‘The prime Pastoralist of England’

The Shepheardes Calender holds a special place in English literary history. Published in 1579, it inaugurates the New Poet as the author of the New Poetry, and in so doing helps form the foundation of the modern English canon. Spenser was himself self-conscious about the inaugural role of his work, for it introduces him as the ‘new Poete’, the heir to ‘the old famous Poete’, Chaucer, and it quickly ‘compar[es]’ him to ‘Virgile’ (Epistle 1-10). Effectively, the Calender presents Spenser as the successor to the national poets of both classical Rome and medieval England. He heralds a new age of English poetry, presenting an art that can compete with the highest of literary achievements. The story behind Spenser’s achievement in The Shepheardes Calender is the subject of this introduction. As we shall see, a young poet in his late twenties scripts his own foundational role in the making of modern English literature, and in the process prompts four centuries of scholarship and criticism that weigh in on the veracity of his inscription.1

In 1619, Michael Drayton reminds us that the author who presents himself as the New Poet writing New Poetry is a pastoral poet writing new pastoral: ‘SPENSER is the prime Pastoralist of England’ (Cummings 1971: 81).2 Drayton’s word ‘prime’ means ‘first’, but it also means ‘primary, original, fundamental; from which another thing may derive or proceed’ (OED). Drayton knows that Spenser was not technically the first to write English pastoral, for he adds that both John Skelton and Alexander Barclay served as early sixteenth-century precedents; yet Drayton appears to mean that Spenser might as well have been first, given how he outflanks his precursors: Master EDMUND SPENSER had done enough for the immortalitie of his Name, had he only given us his Shepheards Kalender, a Master piece if any. The Colin Clout of SKOGGAN [Skelton], under King HENRY the Seventh, is prettie: but BARKLEY’S Ship of Fooles hath twentie wiser in it. SPENSER is the prime Pastoralist of England. (Cummings 1971: 81). For someone as knowledgeable about pastoral as Drayton (he published revisions of his own eclogues obsessively), this history of English pastoral is disappointing. Skelton’s Colyn Clout is not formally a pastoral but rather an ecclesiastical satire, and Skelton himself never wrote pastoral poetry.3 Drayton is correct to mention Skelton’s poem, however, because a gloss to the Calender says that Spenser borrows the name for his pastoral persona, Colin Clout, from Skelton (Jan [1]).4 Similarly, Barclay’s Ship of Fools is anything but a pastoral; it is a translation of Sebastian Brant’s court satire. What Drayton fails to mention is that Barclay is technically the first English author to write a set of pastoral eclogues (more of which presently). Finally, Drayton’s critical judgment, that Skelton’s poem is ‘prettie’ but Barclay’s ‘wiser’, may be a familiar paradigm during the era, but it hardly gives us much to work with. What does is Drayton’s classifying of Spenser as England’s prime pastoral poet.

The reason is that so much of The Shepheardes Calender is both innovative and inaugural: what Spenser manages to make original, subsequent authors tend to take forward (Cf. O’Callaghan 2000). This Janus-like doubleness makes the poem simultaneously imitative and influential, a bridge between earlier and later literatures, a hub that manages to contain a vigorous response to classical, medieval, and continental literature, on the one hand, and, on the other, to create an impetus for subsequent English poets, from Drayton to Milton to Pope (Jenkins 1992; Alpers 2001; O’Callaghan 2010). Spenser is the prime pastoralist of English because he is the central poet of pastoral in English.

Neoteric Poet

In forming that center, Spenser sustains a series of firsts. He is a ‘neoteric’ poet (new in origin), and is the first neoteric poet in England: the first to present himself as a New Poet.5 The term ‘neoteric’ was used by Cicero to criticize Catullus and a generation of poetae novi, including Virgil, Gallus, Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid.6 The sixteenth century made newness a point of pride around Europe, with Luis de Camões in Portugal, Juan Boscan and Garcilaso de la Vega in Spain, and Joachim Du Bellay and Pierre de Ronsard in France all presenting themselves as modern neoterics. They do so by using lower genres like lyric, elegy, or epyllion as a ‘lever’ for epic.7 Spenser makes pastoral a lever for epic, but he takes a cue from Virgil to make an innovation in modern European literature: this author alone uses pastoral to present himself as a neoteric.

English Pastoral: Barclay to Fleming

Spenser is also the first English poet to publish a set of Virgilian pastorals in imitation of the Eclogues. Three of Spenser’s five primary English precursors in pastoral, Barclay, Barnabe Googe, and George Turbervile, did not turn directly to Virgil as their model but rather to Giovanni Battista Spagnoli, known as Mantuan.8 In 1483, Mantuan published a set of ten eclogues, in imitation of Virgil certainly but radically different from him: instead of shepherds sitting under shade trees in Arcadia talking about love, poetry, and the land, Mantuan’s pastoral speakers harshly satirize the Catholic Church and the Italian courts. Consequently, ‘Mantuanesque’ pastoral contrasts with ‘Arcadian’ pastoral.9 Indebted more to the originary sets of Renaissance continental pastorals, Petrarch’s Bucolicum Carmen and Boccaccio’s Eclogues, than to Virgilian pastoral, Mantuan’s eclogues were the most popular version during the Renaissance.

In particular, Barclay brought Mantuanesque pastoral to England. Likely, he wrote his five eclogues around 1513 or 1514, and published individual eclogues at different times before 1530.10 Three of the eclogues were adaptations of the Miseriae Curialium of Aenius Silvius Piccolomini (later Pope Pius II) and the other two free translations of Mantuan. In 1570, John Cawood first assembled Barclay’s eclogues into a single publication, complete with Barclay’s Prologue, also a translation of Mantuan. The dedicatory Epistle prefacing The Shepheardes Calender inventories Spenser’s pastoral precursors--Theocritus, Virgil, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Mantuan, and Jacopo Sannazaro--but not Barclay, even though Spenser almost certainly knew Barclay’s poems.11 Similarly, the Epistle does not mention Googe, who in 1563 was the first Englishman to publish his own set of pastorals, Eglogs, Epytaphes, And Sonnets, also heavily indebted to Mantuan, as well as the Spaniard Jorge de Montemeyor. Finally, in 1567 Turbervile published his English translation of Mantuan’s ten eclogues, making this version of pastoral widely available.

To find ‘Arcadian’ pastoral before Spenser, we may turn to the other two primary English pastoralists: Henry Howard, earl of Surrey; and Abraham Fleming. In 1557, Richard Tottel published a volume of verse featuring Surrey on the title page, known as Tottel’s Miscellany, which prints two pastoral love complaints, both associated with Surrey, but neither ‘Harpalus’ Complaint of Phillida’s Love’ nor ‘In winters just returne’ forms part of a set of eclogues in the manner of Virgil, making the foray slight at best.12 Yet just a few years before the Calender appears, in 1575, Fleming brought out his translation of Virgil’s Eclogues, making the ‘Arcadian’ mode accessible in English alongside the ‘Mantuanesque’.

The pastorals of Fleming, Surrey, Turbervile, Googe, and Barclay join Skelton in forming a neglected set of native pastoral intertexts for The Shepheardes Calender--their books all strikingly being published between 1563 and 1575.13 Suffice it to say here that Spenser is unique among Englishmen in formally, and profoundly, wedding Mantuanesque to Virgilian pastoral.

Immerito’s English Pastoral ‘Book’

Spenser is also the first English poet to use the printing press to publish a book of pastorals emulating continental editions of canonical authors like Virgil.14 The quarto comes with an elaborate presentation indeed: a title page, which includes a dedication to Philip Sidney, as well as the name of the printer, Hugh Singleton (Spenser’s own name does not appear on the title page); a prefatory poem of eighteen lines, ‘To His Booke’, written by ‘Immerito’ (Unworthy One), the pseudonym Spenser adopts; the dedicatory Epistle, written by ‘E.K.’ and addressed to Gabriel Harvey, Spenser’s friend at Cambridge University, outlining the poem’s project;15 a follow-up document, The generall argument of the whole booke, also by E.K.; and the twelve eclogues themselves, each accompanied by four sets of paratexts: a woodcut; a short prose argument, attributed to E.K.; a concluding emblem, selected by the poet; and a set of glosses, by E.K. Curiously printed after the gloss to the final eclogue is an untitled poem of twelve lines by Immerito, which the present edition calls the Epilogue (sometimes known as the Envoy). The ‘whole booke’ makes typography central to its meaning: it uses italic font in its prose arguments preceding each eclogue; black-letter for the eclogues themselves; and roman for the glosses.16

Specifically, the book is original in English poetry for its combination of verse, scholarly apparatus, and woodcuts (Luborsky 1990: 654). According to Ruth Samson Luborsky, ‘No precedent exists for the entire unit, but a few of its parts would have been familiar to the contemporary reader’, such as the prose Argument, which appears in sixteenth-century editions of Virgil, as well as in Turbervile’s translation of Mantuan, although ‘contemporary annotated emblem books’ bear an ‘inexact but close physical resemblance’ (1990: 654). In the article on ‘glossing’ in The Spenser Encyclopedia, Gerald Snare observes that the ‘practice occurs in Greek and Latin before the Christian era but is most common in the lexicographers of the late Roman Empire’, as well as Servius’ fourth-century A.D. commentary on Virgil, although the ‘practices of Paulus Manutzio (1558) and Clément Marot (1555) provide a relevant background against which to observe the procedures of E.K.’ (1990: 334). About the nineteen emblems (seven in Italian, seven in Latin, two in Greek, two in English, and one in French, with the December emblem missing), Judith M. Kennedy notes: they ‘are an intimate part of the poems which they conclude’ (1990: 651). The word ‘emblem’ here refers to what George Puttenham, in The Arte of English Poesie (1589), terms a ‘witty sentence or secret conceit’ that needs to be ‘unfolded or explained by some interpretation’ (2.12), known as a ‘mot, a group akin to the impresa’, and represented in English by the English word ‘motto’: ‘In his use of emblems, Spenser combines rich tradition, current fashion, and startling innovation. It was both familiar and fashionable for a motto to declare an individual’s nature or situation, or to sum up the theme of a poem, but the combination of functions (as in Colin’s Januarye emblem) is fresh’ (J.M. Kennedy 1990: 651-2). Even the woodcuts make the book unique. According to Luborsky, ‘[n]one of the poets writing during Spenser’s time nor the earlier Tudor poets published works that were illustrated in this way’ (1981: 16); although ‘the images relate inconsistently to the poem as a whole and to the particular eclogue’ (1990: 654), sorting out that relation can be compelling (see headnotes to each of the twelve eclogues in the Commentary, as well as Luborsky’s detailed analysis of the woodcuts as cuts). As she concludes: ‘Only someone who knew the poem intimately could have chosen to create an environment of calendrical images, to quote from previous illustration, and to illustrate consistently the topic of poetry’ (1990: 655).

