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The Faerie Queene Paperback – January 25, 1979
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Epic poem that was published between 1590 and 1609 by Edmund Spenser. It is the central poem of the Elizabethan period and is one of the great long poems in the English language. A celebration of Protestant nationalism, it represents infidels and papists as villains, King Arthur as the hero, and married chastity as its central value. The form of The Faerie Queene fuses the medieval allegory with the Italian romantic epic. The plan was for 12 books (of which six were completed), focusing on 12 virtues exemplified in the quests of 12 knights from the court of Gloriana, the Faerie Queene, a symbol for Elizabeth I herself. Arthur, in quest of Gloriana's love, would appear in each book and come to exemplify Magnificence, the complete man. Spenser took the decorative chivalry of the Elizabethan court festivals and reworked it through a constantly shifting veil of allegory, so that the knight's adventures and loves build into a complex, multileveled portrayal of the moral life. The verse, a spacious and slow-moving nine-lined stanza (see SPENSERIAN STANZA), and Spenser's archaic language frequently rise to an unrivaled sensuousness. The first installment of the poem (Books I-III) was published in 1590; the second, which contained Books I-III and Books IV-VI, in 1596. The first folio edition, with Books I-VI and the MUTABILITIE CANTOS fragment, appeared in 1609. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From the Publisher
Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although everyone has heard of Edmund Spenser's amazing narrative poem, 'The Faerie Queene,' it's a pity that few seem to read it. To a superficial glance it may appear difficult, although the truth is that it's basically a fascinating story that even an intelligent child can follow with enjoyment and interest.
It appears difficult only because of Spenser's deliberately antique English. He needed such an English because he was creating a whole new dimension of enchantment, a magical world, a land of mystery and adventure teeming with ogres and giants and witches, hardy knights both brave and villainous, dwarfs, magicians, dragons, and maidens in distress, wicked enchanters, gods, demons, forests, caves, and castles, amorous encounters, fierce battles, etc., etc.
To evoke an atmosphere appropriate to such a magical world, a world seemingly distant in both time and place from ours, Spenser created his own special brand of English. Basically his language is standard Sixteenth Century English, but with antique spellings and a few medievalisms thrown in, along with a number of new words that Spenser coined himself. The opening lines of the poem are typical :
"A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plain, / Y cladd in mightie armes and siluer shielde, / Wherein old dints of deepe wounds did remain, / The cruell markes of many a bloudy fielde...." (page 41).
If, instead of reading with the eye, we read with the ear or aloud, the strange spellings resolve themselves into perfectly familiar words such as clad (clothed), mighty, arms, silver, shield, deep, cruel, marks, bloody, field. And "Y cladd" is just one of those Spenserian medievalisms that simply means "clad" or clothed (i.e., wearing).
The only two words in this passage that might cause problems for the beginner are "pricking" and "dints," and it doesn't take much imagination to realize that these must refer, respectively, to 'riding' (i.e., his horse) and 'dents.' But if you can't guess them, an explanation is provided in the useful list of Common Words at the back of the book.
Once you've used that 2-page list for a little while, progress through Spenser's text becomes a snap. And learning a few hundred words is a small price to pay for entrance into one of the most luxuriant works ever produced by the Western imagination, and one that once entered you will often want to return to.
The Penguin edition, although it contains the complete text of 'The Faerie Queene,' is significantly without an Introduction, presumably because the editors felt that we don't really need one. The book does, however, contain stanza-by-stanza Notes. These have been placed at the end where they can be referred to at need, and where they don't interfere with the flow of the story as we experience it.
There have been many editions of 'The Faerie Queene.' Students who are studying the poem formally will want to have the fully annotated edition by A. C. Hamilton, a bulky edition with extensive and detailed notes, but in which the actual text of the poem is not so easy to read, being a rather poor and considerably reduced copy of the 3-volume Clarendon Press edition.
The Penguin has always seemed to me to be the best available edition for the general reader. As is usual with Penguins, it has a clear and well-printed text, and the Notes are just about right, being neither skimpy nor excessive. Though fat, it's not too big to carry around, and you may just find yourself taking it along with you on your next trip.
