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, and all he received in recognition of his work was a pension in 1591. When it was proposed that he receive payment of 100 pounds for his epic poem, Burghley remarked, "What, all this for a song!"

In 1596 Spenser wrote a prose pamphlet titled, A View of the Present State of Ireland. This piece remained in manuscript until its publication and print in the mid-17th century. It is probable that it was kept out of print during the author's lifetime because of its inflammatory content. The pamphlet argued that Ireland would never be totally 'pacified' by the English until its indigenous language and customs had been destroyed, if necessary by violence. Spenser recommended scorched earth tactics, such as he had seen used in the Desmond Rebellions, to create famine. Although it has been highly regarded as a polemical piece of prose and valued as a historical source on 16th century Ireland, the View is seen today as genocidal in intent. Spenser did express some praise for the Gaelic poetic tradition, but also used much tendentious and bogus analysis to demonstrate that the Irish were descended from barbarian Scythian stock.[3]

2 Irish historians of the early modern period, Ciaran Brady and Nicholas Canny, have differed in their view of Spenser's View of the State of Ireland. Brady's essential proposition is that Spenser wished the English government to undertake the extermination of most of the Irish population. He writes that Spenser preferred to write in dialogue form so that the crudity of his proposals would be masked. Canny undermines Brady's conclusion that Spenser opted for "a holocaust or a 'blood-bath'," because despite Brady's claims Spenser did not choose the sword as his preferred instrument of policy. Canny argues that Spenser instead chose not the extermination of the Irish race but rather a policy of "social reform pursued by drastic means". Canny's ultimate assertion was that Brady was over-reacting and that Spenser did not propose a policy to exterminate the Irish race. However, within a page he moves on to argue that no "English writer of the early modern period ever proposed such a drastic programme in social engineering for England, and it was even more dramatic than Brady allows for because all elements of the Irish population including the Old English of the towns, whom Brady seems to think were exempt were subject to some element of this scheme of dispersal, reintegration and re-education"[14]. Here, Canny argues that this policy was more "dramatic than Brady allows", in that Brady's description was one of "bloodshed", "extermination" and "holocaust" only of the native Irish but Canny's was one of dispersal, reintegration and re-education of both the native Irish and the settler English. Even though Canny writes that "substantial loss of life, including loss of civilian life, was considered by Spenser", he considers that that falls short of Brady's conclusion.[4]

During the Nine Years War in 1598, Spenser was driven from his home by the native Irish forces of Aodh O'Neill. His castle at Kilcolman, near Doneraile in North Cork, was burned, and it is thought one of his infant children died in the blaze - though local legend has it that his wife also died. He possessed a second holding to the south, at Rennie, on a rock overlooking the river Blackwater in North Cork. The ruins of it are still visible today. A short distance away grew a tree, locally known as "Spenser's Oak" until it was destroyed by lightning in the 1960's. Local legend has it that he penned some or all of The Faerie Queene under this tree. Queen Victoria is said to have visited the tree while staying in nearby Convamore House during her state visit to Ireland.

File:Fowre Hymnes by Edmund Spenser 1596.jpg

In the year after being driven from his home, Spenser travelled to London, where he died in distressed circumstances (according to legend), aged 46. It was arranged for his coffin to be carried by other poets, upon which they threw many pens and pieces of poetry into his grave with many tears.

Without rhyme or reasonEdit

Spenser is the man believed to have crafted the phrase "without rhyme or reason". According to Thomas Fuller, he was promised payment from the Queen of one hundred pounds, a so called, "reason for the rhyme". The Lord High Treasurer William Cecil, however, considered the sum too much; and due to other business, sent Spenser nothing. After a long while without receiving his payment, he sent the Queen this quatrain:

    I was promis'd on a time,
    To have a reason for my rhyme:
    But from that time unto this season,
    I had neither rhyme or reason.

