Most Important Thing You Need To Know About “The Poet’s Poet”: Edmund Spenser Bridged the Medieval and Elizabethan Periods


"I was promised on a time

To have reason for my rhyme;

From that time unto this season,

I received nor rhyme nor reason."

Edmund Spenser (1552? - 1599)
English poet.

It was Charles Lamb who called Edmund Spenser ‘The poet’s poet’ and in giving him that honoured title, the prince of essayists and critics, was not wrong. Spenser is regarded the poets poet and the second father of English poetry. Chaucer being the real father, because Spenser rendered incalculable service to English poetry in a variety of ways and left behind him models of poetic excellence to be imitated and Spenser followed by a host of poets came in his wake. He is the great English poet, who bridged the medieval and Elizabethan periods, and who is most famous for his long allegorical romance, The Faerie Queene.

In Spenser’s poetry we have the best and the finest qualities that are generally associated with good and great poetry, and in a way he is the fountain head of all these poetic excellence which are spread over in the works of subsequent poets. The true poetic faculty in Spenser is so abundantly and predominantly present that we cannot think of any other poet save Spenser to occupy the pride of place among English poets.

Spenser is regarded the poet’s poet in more than one ways. There are several grounds for recognizing Spenser as the poet’s poet.

Firstly, Spenser can be regarded as the poet’s poet in the limited Renaissaifce sense in which he may be deemed as the poet not of the common man but only of scholars and poets well versed in classical lore and humanistic studies. According to this interpretation Spenser is not the poet of the common man, but only of poets and scholars, endowed with the gift of poetry in their nature. During the Renaissance, poetry of the type that Spenser wrote could really be appreciated by those who had made familiarity with classical writers and authors of the Renaissance. Knowledge of classical mythology and acquaintance with Ovid, Homer, Petrarch, Ronsard, Ariosto, Plato, Aristotle, was absolutely necessary for a person to appreciate and understand Spenser. Since only scholars and poets had that necessary equipment to understand him, Spenser has been called the poet of poets and not the poet of the ordinary man. 

One who really seeks to enjoy Spenser shall be required to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of 
(1) The pastoral tradition of Virgil, 
(2) The romantic and moral traditions of Aristo and Tasso, 
(3) The philosophical traditions of Plato and Aristotle,

Edmund Spenser (1552? - 1599)
English poet

Because Spenser’s poetry is grounded in the aforesaid traditions, of the great masters of the past and the present. It is in this narrow sense that Spenser has been regarded as the poet’s poet. But that never was the intention of Charles Lamb when he called him the poet’s poet. Lamb had in view several other qualities and contributions of Spenser before he gave him that honoured title. Spenser is recognized as the poet’s poet, because it was Spenser and not Chaucer who gave to poetry and poets a place nearer to God, the supreme maker. Spenser had supreme trust in poetry and the vocation of the poet. He had intense, conviction in the value of poet’s work and believed the poet as the chosen agent of God. In return for faithful service the poet was granted a measure of the permanence which is in God alone. That was what Spenser thought the ultimate inspiration of his labour and the source of energy The poet was responsible for his country as a nursery of poetry; far his native tongue; for the truth and soundness of his doctrine ; for the action it prompted and the desires it aroused and the thought it directed. He was responsible to the Giver that his talent was sedulously cultivated and worthily employed. Thus in giving a higher conception of poetry and in stating that poetry is immortal like the almighty God, Spenser did something new which other poets before him had not done. Spenser’s famous lines voicing forth his faith in the immortality of poetry and the, greatness of the poet’s vocation have rightly entitled him to be recognized as the poet’s poet.

It was Spenser s greatness that he looked upon the poet not only as a mere lover of beauty, but as man charged with a mission to work for the elevation and redemption of mankind, Spenser believed that poetry was a noble and necessary part of the complete and well ordered life and the ideal that it should teach was one the strenuous efforts towards the perfection of human activity. This emphasis on the supremacy of poetry and greatness of the poet’s vocation makes Spenser the poet’s poet.

Ardhendu De


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