The Shepheardes Calender was Edmund Spenser's first major poetic work, published in 1579. In emulation of Virgil's first work, the Eclogues, Spenser wrote this series of pastorals to begin his career. However, Spenser's models were rather the Renaissance eclogues of Mantuanus. The title, like the entire work, is written using deliberately archaic spellings, in order to suggest a connection to medieval literature, and to Geoffrey Chaucer in particular. The poem introduces Colin Clout, a folk character originated by John Skelton, and depicts his life as a shepherd through the twelve months of the year. The Calender encompasses considerable formal innovations, anticipating the even more virtuosic Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (The "Old" Arcadia, 1580), the classic pastoral romance by Sir Philip Sidney, with whom Spenser was acquainted. It is also remarkable for the extensive commentary included with the work in its first publication, ascribed to an "E.K." E.K. is an intelligent, very subtle, and often deeply ironic commentator, and is frequently assumed to be an alias of Spenser himself. The term sarcasm is first recorded in English in Spenser's poem.
Soon after his publication of The Shepheardes Calender, Spenser began writing his epic, The Faerie Queene.
- ↑ M. Y. Hughes. Virgil and Spenser. Berkeley, CA, 1929
- ↑ Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2008, http://www.oed.com ; (Spenser, Shepheardes Calendar: on-line text of the passage)
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