She immediately ordered Cecil to send Spenser his due sum.[5]

This story was refuted more than a century later when Edmond Malone discovered the record of Spenser's pension, although of course it continued to be told.[6]


Spenser was called a Poet's Poet and was admired by William Wordsworth, John Keats, Lord Byron and Alfred Lord Tennyson, among others.[7] The language of his poetry is purposely archaic, reminiscent of earlier works such as The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer and Il Canzoniere of Francesco Petrarca, whom Spenser greatly admired.


Spenser's Epithalamion is the most admired of its type in the English language. It was written for his wedding to his young bride, Elizabeth Boyle. The poem consists of 365 long lines, corresponding to the days of the year; 68 short lines, representing the sum of the 52 weeks, 12 months, and 4 seasons of the annual cycle; and 24 stanzas, corresponding to the diurnal and sidereal hours.

The Faerie QueeneEdit

Main article: The Faerie Queene

Spenser's masterpiece is the huge epic poem The Faerie Queene. The first 3 books of The Faerie Queene were published in 1590, and a second set of 3 books were published in 1596. This extended epic poem deals with the adventures of knights, dragons, ladies in distress, etc., yet it is also an extended allegory about the moral life and what makes for a life of virtue. Spenser originally indicated that he intended the poem to be 12 books long, so there is some argument about whether the version we have is in any real sense complete.

Spenserian stanza and sonnetEdit

Main article: Spenserian stanza
Main article: Spenserian sonnet

Spenser used a distinctive verse form, called the Spenserian stanza, in several works, including The Faerie Queene. The stanza consists of 8 line of iambic pentameter with a final line in iambic hexameter (having six feet or stresses, known as an Alexandrine), with a rhyme scheme of ABABBCBCC.

The Spenserian Sonnet is based on a fusion of elements of both the Petrarchan sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet. It is similar to the Shakespearan sonnet in the sense that its set up is based more on the 3 quatrains and a couplet, a system set up by Shakespeare; however it is more like the Petrarchan tradition in the fact that the conclusion follows from the argument or issue set up in the earlier quatrains.

There is also a great use of the parody of the blason and the idealization or praise of the mistress, a literary device used by many poets. It is a way to look at a woman through the appraisal of her features in comparison to other things. In this description, the mistress's body is described part by part, i.e., much more of a scientific way of seeing one. As William Johnson states in his article "Gender Fashioning and Dynamics of Mutuality in Spenser's Amoretti," the poet-love in the scenes of Spenser's sonnets in Amoretti, is able to see his lover in an objectified manner by moving her to another, or more clearly, an item. The purpose of Spenser doing this is to bring the woman from the "transcendental ideal" to a woman in everyday life. "Through his use of metonymy and metaphor, by describing the lady not as a whole being but as bodily parts, by alluding to centuries of topoi which remove her in time as well as space, the poet transforms the woman into a text, the living 'other' into an inanimate object" (503). The opposite of this also occurs in The Faerie Queen. The counter-blason, or the opposition of appraisal, is used to describe Duessa. She is not objectified, but instead all of her flaws are highlighted. In this context it should be noted that in Amoretti Spenser actually names his loved one as "Elizabeth" and that he puns humorously and often on her surname "Boyle". Similarly, Petrarch punned on the Christian name "Laura" in his Rime. This disguised use of names has been identified by Fred Blick in his article "Spenser's Amoretti and Elizabeth Boyle, Her Names Immortalized", Spenser Studies Vol. 23, 2008. (309-315)

Critical introductionEdit

by Richard William Church

Spenser was the first who in the literature of England since the Reformation made himself a name as a poet which could be compared with that of Chaucer, or of the famous Italians who then stood at the head of poetical composition. National energy had revived under the reign of Elizabeth, and with it had come a burst of poetical enthusiasm. Many persons tried their hand at poetry. Versification became a fashion. It was encouraged in the Court circles.... Sir Philip Sidney, one of the most accomplished and most rising of the young men about the Court, encouraged an interest in poetry in his circle of friends, and some of them, Edward Dyer and Fulke Greville, have, like Sidney himself, left poems of merit. But while there was much poetical writing, and not a little poetical power even among men engaged in the business and wars of the time, such as Walter Ralegh, no successful attempt had been made to produce a great poetical work which might challenge comparison with the Canterbury Tales at home, or the Orlando Furioso abroad.