The title of the book itself directs us to its uniqueness:
Shepheardes Calendar
Conteyning twelve Æglogues proportionable
to the twelve monethes. The main title bears resemblance to a popular English almanac, The Kalander of Shepherds, printed repeatedly during the sixteenth century and addressing a popular, semi-literate audience living in rural areas who might benefit from moral and religious instruction.17 If the main title of Spenser’s work evokes a native rural almanac, the subtitle identifies its literary, Virgilian affiliations, via the word ‘Æglogues’—a subtitle that Harvey appears to have recommended to Spenser as an ‘Addition’, making clear what kind of book The Shepheardes Calender is.18

Calendar and Career: Rehearsing Tityrus

The dual title indicates that Spenser is also the first European poet to wed the circular pattern of the Christian calendar to the career idea of Virgilian pastoral. As is well known, this idea is developmental, because Virgil is himself innovative in understanding pastoral as a youthful genre preparing for the higher genres (Eclogue 6.1-10). As Ovid writes in Amores 1.15, Virgil begins his career with the pastoral Eclogues, then writes a didactic poem, the Georgics, and finally crowns his career with an epic, the Aeneid (25-6). To do so, Virgil takes Theocritean pastoral, represented in the Idylls, and makes it part of a progressive career pattern, which highlights the poet’s maturation, from a youthful pastoral of otium, to a mature georgic of labor (modeled on Hesiod’s Works and Days), to a crowning epic of duty (modeled on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey).19

Classical, medieval, and Renaissance editions of the Aeneid typically open with a verse program for Virgil’s three-part career:

Ille ego, qui quondam gracili modulatus avena
carmen, et egressus silvis vicina coegi
ut quamvis avido parerent arva colono,
gratum opus agricolis; at nunc horrentia Martis.
‘I am he who once tuned my song on a slender reed, then, leaving the
woodland, constrained the neighbouring fields to serve the husbandmen,
however grasping—a work welcome to farmers: but now of Mars’
Virgil 1935: 1: 240-1
In antiquity, Suetonius, Donatus, and Servius all discuss the poet’s career in their lives of Virgil, with Donatus recording Virgil’s epitaph, which connects his works to his life pattern: ‘Mantua gave birth to me, the Calabrians snatched me away. . . . I sang of pastures, fields, and princes’.21 During the Middle Ages, John of Garland popularizes a rota Vergiliana or Wheel of Virgil, built in a series of concentric circles, divided by three spokes, corresponding to the three poems, and distinguishing sets of writing styles, life styles, social ranks, and imagery (plant, animal, implement).22 For complex reasons, during the European Renaissance the Virgilian career model eschews georgic, seeing pastoral as an inaugural genre for the writing of epic.23 Among continental humanists, Girolamo Vida sets the pace:
[A youngster] unskilled in matters [poetic], ought not to venture to compose long Iliads, but should gain experience little by little, making his debut by playing on the shepherds’ slender pipes.24

The first in modern English to inscribe Vida’s two-part version of the Virgilian career is Barclay:

Most noble Virgil after him long while
Wrote also egloges after like manner style,
His wits proving in matters pastoral
Ere he durst venture to style heroical.
Prologue 27-30
In his historically important Prologue on the role of pastoral in the poet’s career, Barclay repeats the idea no fewer than four times, intimating that he himself planned to move on to epic, but he never followed through, instead abandoning his literary career for one in the church.25 Nonetheless, as the case of Barclay makes clear, the inaugural role of pastoral in the epic career of the poet was precisely the point of departure for English Renaissance authors thinking about and representing the genre.26

Strikingly, Spenser is the first modern European poet to structure the formal publications of his vernacular poetic career on the Renaissance version of the Virgilian model.27 As he announces to open the 1590 Faerie Queene,

Lo I the man, whose Muse whylome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shephards weeds,
Am now enforst a farre unfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds:
And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds,
In keeping with sixteenth-century practice as established by Vida and Barclay, Spenser here compacts the three-part Virgilian progression to two genres, pastoral and epic. In particular, he identifies himself as the anonymous poet who had written The Shepheardes Calender, and he now presents himself as the national poet of English epic.

Petrarch and Tasso had both notoriously begun their epics before their pastorals, while, among European poets, the only one who used print to move from pastoral to epic was Sannazaro, who published his Arcadia in 1504 and his epic, De Partu Virginis, in 1526. Only Sannazaro’s pastoral, however, was in the vernacular, and he published other works in between the two, breaking up the clear two-part progression so visible in the publishing history of Spenser’s poetry. While technically speaking, Spenser begins his career in print in 1569 with anonymous contributions to Jan van der Noot’s Theatre for Worldings, and then interrupts the progression from pastoral to epic in 1580 with his contributions to the prose Letters with Harvey, the opening to The Faerie Queene prints the story Spenser himself authorizes about the shape of his poetic career. We can, in other words, distinguish between the facts of Spenser’s publishing history and the fiction he tells about it.28

Among English Renaissance poets, Spenser does not merely take the lead in structuring his literary career around a pattern of genres; he is virtually unique in the way he recurrently represents genre patterning, from The Shepheardes Calender through The Two Cantos of Mutabilitie (published 1609). When Spenser makes this the topic of the very first stanza of his epic, he advertises the role that genre patterning plays in his career. Hence, in a commendatory verse appended to the 1590 edition Harvey advertises Spenser’s achievement this way: ‘Collyn I see by thy new taken taske, / some sacred fury hath enricht thy braynes, . . . . / That lifts thy notes from Shepheardes unto kinges’ (CV 3: 1-5; see also R.S., CV 4: 9-10). In the 1595 Amoretti, Sonnets 33 and 80 both meditate on the relation between epic and sonnet sequence, and the attached commendatory verse of G.W.I. (probably Geoffrey Whitney Junior) sees Spenser’s career following the Virgilian model of pastoral and epic succeeded by love lyric (CV 2: 1-5). In the 1596 Fowre Hymnes, Spenser then announces his turn away from courtly to contemplative poetry: ‘And turned have the tenor of my string, / The heavenly prayses of true love to sing’ (HHL 13-14). Finally, to open canto vii of Mutabilitie the poet calls on the ‘greater Muse’ to ‘lift up aloft’ the ‘weake wing’ of ‘this too high flight’ to ‘tell of heavens King’, as he prepares to move from the pastoral story of Faunus to the sublime song of Christian grace (1-9). There is nothing like this sustained representation of a generically structured career in English canonical authors: Chaucer, Gower, Lydgate, Skelton, Wyatt, Surrey, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Donne, Herbert, Marvell, even Milton.29

Three eclogues in the Calender dilate on Spenser’s representation of the Virgilian career model. Just as critics identify Maye, Julye, and September as the ‘ecclesiastical’ eclogues, so we might speak of Februarie, June, and October as the career eclogues. October is most well known for representing the full three-part progression of the Virgilian career (remembered by Cuddie at 55-60 and glossed by E.K. at [82-5]), but it also does two other things. First, it presents Piers outlining a four-genre revision of the Virgilian triad, beginning with pastoral, moving to epic, then completing epic via love lyric, and finally moving to hymn. Second, October presents Cuddie offsetting this revised Virgilian model with an Ovidian model, in which love lyric impedes the writing of tragedy, which in turn is presented as the ‘frend’ of epic (106).30 Februarie is unusual in assigning to ‘Tityrus’ another revised Virgilian structure, indebted to Dante’s De Vulgari Eloquentia, which speaks of the three major subjects of poetry: ‘prowess in arms, kindling of love, rectitude of will’ (Dante 1996: 72). Speaking of Tityrus, Piers says, ‘Many meete tales of youth did he make, / And some of love, and some of chevalrie’ (98-9). In other words, Tityrus wrote heroic poetry, erotic poetry, and didactic poetry.31 Finally, June features a dialogue about the relation between pastoral and epic, in a skillful imitation of Virgil’s own sixth eclogue, which represents the primary moment of recusatio, when Apollo tells Tityrus not to venture out of pastoral into the higher form. In Spenser’s imitatio, Hobbinol sees Calliope, Muse of Epic, along with her sisters, suddenly hear Colin’s pastoral song and mistake it for epic. Yet for his part, Colin refuses to move into the higher form: ‘I play to please my selfe, all be it ill’ (72).

In structuring his career on the Virgilian foundation of pastoral and epic, Spenser uses a principle of typology to relate the two, a principle that he could have taken from both Virgil and Scripture. Just as the story of Christ in the New Testament fulfills the story of the Old Testament, so ‘the idle shepherd carries the implicit promise of . . . the strenuous hero, to come; and the lowly pastoral kind looks forward towards epic’.32 Petrarch, Boccaccio, Mantuan, Sannazaro, and others had Christianized pastoral, but Spenser alone sutures the career pattern of the author to the calendar of Christian history.33 With more precision than any previous poet, Spenser presents his inaugural pastoral as a developmental work within a Christian cosmos.

If the career pattern of the Calender allows Spenser to claim status as England’s New Poet, the calendar design identifies that status as prophetic and divine. The Epilogue makes this explicit:

Loe I have made a Calender for every yeare,
That steele in strength, and time in durance shall outweare:
And if I marked well the starres revolution,
It shall continewe till the worlds dissolution.
(Epilogue 1-4)
Here Spenser writes a version of ‘the master topos of post-classical European literature’, exemplified most comprehensively by Dante in the Divine Comedy: ‘the unprecedented union . . . of subjective vision and objective fact’.34 Reminiscent of Dante, Spenser presents the ‘Calender’ as at one with the ‘starres revolution’: he makes his own artifact an image of God’s creation. By uniting the subjective vision of his work with the objective fact of the universe, Spenser advances an audacious claim: the circular Calender qualifies as a cosmological poem having a cosmological function.35

Book Framing: Metrics and Verse Forms

To structure his poem as an image of the cosmos, Spenser innovates the very principle of harmony itself, prosody, and he does so inside each eclogue, both in poetic meter and in individual verse forms. For Spenser, ‘[m]eter is a register for working through questions of personal growth, poetic career, and linguistic nationalism’ (Dolven 2010: 399).—to which we can add, cosmology. The key point is that poetic form and meter are not mere ornament but structural to Spenser’s poetics (Røstvig 1969). Indeed, he scatters twelve different verse forms across work.36 The topic is so vast and intricate that one could fill a large volume trying to describe it; here we may settle on a few observations.

Most importantly, no English pastoral—and really, no European pastoral—had come equipped with such capacious experiment in verse form. Theocritus and Virgil had relied on unrhymed hexameters throughout their sequences, and Petrarch and Boccaccio continued the practice. Mantuan returned to the hexameter, and in his English translation Turbervile adopted the ‘fourteener’ (‘generally taken as the English equivalent of the hexameter’(Cooper 1977: 124). ), while Barclay wrote in pentameter couplets, and both Googe and Fleming in fourteener couplets. In other words, all of Spenser’s English precursors adopted a single meter and form for their pastoral sequences. Sannazaro had charted the way for Spenser’s inclusion of more than one form in a vernacular pastoral, including by writing an Italian sestina (by way, e.g., of Petrarch’s Rime Sparse). ‘There is, however, no precedent in pastoral for the wide variety of metrical forms that Spenser employs’ (Heninger 1990: 645).

In contrast to his pastoral precursors, Spenser’s Calender includes fourteen different verse forms: in addition to the twelve inside the eclogues, two occur in ‘To His Booke’ and the Epilogue, respectively, the former deploying tetrameter triplets, the latter hexameter couplets (Renwick 1925: 189; Woods 1990: 711). In the eclogues themselves, the verse forms include the sixain ballade stanza of Januarye and December (rhyming ababcc), as well as the dialogue in August between Willye and Perigot, but also variations in March and October;37 the four-line stanza, varied in Julye, the dialogue portions of Aprill and November, and the singing contest in August; a four-accent couplet in the dialogues of Februarie, Maye, and September; ottava rima in June;38 two versions of the Italian canzone, the ten-line stanza of November’s funeral elegy for Queen Dido (ababbccdbd) and the nine-line stanza of Aprill’s lay for Queen Elisa (ababccddc);39 and, the most virtuoso of all, the first sestina in print in English, from August.40

As these cases suggest, the Calender tells the ‘story’ of a ‘romance, or perhaps better, rivalry, for a contest between ballad and pentameter’, the four-beat and five-beat lines as the dominant meter of English poetry (Dolven 2010: 397). In this light, the Calender is important because it represents a moment in the history of English prosody where the battle to win iambic pentameter as the language’s dominant idiom is not yet settled. It might be important, then, to note the presence of Spenser’s first half line in his career, at Februarie 238, used to indicate the impatient youth Cuddie interrupting the older Piers, ‘For scorning Eld’.41

