Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Faerie Queene

     Well, it seemed appropriate for the first post of the month to be a commentary on the object that inspired the theme! The Faerie Queene is an early Renaissance work written by Edmund Spencer. Spencer was an incredibly ambitious poet. His goal in writing The Faerie Queene was to become what Homer had been for Greece, Virgil for Rome, and Dante for Italy. He pretty much wanted to be remembered as the greatest English poet in the whole history of Englishdom, and he would have succeeded too, if it hadn't been for Milton and his Paradise Lost (who, coincidentally, was inspired by Spencer). The Faerie Queene was his magnum opus. It served several purposes, a tribute to the English language, an homage to Queen Elizabeth, an allegorical account of virtue and faith, and as the victory anthem of English Protestantism. Interestingly enough, Spencer was far more enthused about Protestantism and far more vitriolic towards the Catholic church than Queen Elizabeth was, which was a bit of a downer since he was trying to win her patronism with the work. The Faerie Queene, while stunningly beautiful still, is unfinished. Spencer died before he could finish the work. It was meant to be composed of seven books, we only have five completed works, with bits of a sixth book. Even still, it stands as a momentousness testament to Spencer's brilliance and is one of the great works (in my opinion) of the Faith (the only downside being that it is so hateful to Catholicism, which I find truly unfortunate even if understandable for the time in which it was being written).

      The First book of Faerie Queene is what I'll be focusing on in this post, and only briefly at that. I mentioned before that this work is an allegory, and boy is it ever. I'm willing to throw out there that it's more allegorically dense than Dante. It serves as an allegory of the victory of Protestantism over Catholicism, an allegory of the creation of Britain, a more contemporary historical allegory, and as a basic Christian allegory. It's depth is beautiful, but its surface is just as beautiful. The Faerie Queene takes readers to a work of Knights and enchanted streams, of dragons and evil wizards, of good and wicked women, and a place where pagan myth and Christian truth mix together to create an exotically beautiful fantasy. The first book follows the journey of the Red Cross Knight as he travels with his lady - Una - to her kingdom in order to fight the dragon that has captured her mother and father and all of her people. It's wonderful, and has quickly become one of my favorite things to read. You always figure out some new aspect of it every time you pick it up, which is always wonderful. Also, and possibly the most important thing, is that professional bindings of it are incredibly beautiful. A beautiful book deserves a beautiful cover, also it has been very well illustrated over the years. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys allegory and beautiful things. Because of what it is it can be incredibly difficult to understand. The Norton Critical edition is always good to have since its notes explain some of the symbolism, but even that is woefully lacking in some aspects. It's not an easy read by any means (especially since Spencer wanted to mimic Chaucer's style and wrote it in Middle English) but is an incredibly rewarding one.

     I guess the reason that I chose this to be the theme is because I'm kind of obsessed right now with the idea of religious enchantment, and it seemed liked a good thing to make posts about. Plus I'm also writing an 'epic' for a class term paper and I can post bit on here with this theme. So, yay for the first post of the month! Hopefully this will improve my own skill a bit and provide something interesting for other people to look at!

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