Spenser was the first who had the ambition and also the power for such an enterprise. His earliest work, The Shepherd’s Calendar, a series of what were called pastoral poems, after the fashion of the Italian models and some English imitators, partly original, partly translated or paraphrased, though very immature and very unequal in its composition, was at once felt to be something more considerable as a poetical achievement than anything which the sixteenth century had yet seen in England. The "new poet" became almost a recognised title for the man who had shown, not merely by a few spirited fugitive stanzas, but in a sustained work, that he could write so sweetly and so well. The fame and the associations of The Shepherd’s Calendar clung to him even to the end of his career. To the end he had a predilection for its pastoral colouring and scenery; to the end he liked to give himself the rustic name by which he had represented himself in its dialogues, and called himself Colin Clout.

But The Faery Queen was something beyond the expectations raised by The Shepherd’s Calendar. In its plan, its invention, and its execution, it took the world of its day by surprise. It opened a new road to English poetry, and new kingdoms to be won by it. The name of Spenser stands in point of time even before that of Shakespeare in the roll of modern English poets. A discoverer of something new to be done, he first did what all were trying to do, and broke down the difficulties of a great and magnificent art.

But the first are not always the greatest in poetry, any more than in painting, in music, in science, in geographical discovery: they lead the way and make it possible to greater men and greater things. Spenser delighted Shakespeare: he was the poetical master of Cowley and then of Milton, and, in a sense, of Dryden and even Pope. None but a man of strength, of originality, of rare sense of beauty and power of imagination and music, could have been this. But he was the great predecessor of yet greater successors. The Faery Queen is a noble and splendid work. When we think that it was the first of its kind, and that Spenser had no master of English, except in antiquity, to show him how to write, it is an astonishing one. But it has the imperfections and shortcomings of most original attempts to do what is new and hard, and what none have yet succeeded in; and it has the imperfections which actually belonged to the genius, the mind and character of the writer.

The Faery Queen is, as every one knows, an allegorical poem; and in this it differs from the Italian models then talked of and famous, from the works of Ariosto and Tasso, as well as from Chaucer. The idea and framework was taken from them; the machinery, like theirs, was borrowed from the days, or rather the literature, of chivalry; and like theirs, the story rolled on in stanzas, and Spenser invented for his purpose a new form of stanza, one of nine lines, instead of the eight-line one of the Italians. But, unlike them, Spenser avowedly designed to himself a moral purpose and meaning in his poem. It was not merely a brilliant and entertaining series of adventures, like the Orlando. It was not merely a poetical celebration of a great historical legend, a religious epic, like the Gerusalemme. It professed to be a veiled exposition of moral philosophy. It was planned, and all its imaginative wealth unfolded, in order to portray and recommend the virtues, and to exhibit philosophical speculations. It was intended to be a book, not for delight merely, but for instruction. Such a view of poetry was characteristically in harmony with the serious spirit of the time in England, which welcomed heartily all intellectual efforts, but which expected in them a purpose to do more than amuse, and had fashion on its side in putting the note of frivolity on what did not bear this purpose distinctly in view.

Spenser thought it right to declare to his friends, and to set down in writing, the aim and intention of his poem. He described it as a work which "is in heroical verse under the title of a Faery Queen to represent all the moral virtues, assigning to every virtue a knight as the patron and defender of the same, in whose actions and feats of arms and chivalry the operations of that virtue, whereof he is the protector, are to be expressed, and the vices and unruly appetites that oppose themselves against the same, to be beaten down or overcome." And in a letter to Sir Walter Ralegh, written to give the key to the poem, he says that the general end of his "Allegory or dark conceit," and of all his book, is "to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline." He indeed sees this purpose and intention in the "antique poets historical." Homer meant to represent "a good governor and virtuous man" in Agamemnon and Ulysses, Virgil meant the same in Aeneas, Ariosto in Orlando. Tasso dissevered them, representing the Ethical part of Moral Philosophy, or the virtues of a private man, in Rinaldo; the other, "named Politicé," the public virtues of a governor in Goffredo. In King Arthur, Spenser meant once more to join both. "By example of which excellent poets," he says, "I labour to pourtray in Arthur, before he was king, the image of a brave knight, perfected in the XII private moral virtues, as Aristotle hath devised; the which is the purpose of these first twelve books; which if I find to be well accepted, I may be perhaps encouraged to frame the other part of politick virtues in his person, after that he came to be king."