Spenser uses verse form to accomplish a number of things. First, he uses the complex forms of sestina and canzone to represent Colin’s superiority to other poets; these are indeed virtuoso performances. Second, he uses various verse forms to evoke different literary traditions, as he does the four-beat couplet and quatrain in Februarie, Maye, and September to evoke the medieval tradition associated with Catholicism (Grundy 1969: 94, 186; Stephens 2010: 376). Finally, he can take a single verse form and inflect it with a different dialect, the way he does with Welsh (and Northern and Scots) in September through the speech of Diggon Davie (Blank 1992). A particularly striking example of how Spenser uses verse form to original effect occurs in Julye, when he retains the fourteeners of Turbervile’s Mantuan but relies on ‘caesurae, enjambment, and syllables of different lengths’ (Heale 2010: 589).at once to roughen and enliven the verse into the ‘best poetry of the eclogue’, (Hoffman 1977: 32) in a passage about two originary shepherds (classical and biblical), Endymion and Adam:

There is the cave, where Phebe layed,
the shepheard long to dreame.
Whilome there used shepheards all
to feede theyr flocks at will,
Till by his foly one did fall,
that all the rest did spill.
(Julye 63-8)

‘Good and naturall English words’
As these examples indicate, the Calender is also innovative in poetic language itself. This topic is virtually co-equal with ‘Spenser’.42 Studies of Spenser’s language emphasize a single point: his artful use of language has been greatly admired as historically important Strang 1990: 426). Indeed, ‘Most criticism on Spenser’s language takes as its text The Shepheardes Calender—and with some justification, for it is in this first major work that Spenser most explicitly discusses his choice of language, and it is here that the questions of archaism, dialect, diction and neologism are most provocatively posed’ (Maley 2001: 165). While Spenser’s artistic use of language marks him as an ‘Elizabethan’—rather than, say, a Chaucerian--Spenser’s era-based language nonetheless differs from that of such contemporaries as Sidney and Shakespeare (Stephens 2010: 367-8). In other words, Spenser’s language is uniquely his own, with The Shepheardes Calender quite different from any ‘language(s)’ he went on to compose, especially for The Faerie Queene. While the Commentary to this edition aims to help document just how innovative and rich Spenser’s use of language is, here we may settle once more on a few selected remarks.

In particular, through the Calender’s neologisms, archaisms, and dialects, Spenser invents a pastoral language that had never been seen, nor has been seen since. Yet this has not been only to his credit but also to his cost. For, from the outset, criticism poured in. In The Defence of Poetry, Sidney judges, ‘The Shepherds’ Calendar hath much poetry in his eclogues, indeed worthy the reading, if I be not deceived. (That same framing of his style to an old rustic language I dare not allow, since neither Theocritus in Greek, Virgil in Latin, nor Sannazaro in Italian did affect it.)’ (Vickers 1999: 380). Echoing Sidney, Ben Jonson complains even more memorably: ‘Spenser, in affecting the ancients, writ no language’ (1281).43 Indeed, it is Shakespeare, not Spenser, who wins the battle of words for the prize of modern identity (Cf. D.L. Miller 2000). While Spenser’s experiment of using an ‘old’ language both to represent a rural form and to develop a ‘new poetry’ ends up failing historically, it nonetheless remains significant as a breakthrough phase in the development of English literature.

The exact nature of Spenser’s innovation is still being debated, for computer technology continues to improve statistical analysis.44 While scholars will continue to refine their statistics, providing one methodology for studying the topic, another methodology is readier at hand: the Calender tells a fiction about language, and especially about archaism. Assuming that E.K. is himself a fictional creation (more of which presently), in his Epistle he talks about Spenser’s ‘framing his words: the which of many thinges which in him be straunge, I know will seeme the straungest, the words them selves being so auncient, the knitting of them so short and intricate, and the whole Periode and compasse of speache so delightsome for the roundnesse, and so grave for the straungenesse’ (19-23). Crucial to this fiction is E.K.’s claim that Spenser ‘hath laboured to restore, as to theyr rightfull heritage such good and naturall English words’ to ‘our Mother tonge’ (68-70). Yet it is precisely the fiction of Spenser’s role in mounting this national linguistic project that has long been challenged, in part because Spenser was only one among many Englishmen seeking to purify the mother tongue, in part because the process of purification has an innate ideological agenda, no matter how one construes Spenser’s politics (Stephens 2010: 380-1). It is a considerable paradox, then, as well as a testament to the Calender’s achievement, that a poem known for failing to find a future in English literature at the level of the (rustic) word should maintain its centrality to English literary history.45

Spenser and the Culture of ‘Revolution’

At stake is a large ontological question: does ‘Spenser’s poetry search . . . for a transcendent, and therefore inevitably elusive, conjunction of word and meaning’, or does it seek to become ‘a repository and guarantor of cultural values’, designed to ‘help preserve England’s moral integrity’?46 Again, it might also be profitable to determine how the Calender repeatedly tells stories about the question—and repeatedly different stories—moving between twin poles, especially between Colin’s vision of Dido’s transcendence in November and the grounding of his ‘famous flight’ in October (88).

The fictional division suggests a final way in which the Calender constitutes a major innovation in English literary history, and English pastoral in particular: Spenser invests the story that draws the twelve eclogues together, that of Colin’s withdrawal from society, with a rich engagement with English culture. Indeed, Spenser’s pastoral enters, or gestures toward, a wide array of contemporary debates: ecclesiastical debates about the church; political debates about the nation; social debates about the economy of the land and its people, including the relation between men and women, parents and children, elders and youth, landowners and tenants; and artistic debates about the role of poetry and the poet in society. It is also both alarming and consoling to see how often critics isolate one or another of these debates: alarming because such a methodology fragments the achievement of the Calender; consoling because criticism can only do so much.

In particular, Spenser’s poem accrues inaugural status by investing the ‘Calender for every yeare’ not merely with ‘the starres revolution’ but also with the revolutions within sixteenth-century society.47 We may summarize four additional revolutions, one from each of the poem’s major cultural categories: religion, politics, sexuality, and art, all of which are intimately bound up with one another.

English pastoral Reformation

In religion, Spenser enters his pastoral into the lists of the English Reformation. Specifically, he writes the Calender in response to the queen’s failure to bring about religious reforms consistent with the Protestant revolution, especially ‘the newly controversial’ issues of ‘ecclesiastical pride and luxury’ (Norbrook 2002: 54). Nonetheless, critics do not agree about how to classify Spenser’s Protestant affiliations: is he a ‘Puritan’ or a ‘progressive’ Protestant?48 Yet Spenser is not a clergyman but a poet; he is a storyteller rather than a doctrinalist, and he uses poetry to represent competing positions rather than clarifying one or the other.49 In the 1570s, the English church combined Catholic elements of outward ceremony (justification through works) with Protestant elements of personal inwardness (justification through faith). As a result, the church underwent attacks from both Rome and Geneva, with Catholics indicting Elizabeth as a heretic, the Pope excommunicating her, the Roman Church making inroads into England through the Jesuit Mission, and Puritans attacking the queen and her clergyman for accepting the ‘via media’ (middle way) and thus veering from Calvinism. The schism raised a single question: ‘How are the best persons made: from the molding of the interior subject from without, through the performance of proper behavior, or by letting that behavior be shaped by ideals antecedent to instruction?’50

The ecclesiastical eclogues enter several specific debates, including both the Vesterian and Admonition controversies. In 1566, controversy arose over whether clergymen should wear vestments to distinguish them from the congregation, with the regime allowing for such apparel as caps and gowns but hardline Protestants resisting such outward ritual. And in 1572 reformers produced an Admonition to Parliament that called for the removal of worship based on The Book of Common Prayer (McEachern 2010: 35-6). Without question, however, the specific religious topic that haunts the Calender is the queen’s removal of Edmund Grindal from his office as Archbishop of Canterbury in June 1577, because he overturned the government’s policy regarding the so-called ‘prophesyings’, private meetings of clergy with laity that interpreted Scripture outside the bounds of prescribed doctrine and practice. In the first ecclesiastical eclogue, Maye, the older shepherd Piers, associated with English ‘pastoures or Ministers’ who represent the more austere ‘protestant’ position, tells the younger shepherd Palinode, associated with ‘the Catholique’ (arg.2-3) for his commitment to May Day games, what ‘Algrind used to say’ (75), Algrind being an anagram for Grindal. And in Julye, Grindal comes into view when Thomalin also invokes what ‘old Algrind often sayne’ (126) in his criticism of Morrell’s perch high on the hill of ‘Catholique’ arrogance, and later when Morrell (to his credit) wants to know ‘what is Algrind he, / that is so oft bynempt’ (213-4). Thomalin then tells a decasibus tragedy (albeit somewhat comically) about Algrind’s fall from ecclesiastical and political grace (215-28).

Despite controversy over how to classify Spenser’s ecclesiastical affiliations, and refinements to our understanding of this particular historical context and Spenser’s relation to it, one thing is clear: in his inaugural pastoral, Spenser presents himself as an English Protestant poet with an important voice to be heard in matters of religious faith. This voice is important to English history because it promotes careful thought in the nation’s citizens about key religious debates, but also because it uses poetry as a valuable instrument of religious identity.

Wedding Politics: The queen and the duc d’Alençon

The question of Spenser’s religious affiliation is intertwined with the era’s most controversial question wedding politics and sexuality: the queen’s proposed marriage to the French duc d’Alençon.51 No doubt Spenser can be seen to side with the Leicester circle in its attack on this marriage (led by Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, and his nephew, Sidney). The title page to the book may conceal the author’s identity, but it features the names of two of the key figures in the Alençon affair. Right around the time the Calender was published, Sidney, the dedicatee of the poem, wrote a letter to the queen urging her not to marry the Frenchman—thereby securing his own rustication from court. (In Letters 4, written on October 5, 1579 to Gabriel Harvey and published in 1580, Spenser broods over whether to dedicate the Calender to Sidney or to Leicester [see Hadfield 2012: 128-30]). Singleton, the printer of the Calender, was charged in the 1579 publication of John Stubbs’ Gaping Gulf, a book that likewise argued against the marriage, so blasphemously that Stubbs lost his right hand, although Singleton was spared at the last minute, perhaps because of his advanced age.52

The topic of the queen’s marriage is connected to sexuality more broadly represented, in part because Colin’s beloved, Rosalind, has long been identified with Elizabeth.53 Even if one rejects such a link, Spenser clearly presents Colin pursuing three different, interlocked forms of courtship: Rosalind in Januarye, June, August, and December; Elisa in Aprill; and Dido in November.56 In Colin’s career, courtship is amorous, political, and professional: all three at once. The keynote of the sequence is ‘Petrarchan’, in the sense that in all three courtships Colin engages in a ‘verbal courtship of an exalted female’, featuring ‘the poet-lover’s power to sublimate desire’.57 In terms of the fiction, Colin’s private unrequited love for Rosalind in Januarye leads him to abandon his public celebration of Elisa in Aprill (Hobbinol is left to remember the Song of Elisa that Colin once sung in her behalf), and finally in November Colin returns to his art in order to commemorate the death and apotheosis of anther ‘mayden of greate bloud’ (Nov, arg.1-2), Dido. While Colin’s career progresses to spiritual ‘transcendence’,58 March is distinct for its representation of an adolescent playfully victimized by cruel Cupid. Unlike Colin Clouts Come Home Againe later in Spenser’s career (1595), the Calender includes no shepherdesses as interlocutors; the effect is not simply to displace the female from ‘the Young Men’s Pastoral Association’ (Berger 1988: 359), but to set arguably the most potent problem Spenser confronts in his unfolding poetic career: the Petrarchan problem of viewing the beloved as an impediment to salvation, nationhood, and artistic fame.59 As Spenser’s 1595 pastoral will clarify, a fiction of love that begins by impeding national Christian literary identity but finally that promotes it constitutes the master narrative of Spenser’s literary career—a narrative that The Shepheard Calender inaugurates and that Colin Clout typologically fulfills.60

‘The author’: Collaborative individuation

Thus, Spenser brings questions of sexuality, politics, and religion to bear on the topic of his own authorship: that is, the role of poetry and the poet in society. Indeed, pastoral is an especially ‘self-conscious form’, and from Theocritus forward pastoral features the poet as one of its principal shepherds.61 Spenser takes the self-conscious form of pastoral to an extreme, revealing him to be a ‘meta-pastoralist’, a pastoral author writing about pastoral authors within a tradition of pastoral; and consequently, he habitually turns the pastoral landscape into an artistic one.62

Although the central figure of the poet in the Calender is Colin Clout, Spenser again breaks new English ground in representing ‘the author’. As E.K. points out, Spenser has plenty of precedent for representing himself in his work, as Virgil does Tityrus (Epistle 5-6). Yet Spenser is unusual in dispersing his authorial identity across three major figures: joining the persona Colin from the pastoral fiction is Immerito, the author who signs the book, in order to conceal the identity of the man who writes it, Edmund Spenser.63 In addition to these three author-figures, we need to recall the role of E.K., who presents himself as a friend of the author and his singular good friend, Master Harvey, and in general serves as the executive editor and scholarly glossator of the work.