Spenser is one of England's very greatest writers. And he was writing, not for critics, but for you and me. Admittedly his language can be a bit tricky at first, and he certainly isn't to be rushed through like a modern novel. His is rather the sort of book that we wish would never end.
His pace is leisurely and relaxed, a gentle flowing rhythmic motion, and that's how he wants us to read him. To get the hang of things, try listening to one of the many available recordings. And if you hit a strange-looking word, don't fret or panic. Try to hear the word in your mind, and guess at its meaning. That will often help, but if it doesn't, Roche's list or his brief and excellent notes should.
So take Spenser slowly, and give his words a chance to work their magic. Let him gently conduct you through his enthralling universe, one that you will find both wholly strange and perfectly familar, since human beings and their multifarious doings are Spenser's real subject, and somewhere in one of his enchanted forests you may one day find yourself.
As a child, I loved the way Dr. Seuss unreeled his spools of proliferating improbability in intricate patterns of rhythm and rhyme; in fact, I loved it so much that I think he helped wire my brain for the more complex complexities unreeled by Spenser. Even so, when I came to the forests and castles of "The Faerie Queene," it was by way not of McElligot's Pool, but rather of Barsoom, Hyboria, Middle Earth, and Narnia--though I must admit that when C. S. Lewis conducted me across the frontier once and for all it was through "The Allegory of Love" rather than Professor Kirke's wardrobe. (I had previously accompanied the psychologists of the Garaden Institute on an inconclusive foray via syllogismobile.) You see, while reveling in the worlds of fantasy and adventure, I had also begun to look into more serious study of mythology, psychology, morality, and religion, and when on the threshold of my college years I learned from Lewis that all these enthusiasms were united in a single landmark work already enshrined on many a college syllabus, I was hooked.
Or, at least, hooked in principle. Knights and ladies, lady knights, quests and combats, a revenant corpse, wizards and witches, wild men, dragons and giants, demons, nymphs and satyrs, gods and goddesses, an iron automaton, a guardian angel--how could I resist? Yet making headway in the poem was difficult, and not only because of the alienating archaism and allegory that loomed before me. In those days it was hard even to find a copy of "The Faerie Queene" that wasn't in minuscule small print, and impossible to find one with helpful annotation for anything like the length of the poem. I persevered, and it was worth it; but it was tough going. But now! Nowadays there are not one but two splendidly legible, fully-annotated Kindle editions (by Roche and Hamilton). Many first-time readers seem completely unfazed by the features of the poem that I found off-putting. And for newcomers who, like my teenage self, are determined to take on the entire poem, yet need basic help from same-page annotation that doesn't threaten to engulf the text, there is Hackett Publishing's five-volume edition. From the darkest infernal depths to the Olympian luminosity of the lunar sphere, wherever the poem takes you, a Hackett editor is at hand with just the amount of information you need to get your bearings and keep on going.
It is, on the whole, an advantage of the Hackett set that we get the editorial perspective of a different expert scholar in each volume; the big disadvantage is that five separate volumes are cumbersome to carry around and fumble with if, rather than focusing on a single book at a time, you want to consider all the far-flung corners of the poem synoptically. It would be wonderful to have all five volumes in a single searchable e-book, and, luckily, such an edition does exist; I have it and consult it often. The penetrating introductory essays, succinct annotation, bright illustrated covers (with back-cover blurbs), and original pagination (in the form of page images) are all intact. Yet, apart from Book One, you're not going to find it on Kindle.
So. If you like proliferating improbabilities in intricately patterned rhythm and rhyme, to say nothing of fantasy, adventure, mythology, psychology, morality, or religion, you just might come to love "The Faerie Queene." If you'd like help from judicious same-page annotation, you may find the Hackett edition in any of its formats to be invaluable. But since the most convenient format is the e-book containing all five volumes, why, oh why is that not available for Kindle? I just can't fathom it.