Of this large design of twenty-four books, each of twelve cantos, little more than a fourth part was accomplished, or at any rate has survived. The first three books were published in 1590; three more, books iv, v, vi, were added to them in a second edition in 1596. Two cantos, with a couple of stray stanzas, were published after his death. The political part of the design does not seem to have even come into sight of the poet.

The poem was designed in England, but it was mostly written in Ireland, amid scenes of disorder and wretchedness, which sorely tested not only the courage, but the justice, the wisdom, and the humanity of the Englishmen who had any share in the government of the most unfortunate of the Queen’s dominions. It needed indeed to be a knight as perfect in strength and goodness as the ideal Arthur, to deal with the evils of Ireland. Spenser, as men do in trying times, thought he saw the virtues partially realised in the friends engaged in the difficult tasks round him: we, at our point of view, are obliged to see how far the best and noblest of them was from the poet’s ideal. But the presence and actual sight of all this energy, struggle, danger, courage, doubtless gave life to Spenser’s conception of the life of warfare which he proposed to portray. It was before him on the spot; and The Faery Queen is the reflection of it, tempered and sobered by the poet’s purpose, to make it represent his conception of all that makes a man great and true in his resistance to the vices and evils of the world.

The Faery Queen purports to be a story, and the outline of the story, which was to bind it together, is given in the poet’s explanatory letter to Sir Walter Ralegh, now prefixed to the poem. He imagines the Faery Queen, by whom he shadows forth Elizabeth, holding a great festival, on occasion of which twelve of her knights, each the example and champion of some particular virtue, undertake separate enterprises at her appointment and in her honour; while Prince Arthur, in whom is represented the comprehensive Aristotelic virtue of magnificence, or greatness of soul, is to fall in with them one by one in his quest of his fated bride the Faery Queen, helping and saving them by the superior power of his virtue and his knightly skill. The adventures of the twelve knights were to furnish the "Legends" of the twelve books of the first portion of his design, the "ethical" portion. He thought it inartificial for a poet to begin from the occasion and starting-point of these various adventures: "A Poet," he said, "thrusteth himself into the middest, even when it most concerneth him, and there recoursing to the things forepast, and divining of things to come, maketh a pleasant analysis of all." So he starts in the middle of one of the adventures, reserving his poetical account of the origin of them all, till he should have brought all his Knights back again to the Faery Queen’s Court in the last book. The arrangement was an awkward one, and the Twelfth Book was never reached. Though we know the framework of the story, we do not know it from the poem itself. And as he went on with his work, the main story is soon lost in the separate ones, and the poem becomes a succession of adventures, stories, pictures, and allegories, with little attempt to keep them together.

In the First Book, the story and the allegory,— the dangers, the combats, the defeats, the final victory of the Red Cross Knight of Holiness, the champion of the Virgin Una with her milk-white lamb,— and that which all this shadowed, the struggle of true religion and godliness with its foes, its vicissitudes, and its triumph, both in the visible scene of the world’s history, and in the heart of man, are both carried on clearly and consecutively. The Second Book, which takes the Knight of Temperance through his contest with violence, with the falsehood of extremes, with the madness of uncontrolled temper, with the temptations of Mammon, of riches and ambition, to the closing achievement, the conquest over all that Pleasure could present to allure and fascinate him, is straightforward and distinct in its construction. But after this the poet’s hold over his story relaxes. The legend of Chastity in the next book presents the same idea as that of the second, but exhibited in the persons of the lady knight Britomart, and the virgin huntress Belphœbe, both of them in various aspects imaging the ‘sacred saint’ of the poet’s worship.