Much ink has been spilt trying to identify E.K., but few today accept the older designation of Spenser’s Cambridge classmate, Edward Kirke; for now most believe that E.K. represents Edmund of Kent, Spenser himself, possibly colluding with Harvey.64 Evidently, Spenser designed this complex model of authorship in part because a twenty-something from the lower classes makes bold claims about the cultural authority of his authorship, in part because this author underwrites his book with a dangerous religio-politics, criticizing the queen, championing disgraced figures like Grindal, and privileging unknown competitors to the queen like ‘Rosalind’, perhaps in her role as Spenser’s first wife, Machabyas Childe (Hadfield 2012: 145). But ‘there was more to Spenser’s anonymity than that’, for there is an ‘aesthetic advantage’: ‘Anonymity lent the frisson of the forbidden to Spenser’s early verse; it withheld a name to create a reputation’: ‘anonymity became a badge of fame’ (McCabe 2010: 465-6, 467). Indeed, fame is the telos of Western identity and art.65 Finally, the Calender is intent, as Drayton recognized, in making the name of the author a memorable part of the book.

Yet The Shepheardes Calender is unique for its time in its unsettling bridging of an authorial binary within a work of poetry: between the ‘individuated’ author and the ‘collaborative’ author.66 It will not do to speak of the Calender as either the work of Edmund Spenser or as the work of Spenser, Harvey, Singleton, and others. Spenser’s pastoral is that uncanny thing, an individuated collaborative work, and thus a forerunner of Spenser’s second pastoral, in the Colin Clouts volume.67 The key moments in the Calender featuring this complex model of authorship surround the songs of Colin Clout, and especially the lay of Elisa in Aprill and the sestina of Rosalind in August, which are sung in Colin’s absence by Hobbinol and Cuddie, respectively. Critically, it has proven challenging to voice a hermeneutic that grants both individuation to Colin and collaboration in the production of his song. In 1579, Spenser does not simply straddle the divide between an older notion of collaborative authorship and a newer modern one of individuation; he self-consciously tells a story about his own revolutionary form.68

Versions of pastoral: The ideology of idealization

At stake in the question over authorship in the Calender is the nature of Spenserian pastoral itself. Are we to pursue an idealistic version or an ideological one? The idealistic version traces to Schiller’s On Naive and Sentimental Poetry (1795-6): pastoral is a literary genre that sentimentally longs for the ideal in order to escape from the actual; it is thus a pastoral of pleasure, in search of otium (leisure), or ‘the ideal of the good life’.69 The ideological version traces to Puttenham’s Arte of English Poesie; it is a ‘pastoral of power’, emphasizing negotium rather than otium: pastoral ‘do[es] busily negotiate by color of otiation’.70

One way to respond to the question over pastoral as either idealistic or ideological is to take the metapastoral nature of the mode to heart, and define the Spenserian version as a ‘pastoral of progression’: a literary genre that presents pastoral as the inaugural step in a career pattern leading to epic (P. Cheney 2001: 84-97). In The Shepheardes Calender, Spenser does not merely write pastoral to prepare for epic; in the paratextual material accompanying the ‘whole booke’, and in the eclogues themselves, he includes a fiction about this very enterprise. Such a fiction does not eschew either a ‘pastoral of power’ or a ‘pastoral of pleasure’ but harnesses both to a pastoral of ‘contemplation’, (Bernard 1989: 8, 153-82). ensuring that pastoral is an art that unfolds religious, political, and erotic dimensions. This comprehensive conceptual structure allows the Calender to relate poetry to the institutions of church, state, and family, and to feature the relation between the poet and the corresponding leaders of these institutions, the pastor, the sovereign, and the youthful lover.71 Above all, Spenser’s book is a pastoral about the role of the poet in the multi-sphered life of the nation in the context of eternity (P. Cheney 2001: 80-5).

Spenser’s Pastoral of Freedom

We may gather in the four categories of Spenserian authorship in The Shepheardes Calender—theology, politics, sexuality, art—by looking further into what we might call the book’s religious politics of poetic courtship. The binding agent of this conceptual complex turns out to be a neglected word in Calender criticism: freedom.72 In his pastoral book, Spenser locates freedom at the center of his Reformation courtship of the nation—his bid to become England’s New Poet. Freedom is not just a political or a religious or even a familial principle; it is also an artistic one. Standing in the locus amoenus of June, Colin tells Hobbinol, ‘Thy lovely layes here mayst thou freely boste’, unlike Colin himself, whom ‘angry Gods pursue from coste to coste’ (13-15). As the word ‘boste’ intimates, Colin somewhat grudgingly praises his friend for having the luxury to inhabit the free place of poesy—a ‘Paradise’ that he himself, like ‘Adam’, has ‘lost’ (10).73 Inadvertently, however, Colin identifies poetic freedom as his Edenic standard. The entire fiction of the poet in the Calender depends on the loss of this standard, as its appearance here in the sixth or central eclogue indicates.

Words designating concepts of freedom occur thirteen times in the Calender, spread from the second eclogue through the Epilogue. The word ‘freedom’ itself and its cognates occur seven times.74 Yet Spenser’s vocabulary of freedom also includes such words as ‘liberty’ (Dec 36), ‘plainly’ and ‘plain’ (Sept 104, 136), and ‘frank’ (Nov 203), and it interfaces with words like ‘right’ (as in rights) (Feb 186, Dec 130). Some of these uses seem insignificant, but several are significant indeed, and right where we might expect: toward the end of the book, where seven of the thirteen appear.

‘Couthe’ in Sir Thomas Smith’s ‘booke of government’

Presumably, Spenser includes a discourse of freedom in the Calender because the 1570s made political liberty a primary topic of national conversation, at a time when England was not strictly a monarchy but a ‘Monarchical Republic’: that is to say, a monarchy in its centralized government but a republic at the local level of the city and town, where political freedom formed the key principle.75 Indeed, literary historians continue to chart Spenser’s interest in republican ideas.74 Especially important to Spenser’s republican sympathies has been the recovery of another political context in which The Shepheardes Calender was produced, that surrounding Sir Thomas Smith (1513-77), author of the influential treatise De Republica Anglorum (written 1562-5; published 1583), mentioned twice by E.K. in his glosses. Smith was the first Regius Professor of Civil Law at Cambridge, and served as Queen Elizabeth’s ambassador to France.75 Since De Republica was not published till 1583, E.K. must have read it in manuscript. In 1570, Smith had helped Harvey get a fellowship at Pembroke Hall, Spenser’s College, while Harvey wrote a series of Latin elegies in honor of his benefactor, titled Smithus (1578), one of the group of publications in Harvey’s concerted collaboration with Spenser at this time. Not merely was Smith Harvey’s patron in the 1570s—both were from Saffron Walden--but they read Livy together, Livy being the arch-republican historian of freedom in classical Rome.76

To look into this topic, we might concentrate less on the particular beliefs of Edmund Spenser the man and more on the fictions of the author Immerito.77 Once we allow a distinction between biography and fiction, we may identify liberty not just as a political or a religious principle but also as an artistic one: we are free to concentrate on representation, not simply ideology. The representational details of the politico-religious context can be instrumental to the renewed practice of ‘close reading’ of ‘figurative language’.78 Most pressing is the figurative language of freedom.

That figure makes its first appearance in ‘To His Booke’, the prefatory poem. For Immerito opens by giving his ‘little booke’ a license to ‘present’ itself to Sidney for patronage, to escape from ‘Envie’—‘past jeopardee’—and ‘for succoure flee’ (1-6, 16). While the word ‘flee’ most directly means ‘escape or seek safety by flight’, it retains the sense of ‘keep free from (a practice)’ (OED). Similarly, ‘jeopardee’ means ‘peril’ or ‘danger’, suggesting a state of bondage, from which the freedom of flight qualifies as a solution. In this way, Spenser opens his book by seeking freedom from envy through patronage of ‘him that is the president / Of noblesse and of chevalree’ (3-4). Envy enslaves; patronage liberates.79

The discourse of freedom begins to be felt more directly in E.K.’s Epistle, in a passage on ‘obsolete wordes’, which ‘bring great grace and . . . auctoritie to the verse’: ‘For albe amongst many other faultes it specially be objected of Valla against Livie, and of other against Saluste, that with over much studie they affect antiquitie’ (35-9). Lorenzo Valla (c. 1407-1457) was an Italian humanist who became private Latin secretary to Alfonso V of Aragon, and who, in Emendationes in Livium de Bello Punico (1532, 1540), criticized Livy (59 BC-AD 17), author of The History of Rome, for relying on his Paduan dialect. Caius Sallustius Crispus (86-c. 34 BC) was also a Roman historian, author of The Conspiracy of Catiline and The Jugurthine War, whose penchant for archaism had been attacked most recently by Roger Ascham (c. 1515-1568) in The Scholemaster (1570). Ascham, in 1579 the recently deceased tutor to Queen Elizabeth, may well be E.K.’s anonymous ‘other’.

Concealed in E.K.’s two examples is an opposition that surfaces periodically in the Calender: between the two major forms of government (celebrated by Machiavelli in his Discourses on Livy), monarchy and republic, which together form Elizabeth’s monarchical republic. For Livy and Sallust join Cicero (‘that worthy Oratour’ [Epistle 27]) as arch-Roman republicans, while Valla and Ascham line up as monarchists. In being of the ‘opinion’ that ‘auncient solemne wordes are a great ornament’, E.K. sides with the republicans Livy and Sallust: ‘the one’, E.K. continues, ‘labouring to set forth in hys worke an eternall image of antiquitie, and the other carefully discoursing matters of gravitie and importaunce’ (43-4). Significantly, the ‘eternall image of antiquitie’ that E.K. finds in Livy is a history of the Roman Republic, while ‘matters of gravitie and importance’ that he finds in Sallust are his paradoxical formulation: ‘the belief that the greatness of the republic derived originally from its liberty’ but that the acquisition of greatness inevitably led to the ‘loss of that liberty’ (Armitage 2002: 30).

Livy, Sallust, and especially Cicero are important for defining a republic as relating a ‘free person’ to a ‘free state’: ‘Like a free person, a free state is one that is able to act according to its own will’ (Skinner 2002: 2.301). Spenser would have started studying the style of both Livy and Sallust (along with Cicero and other classical authors) at Merchant Taylors’ School under Richard Mulcaster (Hadfield 2012: 29-30). In a letter to Spenser dated 7 April 1580, Harvey reports that undergraduates at Cambridge are focusing on Livy and Sallust rather than Cicero and Demosthenes (Letter 2.574-6).