In the three later books, the legend of Justice is marked by its strong and definite representations of some great historical events of Spenser’s age, the administration of Lord Grey of Wilton in Ireland, the blows dealt at the Spanish power in the Channel and in the Netherlands, the fate of Mary Queen of Scots. The legends of ‘Friendship’ and ‘Courtesy’ certainly exhibit examples of friendship and courtesy. But when we think of what friendship is, we wonder that Spenser has so little to say about it, and that his imagination found nothing more to work upon than the companionship in love or war, sometimes loyal, sometimes false, of men-at-arms: and so many other interests and incidents come in besides, that it seems rather arbitrary to assign the legends specially to these virtues. And then, with the exception of the fragment on ‘Mutability,’ which is part of a projected legend of ‘Constancy,’ the poem stops, and with it all our knowledge of the way in which it was to be carried forward.

The interest in The Faery Queen is twofold. There is the interest of the moral picture which it presents, and there is the interest of it as a work of poetical art.

The moral picture is of the ideal of noble manliness in Elizabeth’s time. Besides the writers and the thinkers, the statesmen and the plotters, the traders and the commons, of that fruitful and vigorous age, there were the men of action: the men who fought in France and the Netherlands and Ireland, the men who created the English navy, and showed how it could be used: the men who tried for the north-west passage with Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and sailed round the world with Sir Francis Drake, and planted colonies in America with Sir Walter Ralegh: the men who chased the Armada to destruction, and dealt the return buffet to Spanish pride in the harbour of Cadiz; men who treated the sea as the rightful dominion of their mistress, and seeking adventures on it far and near, with or without her leave, reaped its rich harvests of plunder, from Spanish treasure ships and West Indian islands, or from the exposed towns and churches of the Spanish coast. They were at once men of daring enterprise and sometimes very rough execution; and yet men with all the cultivation and refinement of the time, courtiers, scholars, penmen, poets.

These are the men whom Spenser had before his eyes in drawing his knights — their ideas of loyalty, of gallantry, of the worth and use of life,— their aims, their enthusiasm, their temptations, their foes, their defeats, their triumphs. In his tales of perpetual warfare, of perpetual resistance to evil, of the snares and desperate dangers through which they have to fight their way, there is a picture of the conditions which affect the whole life of man. The allegory may be applied, and was intended to be applied generally, to the difficulties which beset his course and the qualities necessary to overcome them. But it specially exhibits the ideals and standards and aspirations — the characteristic virtues and the characteristic imperfections, the simple loyalty and the frank selfishness, of the brilliant and high-tempered generation, who are represented by men like Philip Sidney and Walter Ralegh, and Howard of Effingham and Richard Grenville, or by families like those of Vere and Norreys and Carew.

As a work of art The Faery Queen at once astonishes us by the wonderful fertility and richness of the writer’s invention and imagination, by the facility with which he finds or makes language for his needs, and above all, by the singular music and sweetness of his verse. The main theme seldom varies: it is a noble knight, fighting, overcoming, tempted, delivered; or a beautiful lady, plotted against, distressed, in danger, rescued. The poet’s affluence of fancy and speech gives a new turn and colour to each adventure.

But besides that under these conditions there must be monotony, the poet’s art, admirable as it is, gives room for objections. Spenser’s style is an imitation of the antique; and an imitation, however good, must want the master charm of naturalness, reality, simple truth. And in his system of work, with his brightness and quickness and fluency, he wanted self-restraint — the power of holding himself in, and of judging soundly of fitness and proportion. There was a looseness and carelessness, partly belonging to his age, partly his own. In the use of materials, nothing comes amiss to him. He had no scruples as a copyist. He took without ceremony any piece of old metal,— word, or story, or imge — which came to his hand, and threw it into the melting-pot of his imagination, to come out fused with his own materials, often transformed, but often unchanged. The effect was sometimes happy, but not always so.

With respect to his diction, it must ever be remembered that the language was still in such an uncertain and unfixed state as naturally to invite attempts to extend its powers, and to enrich, supple, and colour it. Spenser avowedly set himself to do this. The editor of his first work, The Shepherd’s Calendar, takes credit on his behalf for attempting "to restore, as to their rightful heritage, such good and natural English words, as have been long time out of use, and almost clean disherited." Spenser draws largely on Chaucer, both for his vocabulary and his grammar: and his authority and popularity have probably saved us a good many words which we could ill afford to lose. And some of his words we certainly have forgotten to our loss — such words as "ingate" (like "insight,") "glooming," "fool-happy," "overgone," and his many combinations with en-— "empeopled," "engrieved,’ "enrace."

But it is not to enrich a language but to confuse and spoil it, when a writer forces on it words which are not in keeping with its existing usages and spirit, and much more when he arbitrarily deals with words to make them suit the necessities of metre and rime: and there is much of this in Spenser. He overdoes, especially in his earlier books, the old English expedient of alliteration, or "hunting the letter," as it was called, which properly belongs to a much earlier method of versification, and which the ear of his own generation had already learned to shrink from in excess. He not only revives old words, but he is licentious — as far as we are able to trace the usages of the time — in inventing new ones. He is unscrupulous in using inferior forms for better and more natural ones, not for the sake of the word, but for the convenience of the verse.

The transfer of words — adjectives and verbs — from their strict use to a looser one,— the passage from an active to a neuter sense,— the investing a word with new associations,— the interchange of attributes between two objects, with the feelings or phrase which really belong to one reflected back upon the other — are, within limits, part of the recognised means by which language, and especially poetical language, extends its range. But Spenser was inclined to make all limits give way to his convenience, and the rapidity of his work. It is not only to us that his language is both strange and affectedly antique; it looked the same to the men of his own time. It is a drawback to the value of Spenser as a monument of the English of his day, that it is often uncertain whether a form or a meaning of word may not be due simply to his own wayward and arbitrary use of it.

The Faery Queen has eclipsed all Spenser’s other writings: but his other writings alone would be enough to place him, as his contemporaries placed him, at the head of all who had yet attempted English poetry. The Shepherd’s Calendar, as has been said, with all its defects and affectations, showed force, skill, command of language and music as yet unknown. In it were shown the beginnings of two powers characteristic of Spenser: the power of telling a story, as in the fables of The Oak and Briar, and The Fox and Kid; and the power of satire, a power which he used both there and afterwards in "Mother Hubberd’s Tale", to lash the Church abuses of the time and the manners of the Court, and in using which he is in strong contrast, in his sobriety and self-restraint, to the coarse extravagance of such writing in his time. The Fox and Ape of "Mother Hubberd’s Tale" is much nearer to the satire of Dryden and Pope, than it is to such writers as Donne and Hall.

He did his necessary share of work in writing poems of salutation or congratulation for the great, or of lamentation for their misfortunes and sorrows. The Prothalamion celebrates the marriage of two ladies of the Worcester family; and he bewailed the death of Sir Philip Sidney and the Earl of Leicester. Much of this poetry was conventional. But in it appear fine and beautiful passages. The Prothalamion has great sweetness and grace. The Dirges never fail to show his deep and characteristic feeling for the vicissitudes of our human state.