In his glosses, E.K. refers to Cicero again in the two eclogues at the structural center of the Calender: Maye [51] and June [74]. He refers to Livy once more in his gloss on the last eclogue, at December [45], and at March [10] he refers to another great Roman republican, Tacitus. Moreover, at Maye [165-9] E.K. refers to the Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, instigated by Charles IX in August 1572 against the Huguenots, who were French republicans caught in a fatal ‘defence of religious liberty’ (Skinner 1978: 2: 244). None of these references looks important in isolation, but together they stitch a larger canvas of an inaugural book authored in terms of English Renaissance republican thought, with its core principle, freedom. While it may be anachronistic to call Spenser a ‘republican’, this author nonetheless engages in republican discourse throughout The Shepheardes Calender.80

For instance, in his comment on the word ‘couthe’ at Januarye 10 E.K. first mentions Smith:
Conne, that is, to know or to have skill. As well interpreteth the same the worthy Sir Tho[mas] Smitth in his booke of goverment: wher of I have a perfect copie in wryting, lent me by his kinseman, and my verye singular good freend, Master Gabriel Harvey: as also of some other his most grave and excellent wrytings. (9-14) E.K.’s comment invites the reader to view both Januarye and the Calender as a whole in light of Smith’s emphasis on the importance of the people and the parliament in the governing of the monarchy, the tripartite entity of England’s monarchical republic. Specifically, E.K. cites Smith in De Republica Anglorum as an authority for how an author uses knowledge and training to write his work. Since Smith is talking about the etymology of the ‘english’ word ‘king’ from the Saxon ‘cyning, which whether it commeth of cenor ken which betokeneth to know and understand, or kan or kon which betokeneth to be able to have power, I can not tell’ (1982, 1.9: 56), E.K.’s reference is gratuitous, but thereby glaring, and thus it draws attention to itself as a scholarly citation in a book of ‘english’ poetry. Hence, the gloss comes from a line not about government but about poetry, in particular the art of Colin Clout: ‘Well couth he tune his pipe, and frame his stile’ (10). By glossing ‘couthe’ with Smith, E.K. gestures not just to ‘the republic of letters’ invented by Spenser and Harvey81 but more precisely to a republic of authors, with Spenser benefiting from, and competing with, Smith in the domain of knowledge, and Colin’s art connected to freedom.

Accordingly, E.K.’s phrase about Smith’s ‘booke of government’ echoes Spenser’s use of the word ‘government’ in Colin’s complaint:

Thou feeble flocke, whose fleece is rough and rent,
Whose knees are weake through fast and evill fare:
Mayst witnesse well by thy ill government,
Thy maysters mind is overcome with care.
(Januarye 43-6)
This is Spenser’s only use of the word ‘government’ in the Calender (cf. ‘governance’ at Maye 121 and ‘misgovernaunce’ at Nov 4), and it identifies Colin as a governor, a leader and manager of his flock, in accord with humanist teaching about the educated individual who contributes to the state, as in Sir Thomas Elyot’s (c.1490–1546) The Boke Named the Governour (1531). In particular, the phrase ‘thy ill government’ pinpoints the way in which the Calender opens with an image of the poet who has abandoned his public duty to the people, because he has become enslaved to his courtship of an unrequiting beloved.

In this context, E.K.’s second reference to Smith, at September [74], increases in importance. September is not just the last of three ecclesiastical eclogues but Spenser’s most overt dialogue on ‘free speech’—‘another term’ for ‘counsel . . . to be conceived as both a duty and a right’.82 Above all, the Calender exercises a right to counsel the monarch, allowing the poem to be seen as a verse correlate to De Republica Anglorum. While Aprill is the central eclogue narrating a story about the poet’s use of counsel to make the sovereign—‘Now ryse up Elisa, decked as thou art’ (145)—September is more concerned with the queen’s privy counselors, the ‘bigge Bulles of Basan’ (124), identified especially as William Cecil, Lord Burghley (1520/21–1598), against whom Spenser ended up carrying on a lifetime quarrel.83 In Spenser’s dialogue, Diggon Davie uses obscure phrasing to complain of his mistreatment abroad, leading Hobbinol to ask for clarity: ‘Diggon, I praye thee speake not so dirke, / Such myster saying me seemeth to mirke’ (102-3).84 Diggon obliges, ‘playnely to speake’ (104), but is so biting that Hobbinol begs him to back off: ‘Nowe Diggon, I see thou speakest to plaine; / Better it were, a little to feyne, / And cleanly cover, that cannot be cured’ (136-8). The reiteration, ‘playnely . . . plaine’, means ‘simply’ but also ‘openly; publicly’ and even ‘candidly; frankly’ (OED): in other words, freely. Diggon exercises free speech as a matter of public complaint against corruption in high places, but Hobbinol warns of the political danger of doing so, compelling Diggon to rely on the very craft of the poet, as the words ‘feyne’ and ‘cover’ make plain.85

Significantly, September is also the only ecclesiastical eclogue to refer to Colin Clout, and it is here that E.K. makes his second reference to Smith. Hobbinol praises the good shepherd Roffy, a figure for John Young, Bishop of Rochester (c.1532–1605)--a supporter of Grindal--and identifies Colin as ‘his selfe boye’ (176), since Spenser worked as a secretary for Young.86 In the gloss on this line, E.K. identifies Colin as ‘the Authour selfe’ and Hobbinol as Harvey, taking time to embroider the latter’s career, including his writing of ‘Musarum Lachrymae’, a work that memorializes Smith after his death in 1577 [69-84]. The memory of Smith in an eclogue about the rights and dangers of free speech is salutary.87

By focusing on language, ‘September paves the way for the October discussion of poetry’ (Berger 1988: 313). In this eclogue, Spenser thus continues his representation of free speech and the rights of the poet in society. One interesting hint comes from E.K.’s designation of Cuddie as ‘the perfecte paterne of a Poete’ (arg.1), because the phrase reconfigures E.K.’s description of Cicero in the dedicatory Epistle: ‘the paterne of a perfecte Oratour’ (46). The similarity of the two phrases links the rhetorician with the poet, but it also places the art of both under the republican rubric of Ciceronian counsel and free speech. In the eclogue proper, Spenser creates a dialogue about poetic freedom, and has Cuddie and Piers each advocate a different agent. Cuddie selects the wealthy patron, citing the Roman precedent of ‘Mecoenus’, who supported the ‘Romish Tityrus’, Virgil (55-6), but then Cuddie complains that ‘Mecoenas is yclad in claye’ (61): ‘sonnebright honour [is] pend in shamefull coupe’ (72)--the word ‘pend’ meaning both imprisoned and written. For his part, Piers identifies the agent of poetic freedom to lie in Colin’s courtship of Rosalind, ‘for love does teach him climbe so hie, / And lyftes him up out of the loathsome myre’ (91-2): love frees the poet from earthly matter to enter the divine. In this way, the October dialogue focuses on the topic of poetic freedom, with Cuddie fettered by the political conditions of patronage and Piers giving voice to Colin’s unfettered flying.

The Spenserian Pastoral Sublime

Spenser’s commitment to the freedom of poetic flight warrants emphasis, because it directs us to another original feature of The Shepheardes Calender, its aesthetics of freedom, and in particular a new English form of aesthetic freedom called by the classical literary critic Longinus the ‘sublime’ (Gk hypsous, ‘height’; L sublîmis). Overwhelmingly, critics have connected October with ‘Neoplatonism’, and certain details justify the connection—most notably, Piers’ reference to the ‘immortall mirrhour’ admired by Colin to ‘rayse’ his ‘mynd above the starry skie’ (93-4). Moreover, E.K. in his glosses to the eclogue refers to Plato twice ([17-19], [35-47]). Without question, then, Spenser’s representation of poetic furor is indebted to the Neoplatonic tradition.88 Yet Neoplatonism is technically a philosophy, not an aesthetics, and thus it cannot account for the full aesthetics of October. In particular, Spenser’s (and E.K.’s) unsettling language of tragic violence, natural disaster, and irrational intoxication is hard to reconcile with the refinement of English Renaissance Neoplatonism. Yet such an unsettling discourse is perfectly in keeping with the aesthetic described by Longinus in a treatise most likely from the first-century A.D., On Sublimity. 89

Longinus defines the sublime as a principle of immortalizing authorship underwriting great works of literature, and he sees the concept opposing the rhetorical tradition:
Sublimity is a kind of eminence or excellence of discourse. It is the source of the distinction of the very greatest poets and prose writers and the means by which they have given eternal life to their own fame. For grandeur produces ecstasy rather than persuasion in the hearer; and the combination of wonder and astonishment always proves superior to the merely persuasive and pleasant. (On Sublimity1.3-4: 143) To represent ‘grandeur’ in the production of ‘ecstasy’, ‘wonder’, and ‘astonishment’, sublime authors rely on two sets of metaphors: on the one hand, immaterial metaphors of height and flight, as when Longinus says, ‘sublimity raises us toward the spiritual greatness of god’ (36.1: 178); and, on the other, material metaphors of whirlwind and whirlpool, including earthquakes and tempestuous seas, as when Longinus says, ‘Sublimity . . . tears everything up like a whirlwind’ (1.4: 144). Above all, the sublime is an aesthetics that charts a fiction of violent transport set in a sky- and land-scape, one that terrorizes or ravishes (or both). From the Greeks onward, the sublime is that irrational aesthetics of the human in its capacity to enter the condition of the divine—the space that Longinus terms ‘the interval between earth and heaven’ (9.5: 150). In this space, the mind is overwhelmed, baffled, or intoxicated, as philosophical goodness gives way to aesthetic greatness. Although Longinus notes that ‘“Sublimity is the echo of a noble mind”’ (9.2: 150), he never says that the sublime creates delight, instruction, or virtue. Rather, sublimity is ‘that bursting forth of the divine spirit which is so hard to bring under the rule of law’ (33.4: 176): ‘in poetry the aim is astonishment’ (15.2: 159).90

Importantly, Longinus was recovered in the sixteenth century, when Franciscus Robortello published a Greek edition in 1554, and six more editions in Greek and Latin were published on the continent during the next twenty years (Weinberg 1950). While it has long been thought that Longinus was not known in England till George Chapman mentions him in 1612, (Spencer 1957). two copies of Francesco Portus’ edition of Longinus were in a Cambridge bookshop in 1578,123 and in 1573-4 John Rainolds was lecturing on Longinus at Oxford (Ringler 1938). At this time as well, the English noun ‘sublime’ entered the language, including through Spenser in Book V of The Faerie Queene (viii.30.4).91

Technically speaking, Platonism (and Neoplatonism) is a subspecies of sublimity. While sublimity and furor are closely allied, we can discriminate between them. Longinus and Plato share a commitment to transport as an intellectual experience, but their respective subjects, art and philosophy, are important to distinguish, as are their principal metaphors: whereas Plato’s theory of beauty centers on the mirror, Longinus’ theory of sublimity features the whirlwind, along with thunder and lightning, as well as tumultuous seas. Intriguingly, the metaphors of October come not only from Plato but also from the sublime: ‘quake his verse to here’ (60) and ‘troublous tydes’ (117). In particular, Cuddie says, ‘the ryme should rage . . . tread aloft in buskin fine’ (109, 113). Even the seemingly Platonist glossator, E.K., recurrently breaks into sublime discourse, as in the following phrases: ‘astonied and as it were ravished’ [25]; ‘musick is very war like’ [42-3]; ‘Musick can bereave the soule of sence’ [50-1)]; ‘ravished with a Poetical furie’ [145]. In fact, E.K.’s final gloss to October summarizes the sublime perfectly: ‘Poetry is a divine instinct and unnatural rage passing the reache of comen reason’ [173-4].

Of all the major treatises on poetry to emerge from antiquity—Plato’s Ion, Aristotle’s Poetics, Horaces’s Ars Poetica—the only one to link poetry with a free state is Longinus’ On Sublimity. He concludes his treatise with an appendix on ‘the politics of the sublime’, Cf. Shaw 2006: 86-8). narrating how an unnamed philosopher says that ‘democracy nurtures greatness, and great writers flourished with democracy’: ‘Freedom nourishes and encourages the thoughts of the great. . . . [T]hey shine forth, free in a free world’. The philosopher even refers to ‘that fair and fecund spring of literature, freedom’ (44.2-3: 185-6). Even so, neither the philosopher nor Longinus says that the author of the sublime civilizes a democracy; instead, a democracy houses the sublime author. In early modern England, it will take until the mid-seventeenth century for John Hall, Milton’s disciple and the first to translate Longinus into English, to turn this around, and appropriate the sublime for a free English republic, as Milton does in Paradise Lost.92 Instead, Longinus leaves us with another idea: the poet’s sublimity is his freedom; liberty emerges from sublimity; the poet becomes free when he writes the sublime, and so does the reader.93

‘Libertee and lyfe’

Four phrases intensify Spenser’s sublime aesthetics of freedom at the end of the Calender. In November, which E.K. presents as ‘farre passing’ the ‘reache’ of Marot, ‘and in myne opinion all other the Eglogues of this booke’ (arg.5-6), Colin has a vision of the recently deceased Dido breaking ‘the bonds . . . of eternall night’ (165):

I see thee blessed soule, I see,
Walke in Elisian fieldes so free.
(November 178-9)
When Marot’s Colin refers to Madam Loyse entering the afterlife, the Frenchman says, ‘She has been received in the Elysian fields, beyond the labors of this distressful world’ (191-2: ‘Elle est aux champs Elisiens receue, / Hors des travaulx de ce monde esploré’). Spenser revises ‘champs Elisiens’ to ‘Elysian fields so free’, and he changes Colin’s detached description of Loyse being received into the sacred place by making it Colin’s personal visionary experience.94 Not just the place but the imaginative act is ‘free’, an entry into the condition of liberty, the place of the imagination, transported by the sublime process of literary imitation itself, and producing the bitter sweetness of a tragic elegy.95

This last paradox concludes Colin’s elegy, when Thenot voices his reaction to it:

Ay francke shepheard, how bene thy verses meint
With doolful pleasuance, so as I ne wotte
Whether rejoice or weepe for great constrainte?
(November 203-5)
Thenot’s phrase ‘francke shepheard’ is at once a translation and a quotation of Marot: ‘O franc Pasteur’ (261: ‘Free shepherd’). In addition to changing the opening expletive ‘O’ to ‘Ay’, Spenser translates ‘pasteur’ as ‘shepherd’, but wittily he then translates and quotes the French word ‘franc’ as ‘francke’. When modern editors gloss Spenser’s word, they do so as either ‘free’ or ‘unburdened’. In English, however, ‘frank’ can also mean ‘open’ as well as ‘candid’, referring to ‘speech’, and even ‘free in condition; not in serfdom or slavery’ (OED).96 To be a ‘francke shepheard’ is to be what November so openly declares, a Marovian poet of religious, political, and finally poetic freedom, able to speak his mind. Spenser may warn the queen of the dangers of the proposed French marriage, but he also asserts his own status as a laureate poet free to shape the destiny of the nation, and he features divine transport as the track to such a sublime aesthetic.

December continues this assertion through another ‘imitation’ of Marot, this time Eglogue au Roy. Spenser opens the eclogue by positioning Colin in his preferred locale, sitting ‘beside a springe’ in the ‘shadowe of a bushye brere’ (1-2), or rose bush--appropriate to his courtship of Rosalind--where we discover that the shepherd has learned to ‘pype and singe’ from ‘Tityrus’ (3-4), Spenser’s figure not simply for Virgil or Chaucer but more precisely Chaucer in comparison with Virgil--a transposition of the classical to the native soil that nonetheless links the two authors. When Colin begins his song, he calls his locale a ‘greene cabinet’ (17). Once again, Spenser both translates and quotes Marot’s ‘vert cabinet’ (Eglogue au Roy 13), which Robin later compares with the ‘verte maison’ (green house) of the court (259). The word ‘cabinet’ has three interrelated meanings: 1) ‘a rustic summerhouse or bower’; 2) ‘a private place for conducting business, especially of state’; and 3) ‘a private chamber of the privileged, for reading, writing, or keeping one’s treasures’.97 For Marot, in other words, the green cabinet is ‘a symbol both of intellectual privacy and of artistic liberty’ (Patterson 1987: 114). Similarly, for Spenser the green cabinet is the pastoral space and form of free speech itself, a signature for the poetics of the Calender as a whole.98

Accordingly, concepts of freedom pepper the eclogue. In the spring of his life, Colin recalls,

Howe have I wearied with many a stroke,
The stately Walnut tree, the while the rest
Under the tree fell all for nuts at strife:
For ylike to me was libertee and lyfe.
(December 33-6)
This is one of the most enigmatic of Colin`’s utterances, combining two acts by Marot’s Robin, who uses his bow to shoot nuts down from trees and climb other trees for the purpose of throwing down the nests of jays and pies, so that his companions below can reap the benefits. In contrast, Colin says he climbed the oak to rob the raven of its nest, and used many ‘stroke[s]’ to ‘wearie’ the ‘stately Walnut tree’, while down below ‘the rest’ (evidently, his companions) fell in contention over the nuts he dropped—an activity that was, he concludes, ‘ylike to me . . . libertee and lyfe’.

Neither E.K. nor modern editors comment. Colin does not specify that he used a bow to shoot the nuts down; he does not account for the presence of companions in his otherwise solitary hunt in the woods; and he leaves the verb of his action against the walnut tree oblique: ‘wearied’. The general idea seems to be one of carefree sport: he stakes out his heightened position in the treetop, causing nuts to fall that ‘the rest’ fight over, but he does not concern himself with the consequences of his action. Yet metaphors of both art and politics infiltrate. First, the word ‘stroke’ is one that Spenser often uses with reference to poetry; it can mean both a particular beat in a rhyme and the motion of a pen (OED). Hence, in the October Glosse E.K. refers to ‘the Musitian [who] chaunged his stroke into the Lydian and Ionique harmony’ ([43-4]), while in the eclogue proper Piers refers to ‘the stubborne stroke of stronger stounds’ that might ‘slack . . . the tenor of [Cuddie’s epic] string’ and compel him to ‘sing’ of ‘love and lustihead’ (49-51). Second, the walnut tree is ‘stately’, a word that nominally means ‘tall’ and ‘dignified’ but also ‘of the state’ (OED).99 The walnut tree, like the oak, is a tree of political power, and is likely an allusion to a poem that Spenser would have thought that Ovid wrote, titled Nux (‘The Walnut-Tree’), which ‘reads persuasively as an allegory of Ovid’s own fate’, exile at the hands of Augustus Caesar: in resistance to Queen Elizabeth’s intensifying ‘culture of censorship’, Spenser expresses ‘freedom of speech’ (Pugh 2005: 31, 25-8). Like Ovid also in the Amores, the youthful Colin used his free-art to trouble those in positions of power, not worrying about the effect such freedom might have on fellow shepherds, who are left to scramble for the fruit of his labors ‘at strife’.

Colin’s phrase ‘libertee and lyfe’ is especially arresting; it shows him, in the spring of his life, heedless about the cardinal virtues of civic freedom, from classical and continental republicanism through medieval and early modern English constitutional law.100 For the phrase ‘liberty and life’ is a common collocation in the period, frequently invoked when ‘life and liberty’ are being threatened, in cases of imprisonment, war, or martyrdom, in both political and religious treatises before 1579.101 As we have seen, the constitutional backdrop of the Calender begins with E.K.’s reference to Smith’s De Republica Anglorum in the opening eclogue. In December, in his gloss at [42-7] about ‘sooth of byrdes’, E.K. mentions Livy, even though E.K.’s source turns out to be Cicero: in either case, the republican authors mentioned use writing to back freedom. In sum, Spenser’s description of the walnut-tree-climbing Colin tropes a poet unconcerned about his public responsibility to the nation—a misuse of the whole idea of poetic freedom as a civic-minded art.

In the summer of Colin’s life, when he first courts Rosalind, we learn that the poet has had his ‘freedom lorne’ (52)—a paradigm introduced in the Argument, when E.K. says that Colin once ‘was fresh and free from loves follye’ (arg.4). At once both serious and amusing, this poet is enslaved by love; love takes his liberty away, as his subsequent metaphor of ‘checkmate’ confirms (53). The freedom that Colin loses is not just a carefree way of life, however, but the freedom to compose verse (first represented when he breaks his pipe in Januarye). Not surprisingly, in the summer of his life Colin uses his art to ‘make fine cages for the Nightingale’ (79), a troping of bondage that shows Colin, ‘The Nightingale . . . sovereigne of song’ (Nov 25), using poetry to imprison the female. No wonder that Colin sinks quickly into autumn, to witness the ‘fragrant flowres’ of poesy in his ‘garden . . . / . . . dryed up for lacke of dewe’ (109-11)—the last word meaning both moisture and decorum. Consequently, in the winter of his life Colin feels written by the season: ‘And by myne eie the Crow his clawe dooth wright’ (136), as if he were a victim of his own art.102 Then the eclogue ends with a climactic act, ‘here will I hang my pype upon this tree’ (141), as Colin bids ‘Adieu’ to delights, Rosalind, his lambs and sheep, the woods, and his friend Hobbinol: ‘Tell Rosalind, her Colin bids her adieu’ (156).

Judging the conclusion to Colin’s life and career has proved challenging. Does the poet stand on the doorstep of death, an old man broken by time and the binding disillusionment of failed courtship, or does he rather bid his beloved good-bye, free to enter ‘pastures new’? Milton, Lycidas 193). That is, does Colin offer a farewell to poetry before he dies or a farewell to pastoral as he moves on to epic? Spenser’s next representation of the aging process, in Book I of The Faerie Queene, provides a clue in support of the latter reading. For the Redcrosse Knight undergoes a process similar to that of Colin Clout: the knight sees a vision of the New Jerusalem (a correlate to Colin’s vision in November), reacts to it with contemptus mundi (as Colin does to his vision in December), but then receives instruction from the old hermit Heavenly Contemplation to return to the locale of epic to serve the Faerie Queene for six years (x.63)—a step the shepherd does not make in the fiction of the Calender, opening up an interpretive crux. If in his epic Spenser represents a full three-part process--divine vision, contempt for the world, return to the world--in his pastoral he represents only the first two parts, leaving his persona poised on the threshold of return. Presumably, Spenser does so because he understands that pastoral is a developmental genre leading to epic, and that to move fictionally into a heroic landscape would be to violate the ‘dewe’ of pastoral.103

The Shepheardes Calender as ‘a free passporte’

Finally, in the Epilogue Spenser offers his boldest declaration of the sublimity of artistic freedom. After uniting ‘subjective vision’ to ‘objective fact’--the poet’s artifact to the cosmos, himself to the deity--he addresses his poem itself, just as he had done in ‘To His Booke’:

Goe lyttle Calender, thou hast a free passeporte,
Goe but a lowly gate emongste the meaner sorte.
Dare not to match thy pype with Tityrus hys style,
Nor with the Pilgrim that the Ploughman played a whyle:
But followe them farre off, and their high steppes adore,
The better please, the worse despise, I aske nomore.
(Epilogue 7-12)
The first phrase, ‘Go lyttle Calender’, may echo ‘To His Booke’, ‘Goe little booke’ (1), but the self-quotation at the end also turns the ‘Calender’ into a perfect circle, an emblem of immortality. The self-quotation is itself an imitation, from Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde: ‘Go, litel bok, go, litel myn tragedye, / Ther God thi makere yet, er that he dye, / So sende myght to make in som comedye! / But litel book, no makyng thow n’envie, / But subgit be to alle poesye; / And kis the steppes where as thow seest pace / Virgile, Ovide, Omer, Lucan, and Stace’ (5.1786-92).104

Spenser’s conceit shows the poet not simply imitating other poets but fictionalizing his response to them: he humbly admires their achievements but boldly seeks to place himself in their company. Whereas Chaucer lists the poets in his personal canon, Spenser is more enigmatic, relying on fictional names that require interpretation: ‘Tityrus . . . Pilgrim . . . Ploughman’. The names bridge the divide between classical and medieval eras and literary forms, but, unlike Chaucer’s troupe, Spenser’s coheres in forming an advertisement for a pastoral poetry of Christian worship and Protestant reform. Whereas Chaucer ‘carefully distinguished his concerns from those of epic’, (C. Kinney 2003: 34). Spenser links his pastoral with epic.