Finally, his own love and courtship inspired a series of Sonnets, and a Wedding Hymn. The Sonnets on the whole are disappointing. There is warmth and sincerity in them; but they want the individual stamp which makes such things precious. On the other hand, the Wedding Hymn, the Epithalamion, is one of the richest and most magnificent compositions of the kind in any language.[8]


Spenser was buried in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey. The inscription on his grave reads: ""Heare lies (expecting the second comeing of our Saviour Christ Jesus) the body of Edmund Spencer, the Prince of Poets of his tyme; whose divine spirit needs no other witnesse then the workes which he left behind him. He was borne in London, in the yeare 1510, and dyed in the yeare 1596."[9]

Six of his poems ("Whilst it is prime," "A Ditty," "Prothalamion," "Epithalamion," "Daphnaïda" (excerpt), and "Easter") were included in the Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900.[10]



  • The Shepheardes Calender: Conteyning twelue Æglogues proportionable to the twelue monethes. London: Hugh Singleton, 1579.
  • The Faerie Qveene: Disposed into twelue books, fashioning XII morall vertues. London: for William Ponsonby, 1590. (contains Books I-III).
  • Complaints: Containing sundrie small poemes of the worlds vanitie.... By Ed. Sp. London: for William Ponsonby, 1591. (includes The Rvines of Time, The Teares of the Mvses, Virgils Gnat, Prosopopoia: or Mother Hubberds Tale, Rvines of Rome: by Bellay, Mvoipotmos: or The Fate of the Bvtterflie, Visions of the Worlds Vanitie, The Visions of Bellay, and The Visions of Petrarch).
  • Daphnaïda: An elegie vpon the death of the noble and vertuous Douglas Howard, daughter and heire of Henry Lord Howard, Viscount Byndon, and wife of Arthure Gorges esquier. Dedicated to the Right Honorable the Lady Helena, Marquesse of Northampton. By Ed. Sp. London: for William Ponsonby, 1591.
  • Colin Clovts Come Home Againe. (London: for William Ponsonby, 1595. (includes Astrophell. A Pastorall Elegie vpon the Death of the Most Noble and Valorovs Knight, Sir Philip Sidney).
  • Amoretti and Epithalamion: Written not long since. London: for William Ponsonby, 1595;
  • The Faerie Qveene: Disposed into twelue bookes, fashioning XII morall vertues [Books I-VI, with revised ending to III]. London: for William Ponsonby, 1596.
  • Fowre Hymnes. London:William Ponsonby, 1596.
  • Prothalamion; or, A spousall verse made by Edm. Spenser. in honovr of the double mariage of the Two honorable & vertuous ladies, the Ladie Elizabeth and the Ladie Katherine Somerset, daughters to the Right Honourable the Earle of Worcester and espoused to the two worthie gentlemen M. Henry Gilford, and M. William Peter Esquyers. London: for William Ponsonby, 1596.
  • The Faerie Queene: Disposed into XII bookes, fashioning twelue morall vertues [Books I-VI and "Two Cantos of Mutabilitie" from Book VII]. (2 volumes), London: Henry Lownes for Mathew Lownes, 1609-1613.
  • The Poetical Works. (5 volumes), London: William Pickering, 1825.[12] Volume I, Volume II, Volume III, Volume IV, Volume V
  • Poetical Works (edited by John Payne Collier). (5 volumes), London: Bell & Daldy, 1862.[13]
  • Sonnets and Poems London: John Long, 1906.[14]
  • Spenser's "Faerie Queene," (edited by J.C. Smith). (2 volumes), Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1909. Volume I
  • Spenser's Minor Poems (edited by Ernest de Selincourt). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1910.
  • Poetical Works (edited by J.C. Smith & Ernest de Selincourt). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1912.


  • Three Proper and Wittie Familiar Letters: Lately Passed between Two Vniversity Men: Touching the Earthquake in April Last, and Our English Refourmed Versifying and Two Other Very Commendable Letters of the Same Mens Writing: Both Touching the Foresaid Artificial Versifying, and certain Other Particulars. London: H. Bynneman, 1580.
  • "A Vewe of the Present State of Ireland", in The Historie of Ireland: Collected by three learned authors, viz. Meredith Hanmer ... Edmund Campion ... and Edmund Spenser, Esq. (edited by Sir James Ware). Dublin: Printed by the Society of Stationers, 1633.