In particular, the phrase ‘free passeporte’ transposes the rights of the English citizen to the rights of the English author.105 ‘[P]assporte’ has two interrelated meanings: a government license to travel freely in a foreign country; and, more broadly, a guarantee of safe conduct. Both apply to Spenser’s phrase; the first is especially important because it refers to the rights of the citizen, specifying those rights in terms of travel and international relations. In Immerito’s poem, however, it is not the monarch who gives the ‘free passporte’, and it is not the subject who receives it. Spenser rewrites law, turning the poet into a figure of authority, precisely because he is ‘sovereigne of song’—elevated, exalted, eternal. He makes the poem itself the free citizen able to travel abroad; and he converts European nations into the international community of immortalizing poets, Virgil to Chaucer: immortalizing, because the community spans not just place but time. Spenser stakes out the freedom of a Christian poet to traverse the controversial topics of the nation, both within time and beyond.106

Yet the ‘whole booke’ concludes with the emblem Merce non mercede. The phrase can mean ‘Grace not wages’ (a claim for the reward of a free Christian poet over the demands of the mercenary) but also ‘for reward not hire’ (a claim of authorial freedom from political power) (Cf. McCabe 1999: 574). We need to assign the Calender’s final emblem to Immerito/Spenser, because it appears after his Epilogue as the exact conclusion of his book, and unfolds three primary meanings: 1) ‘amorous’ (‘bountiful grace of favorable countenance, rather than any carnal or financial meed’); 2) ‘religious’ (‘trust in the . . . grace of God, rather than seeking the reward or wages . . . of his own works’); and 3) ‘poetic’ (‘immortality for the Calender and an enduring, though modest, fame’) (J.M. Kennedy 1980: 100-3). In the end, Spenser presents himself as a sublime author who can excel among the great poets of classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, to become England’s New Poet, and to locate artistic freedom as his legacy: the freedom to invent; the freedom to undergo transport; and finally the freedom to return to the world and lead the nation. To ‘mark’ a ‘revolution’ in English poetry--to produce one of the most important events in the history of English poetry--the New Poet presents his little Calender as a free passport, that steel in strength and time in durance shall outwear.