Collected editionsEdit

  • The Complete Works (edited by William Trent). New York: T.Y. Crowell, 1903.[15]
  • The Works of Edmund Spenser: A variorum edition (edited by Edwin Greenlaw, Charles Grosvenor Osgood, Frederick Morgan Padelford, & Ray Heffner). (11 volumes), Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1932-1957.
  • Books I and II of the Faerie Queene, The Mutability Cantos, and Selections from The Minor Poetry (edited by Robert Kellogg and Oliver Steele). Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965.
  • The Mutabilitie Cantos (edited by S.P. Zitner). London: Nelson, 1968.
  • "The Faerie Queene" (1596) (edited by Graham Hough). (2 volumes), Menston, Yorkshire, UK: Scolar, 1976.
  • The Faerie Queene (edited by A.C. Hamilton). London & New York: Longmans, 1977.
  • The Faerie Queene (edited by Thomas P. Roche Jr.) Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1978.
  • Edmund Spenser: The Illustrated "Faerie Queene": A Modern Prose Adaptation (edited by Douglas Hill). New York: Newsweek, 1980.
  • The Yale Edition of the Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser (edited by William A. Oram, Elinar Bjorvand, Ronald Bond, Thomas H. Cain, Alexander Dunlop, and Richard Schell). New Haven, CT, & London: Yale University Press, 1989.
  • Edmund Spenser's Poetry, third edition (edited by Hugh Maclean and Anne Lake Prescott). New York: Norton (Norton Critical Edition Series), 1993.

I Wrote Her Name Upon The Strand by Edmund Spenser - Poetry Reading-145247297601:19

I Wrote Her Name Upon The Strand by Edmund Spenser - Poetry Reading-1452472976

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[16]

Poems by Edmund SpenserEdit

  1. My love is like to ice, and I to fire
  2. One day I wrote her name upon the strand

See alsoEdit

Preceded by:
John Skelton
English Poet Laureate Succeeded by:
Samuel Daniel


  • Rust, Jennifer. "Spenser's The Faerie Queen." Saint Louis University, St. Louis. 10 October 2007.
  • Johnson, William. "The struggle between good and evil in the first book of "The Faerie Queene". English Studies, Vol. 74, No. 6. (December 1993) p. 507-519.


  1. Spenser, Edmund in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  2. The Edmund Spenser Home Page: Biography
  3. Text of A View of the Present State of Ireland, accessed 1 June 2011
  4. See: Brady's "Spenser's Irish Crisis: Humanism and Experience in the 1590s"; and Canny, Nicholas, "Spenser's Irish Crisis: Humanism and Experience in the 1590s, a response to the claims of Brady".
  5. Thomas Fuller, "Edmund Spenser", The History of the Worthies of England, 1662. English Poetry, 1579-1830, Center for Applied Technologies in the Humanities, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State Univerity. Web, June 23, 2016.
  6. Notes to Fuller, 1662
  7. Schmidt,Michael;The Lives of the Poets, Phoenix ,1998 ISBN 978-0-7538-0745-3
  8. from Richard William Church, "Critical Introduction: Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599)," The English Poets: Selections with critical introductions (edited by Thomas Humphry Ward). New York & London: Macmillan, 1880-1918. Web, Apr. 4, 2016.
  9. John Aubrey, "Edmund Spenser," in Thomas Warton, The Life and Remains of Ralph Bathurst. English Poetry, 1579-1830, Web, Apr. 21, 2016.
  10. Alphabetical list of authors: Shelley, Percy Bysshe to Yeats, William Butler. Arthur Quiller-Couch, editor, Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919)., Web, May 19, 2012.
  11. Amoretti, Internet Archive. Web, Feb. 14, 2016.
  12. The poetical works of Edmund Spenser in five volumes, Internet Archive. Web, Jan. 10, 2015.
  13. Search results = au:John Payne Collier, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, May 13, 2016.
  14. Sonnets and poems : (selected), Internet Archive. Web, Jan. 10, 2016.
  15. The Complete Works of Edmund Spenser, Internet Archive. Web, Jan. 10, 2015.
  16. Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), Poetry Foundation, Web, Dec. 6, 2012.

External linksEdit

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