1In 1952, Kermode wrote, ‘It is generally acknowledged that the publication of The Shepheardes Calender, in 1579, was one of the most important events in the history of English poetry, and not only in the history of Pastoral’ (41); yet in 1954 Lewis demurred: ‘if the book were not known to be Spenser’s it would now be mentioned chiefly to be mocked. . . . Of the Shepherd’s Calendar as poetry we must frankly confess that it commits the one sin for which, in literature, no merits can compensate: it is rather dull’ (360-3). Subsequently, most major literary historians side with Kermode: e.g., Norbrook, who writes that ‘Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender marked a revolution in English poetry’ (2002: 53); and McCabe, who says that ‘The publication of The Shepheardes Calender in 1579 marked a crucial turning point in English literary history. The “new Poete” . . . issued a manifesto for a new poetics premised upon an aggressive confidence in the English language’ (1999: xi). More recently, see Kinney 2010: ‘Spenser’s eclogue book constitutes one of the most ambitious debuts of any poet in any language’ (162).
2For an early and influential statement, see Renwick’s chapter ‘The New Poetry of the Sixteenth Century’ (1925: 9-33). More recently, see Heale 2010.
3Alpers’ definition is both useful and influential: pastoral is about ‘herdsmen and their lives’ (1996: x).
4On the ‘use of pastoral for ecclesiastical criticism’ in Skelton’s poem, see Cooper 1977: 117; for Skelton’s lost eclogue based on Virgil’s second Eclogue, see 118. On Spenser’s relation to Skelton, see R. Greene 1992; E. Fowler 1992; Griffiths 2006; Segall 2007; Heale 2010: 590-4.
5R. Greene 2001: 238-43. More recently, see Rack 2015, 2019. Cf. Brown 1999 on the New Poet in Spenser’s Complaints. On Spenser as the New Poet as a term applicable to Spenser’s unfolding career, see McCabe 2015: ‘what The Shepheardes Calender strove to herald was a poet quite unlike Virgil or Ovid, a really “new” poet’ (575).
6Cicero, Letters to Atticus (1912-1918: 2: 12); see R. Greene 2001: 238, citing Otis 1963: 26-35.
7According to R. Greene, ‘In its original usage the term [neoteric] designates a school that uses the shorter, less weighty genres (elegy, lyric, epyllion) as a lever with which to renovate epic; insists on the mutual invigorations of poetry and doctrine or theory; rethinks the relations between poetry and language. . . ; and finally, positions its poetry against a horizon of presentness—in history, in politics, in social thought—even as that poetry may reach back with discrimination into the past for models’ (2001: 238).
8For the presence of pastoral during the Middle Ages, and overview studies of pastoral in the English Renaissance, see Cooper 1977, 1990, 2015.
9According to Cullen, ‘Arcadian pastoral for the most part takes as the pastoral ideal the pastor felix and the soft life of otium; correspondingly, it locates its characters in a landscape of varying degrees of idealization, a landscape originating in Theocritus’ idylls, named ‘Arcadia’ by Virgil, and explored by the Renaissance, a landscape lush and pleasant but at the same time almost always vulnerable and precarious. . . . Mantuanesque pastoral takes as its ideal the Judaeo-Christian pastor bonus, the shepherd unwaveringly committed to the flock and to the requirements for eternal salvation, and consequently one largely opposed to the shepherd of worldly felicity. In light of this ideal, the function of pastoral became one of enlightening man on the virtues of the pastor bonus and the vices of the pastor malus’ (1970: 2-3).
10Barclay 1928: i, lvii.
11Barclay 1928: lxin4.
12Tottel does not assign ‘Harpalus’ to Surrey, but in 1600 England’s Helicon does. Modern editors do not include the poem in the Surrey canon. Thus, we have only a single pastoral lyric of his.
13I know of no detailed study of the six as a group, and their influence on Spenser, although Cooper 1977 is a vital step. Little 2013 is notable for detailed discussion of Barclay, Googe, and Spenser, as well as Langland’s Piers Plowman.
14Kearney 2011 summarizes: ‘As many scholars have noted, the elaborate presentation of The Shepheardes Calender would necessarily call to mind the annotated humanist edition generally and Renaissance editions of pastoral poems specifically. To certain early modern readers, this new poem by the New Poet would look a lot like Renaissance productions of Virgil’s Eclogues’ (114). Other critics cite other continental editions, and Kearney himself features the Geneva Bible. Woudhuysen 1980 identifies the 1571 edition of Sannazaro’s Arcadia by Francesco Sansovino as a model for the Calender (noted Brooks-Davies 1995: 9, citing also B. Smith 1980 and Heninger 1988).
15For work on friendship as the solution to the problem of patronage in the Calender—the problem of being sincere when requesting help in the form of money and support--see LaBreche 2010: ‘the eclogues serve as friendly dialogues that allow peers to attest to one another’s worth and that allow the reader—and the patron—to examine the honest exchanges of friends’ “private” conversations’ (97). On ‘the ecology of patronage’ in Spenser’s ‘poetic career’, see McCabe 2016, esp. 239-52 (240).
16Bland 1998: 100; Erickson 2010: 117.
17The Kalander is a translation of the Compost et Kalendrier des Bergiers from fifteenth-century France; see Cooper 1977: 71-2, 78. According to Halpern, the Kalender is presented ‘in mnemonic formulas or narrative or graphic forms: the Pater Noster, the Salutation of Our Lady, the Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments of the Lord, the five commandments of the church, the ten commandments of the devil (rhymed), the visions of Lazarus depicting the torments of the damned, the “trees” of vice and virtue, and so on’ (1991: 190).
18Letter 4.21; Hadfield 2012: 150. For recent discussion of the importance of the almanac tradition and the double-communication of the title page, see Shinn 2009.
19Virgil likely took cues from Theocritus, who uses the Idylls to respond to Homeric epic (Halperin 1983: 174-7, 223-30, 237-43, 250-3); from the Roman political trajectory for the statesman, the cursus honorum, or course of offices (Farrell 2002: 35); and from the Callimachean tradition of the recusatio, or refusal to write in the higher genres (Cameron 1995: 266-67, 437, 454-83), the topic of Eclogue 6.1-10.
20Classicists tend to agree that Virgil did not write these verses, but
observes that we do not know for certain (
1986: 84-7
21Wilson-Okamura 2010: 87; see Martindale 1997: 107.
22John of Garland, Parisiana poetria, trans. Lawler 1974: 38-41. For excerpts, diagrams, and discussion, see Ziolkowski and Putnam 2008: 744-50. On the Virgilian rota as a concept in poetics, see Cleland 2012.
23A. Fowler 1982: 240. On georgic in the pastoral of Virgil and Spenser, see Tylus 1988. On Spenser and georgic, including in FQ I, see Sessions 1980, 1990; Gregerson 2008. On the ‘georgic revolution’ in seventeenth-century England, see Low 1985 (on Spenser, see 35-70).
24Vida, De Arte Poetica 1.459-61, qtd. Burrow 2010: 408. Renwick sees Spenser following Vida (1925: 36); see also Lewis 1954: 357.
25One wonders whether Barclay imagined his planned translation of Gower’s Confessio Amantis to be his epic (see Barclay 1928: xxxvii-xxxviii
26Cf. Alpers 1996: ‘The most common schematic placing of pastoral was by means of the genera dicendi—the high, middle, and low styles . . . of . . . Virgil’s three major works. . . . But nothing very sustained came out of all this’ (9). Little rightly takes issue with both Alpers and Montrose for locating the inauguration of English pastoral in Spenser, rather than in Barclay and later Googe, suggesting that ‘a broad approach to pastoral as “writing rural labor” can also illuminate Spenser’s poem’ (2013: 143). Specifically, she writes, ‘In invoking an earlier symbolic imagination around labor, Piers [in Maye and October] and Davy [in September] become signs of what needs to be repressed and rewritten for the newly rediscovered pastoral to function. . . . The significance of Spenser’s novelty, then, is that it draws attention not so much to his skill as a poet . . . but to the shift in the symbolic imagination around labor that made pastoral possible’ (145). Nonetheless, Little concludes, Spenser is the first English pastoralist to foreground the identification of the shepherd with the poet, rather than the priest, as both Barclay and Googe had done when following Mantuan (161-2).
27It will take until 1582 for Richard Stanyhurst to English the Virgilian verses prefacing the Aeneid: Thee first foure bookes of Virgil his Aeneis (Biiir).
28See Lewis on the Calender as ‘in some sort the interruption of a life’s work already begun’ in the so-called lost works--‘Dreames, Legendes, Pageaunts, “sonetts”, and a Court of Cupide’—which Lewis judges to be ‘written work better than the Calendar and more like the Faerie Queene’ (1954: 357).
29In this group, Chaucer, Gower, Lydgate, Skelton, and Marvell are largely uninterested in genre patterning (on ‘medieval literary careers’ as that of ‘practice’ rather than ‘program’, see R. Edwards 2002: 104). The others exhibit intermittent representations; on Wyatt and Surrey, see P. Cheney 2011: 115-38; on Marlowe, P. Cheney 1997; on Donne, P. Cheney 2011: 280-7, 2018; on Herbert, Peterson 2019; and on Milton, P. Cheney 2015. For the pioneering career patterning of Isabel Whitney (brother to Geoffrey), see P. Cheney 2011: 231-40. On later women writers, see Woods, et al. 2002. Cf. Gascoigne, who, in the prefatory letter to The Posies (1575), a revised edition of the Hundreth Sundrie Flowers (1573), identifies his book as structured by ‘three sundrie sortes of Posies: Floures, Hearbes, and Weedes’, but he offers these literary kinds not so much as a career sequence as an index to three different possible experiences for his reader: the flowers are ‘pleasant’; the herbs, ‘profitable’, the weeds, ‘medicinable’ (Pigman 2000: 367). Spenser may in part have plucked his developmental model of a literary career out of Gascoigne’s moralized posturing as a reformed prodigal poet writing poems of ‘sundrie sortes’ (on Gascoigne as one of the leading ‘Elizabethan Prodigals’, see Helgerson 1976 [book title]).
30On Piers’ revised Virgilian career, see P. Cheney 1993: 27-38; on Cuddie’s offsetting of the Virgilian career with an Ovidian model, see P. Cheney 1997: 133-5.
31For the history of this Dantean triad, and the peculiarity of Spenser’s assigning it to Chaucer, see P. Cheney 2002.
32Coolidge 1965: 11.
33Cf. Durr 1957; Hamilton 1968; D. Cheney 1989. Piepho 2010 argues that Mantuan serves as Spenser’s ‘precedent for such an organizational principle’, and he usefully traces the seasonal progression of Mantuan’s ten eclogues, as well as the work’s ‘tropological organization’ from ‘this world’ to ‘the spiritual life’ (578).
34Braden 1999: 60, following Curtius on Dante: ‘A structure of language and thought is created . . . as inalterable as the cosmos. . . . Poetic production can be compared with that of the creator of the universe’ (1953: 379, 400).
35On the idea that ‘Art should embody the sempiternal beauty of the divine pattern’, see Heninger 1974: 5; more recently, see P. Cheney 2011: 66-89, 185-207. On the calendar ‘form’ of SC, see Heninger 1962, 1990. Critics discuss the structure of the poem under different rubrics. Many follow E.K., who in The generall argument introduces a pattern of ‘three formes or ranckes’: Januarye, June, November, and December are ‘Plaintive’, because they show Colin delivering various complaints; March, Aprill, and August are ‘recreative’, because they ‘conceive matter of love, or commendation of special personages’; and Februarie, Maye, Julye, September, and October are ‘Moral’, because they are ‘mixed with some Satyrical bitternesse’ (26-31). Other critics follow Cullen in dividing the eclogues between Arcadian and Mantuanesque: typically, five eclogues—Februarie, Maye, Julye, September, and October—qualify as Mantuanesque, with the last two well known to be modeled on Mantuan; and the remaining seven qualify as Arcadian. And still other critics follow Greg, who highlights Colin’s central role in Spenser’s structure: Colin appears in Januarye, June, and December, the opening, middle, and concluding eclogues; his songs are sung in Aprill and August, the fourth and eighth; and his career is discussed in September and October, the ninth and tenth (1906: 91).
36Woods 1990: 711. The first to note ‘the twelve or thirteen sundry sorts of verses’ was William Webbe (c. 1550-1591) in his 1586 Discourse of English Poetrie (G.G. Smith 1904: 1: 270).
37March uses a version of ‘tail rhyme’, which repeats two tetrameter tercets, each rhyming aab (aabaab); and October uses iambic pentameter to rhyme abbaba, an ‘elegant overlap of couplet and quatrain’ (Woods 1990: 711).
38On the ottava rima as the dominant verse form for Italian epic, esp. that of Ariosto and Tasso, and developed in England first by Wyatt in ‘some fifteen poems, most monostrophic’, see Preminger, et al. 2012: 986. The topic of June, as mentioned, is the relation between pastoral and epic.
39On the history of the canzone, esp. in Italy from Dante to Petrarch to Tasso, including Dante’s discussion in De Vulgari Eloquentia as the best form for the topics of military valor, love, and virtue, see Fucilla and Kleinhenz 2012: 190-1. On the canzone in sixteenth-century England, see Mumford 1960.
40For more detail on the sestina, including its relation to Philip Sidney’s sestina, see Commentary at Aug 151-89.
41For examples of later half-lines, see FQ II.x.68.2, III.iii.50.1. On Spenser’s half-lines, see Brown 2018.
42The Spenser Encyclopedia (1990) has no fewer than thirteen entries, not merely ‘language, general, and resources exploited in rhyme’, but also ‘archaism’, ‘dialect’, ‘etymology’, ‘glossing’, ‘morphology and syntax’, ‘names’, ‘neologisms’, ‘pronunciation’, ‘puns’, ‘rhyme’, and ‘versification’ (see Maley 2001: 162). Until Strang 1990 wrote her Encyclopedia entry on ‘language’, the last major study had been Sugden 1936. Since 1990, three other important overview essays have appeared: Maley 2001; Stephens 2010; Hecht 2017.
43Jonson is discussing Spenser broadly, but his comment applies more directly to SC than to any other work in the Spenser canon.
44Stephens 2010: 371-2: in 1932, McElderry found 163 archaic words in the Calender, while in 1992 Blank found nearly twice that number.
45The poem’s archaism may not have succeeded in being taken forward as part of the success of English poetry, but there is much in SC of what Lewis (1954) terms ‘golden’ poetry (64-5), a style of verse that does get taken forward, including in FQ: e.g., Colin’s exquisite Song of Elisa in Aprill, or Hobbinol’s description of the beautiful pastoral landscape to open June, or Colin’s visionary Elegy of Queen Dido in November.
46Stephens 2010: 380-1. As Stephens demonstrates, critics have come down on one side of this question or another, with Stephens herself leaning away from transcendence toward contingency. For a challenge to the binary, see below.
47Critics continue to debate how to classify the English Renaissance and Reformation: is it a ‘revolution’ (Lewis 1954: 323) or an ‘evolution’ (Hattaway 2000: 4-5)? In his monumental volume in the Oxford English Literary History series, Simpson puts ‘revolution’ in his title: ‘Reform and Cultural Revolution’ (2002). For a defense of ‘revolution’, see P. Cheney 2011: 12-13.
48For Puritan poet, see Hume 1984: 2-3; for progressive Protestant poet, see Waters 1974; King 1985: 23. Reacting to both King and Hume, Norbrook is disinclined to ‘draw . . . sharp . . . distinctions between these categories’, recalling that Spenser’s language in the three ecclesiastical eclogues, Maye, Julye, and September, ‘led many later Puritans to claim him as one of their own’. In particular, Norbrook aligns Spenser with a ‘tradition of reforming, prophetic poetry’ in such pseudo-Chaucerian works as The Pilgrim’s Tale and The Plowman’s Tale—a ‘poetry of social and religious protest’—and argues that the ‘ideal poet presented in The Shepheardes Calender is a Protestant heroic poet who aspires to court favour but retains a measure of prophetic independence’ (2002: 55, 54, 53, 80).
49McEachern 2010: 40; Gless 1994: 157. Cullen has been influential in emphasizing the dialogic nature of SC (1970: 29-119). R. Greene 1990 discusses Spenser’s dialogism in terms of periphrasis and perspectivism; for extension of this principle, see R. Greene 2001: 243.
50McEachern 2010, who concludes, ‘Spenser’s stake’ in this question ‘lay less in urging a particular position than with using [it] . . . as fodder for poetry in a prophetic vein and in a civic register’ (41).
51In 1936, Parmenter first identified this event as an important topic of SC, and in 1961 McLane followed up with a more detailed study (13-26). In particular, McLane argued that in November Spenser uses Colin’s elegy on the death of Queen Dido to ‘portray… the figurative death of Elizabeth, who in 1579 was “dead” to the Leicester-Sidney group by reason of her policy of marrying the Duke of Alençon’ (1961: 47). Today, critics resist McLane’s oversimplified formulations but accept his (and Parmenter’s) basic idea (e.g., Montrose 1979; Norbrook 2002; C. Kinney 2010; Pugh 2016).
52For more on Singleton, see the SC Textual Introduction.
53See Mallette 1990: 622.
56Montrose 1979 calls the three courtships ‘amorous’, ‘social’, and ‘spiritual’ (35); he links each with the three forms or ranks mentioned by E.K. in The generall argument, Plaintive, Recreative, Moral (37-51); and he sees the ‘sequence’ of courtships ‘constitut[ing] a progression that culminates in November’s revaluation of the whole enterprise [the poet’s career] in light of eternity’: ‘Colin now sings in a visionary, prophetic mode that leaves the courtships of Rosalind and Eliza behind’ (51). Montrose also underscores ‘an explicit acknowledgement of the analogy of sexual and social modes of literary courtship. Eliza and Rosalind are realizations of the dual aspect of the Petrarchan mistress’ (53).
57Montrose 1979: 35. On Petrarch and Petrarchism in Spenser’s career, see P. Cheney 2016, which includes an overview of criticism.
58Montrose 1979: 49; see 51, 52; nonetheless, Montrose sees ‘transcendence’ as ‘ethical and political impotence’ (54).
59On the Petrarchan problem, see P. Cheney 2011: 163-84, 2016.
60Cf. Oram 2017: in Colin Clout, the ‘new affirmation of the personal involves a reconception of the laureate role. . . . As love’s priest, the poet claims a new public office, teaching about the [Lucretian] nature of things’ (20-1; see 22). Cf. also P. Cheney 2010b.
61Alpers 1996: 66; see also 1996: ix, 1972: 359, 362. Responding to Alpers, Helgerson, Montrose, and Berger have been pioneering on this vocational topic. Helgerson draws attention to the innovative way that Spenser depended on the printing press to present himself as a debuting laureate or national poet, using poetry to shape the destiny of England, in reaction to the mid-Tudor default, the amateur, who uses poetry largely as a toy and pastime for the purpose of entertainment (1983). Montrose sees Spenser using pastoral to explore the relation between poet and sovereign, who work in a reciprocal relationship to fashion each other mutually (1986; see 1979, 1980, 1983). Berger sees Spenser using pastoral to critique the ‘paradise principle’: ‘the longing for paradise as the psychological basis of the pastoral retreat from life’ (1988: 284, 277).
62Berger 1988: 282. According to Berger, the eclogues ‘suggest the pastoral paradox that nature is really a synonym for art’: ‘bird, bush, grass, weather, sheep, and god . . . refer primarily to the topoi and symbols of previous literature. . . . [T]he intent is to imitate and signify poetry’ (1988: 325, 364).
63On Virgil’s use of ‘dismemberment’ across several characters in the Eclogues to ‘protect’ his authorship, see Patterson 1987: 4.
64For detail, see the headnote to the Epistle. McCabe 2010 suggests that Spenser’s secrecy owes a ‘great deal’ to ‘George Gascoigne, who skillfully wove webs of mystery around his work by generating a forest of initials and pseudonyms’ (466, citing K. Wilson 2006: 1-51). McCabe also contextualizes SC as one of several works that Spenser and Harvey published between 1577 (Harvey’s Ciceronianus and Rhetor) and 1580 (Letters) (2010: 466).
65For magisterial studies of the history of fame, see Braudy 1986; Hardie 2012.
66For these terms, see P. Cheney 2008: 121, responding to Kastan 2001: 16.
67For this model of authorship, see P. Cheney 2010b, 2001. For a similar model, see Loewenstein 2010. Prose versions that anticipate Spenser’s model include Fox’s Acts and Monuments and Holinshed’s Chronicles; but the closest verse model might be Tottel’s 1557 miscellany, Songs and Sonnets, identified on the title page as being by Surrey but not by him exclusively, for, within the work, other authors are identified, such as Wyatt and Grimald (this constitutes a major difference from SC).
68Similar, though not identical, claims can be made about other Spenser books, not just Colin Clouts, and esp. FQ.
69H.D. Smith 1952: 2. For an influential study of this version of pastoral, see Poggioli 1975.
70Puttenham 2007: 381. See esp. Empson 1935, for whom pastoral ‘put[s] . . . the complex into the simple’, the gentleman or courtier into the shepherd and poet (23). For Empson’s influence on late twentieth-century pastoral criticism, see Alpers 1996: 37-43. For the ‘pastoral of power’, see Montrose 1980.
71March is the main month dealing with the family (see Commentary).
72Freedom has no entry in four major reference works on Spenser: Spenser Encyclopedia 1990; Hadfield, Cambridge Companion 2001; van Es, Critical Companion 2006; McCabe, Oxford Handbook 2010. I have found only one essay, Woods 2001, which mentions SC only once (30), focusing on FQ and Mother Hubberd, and concluding, ‘Spenser’s poetry is his freedom’ (15). More detailed discussions exist for Sidney (Woods 1990), Marlowe (P. Cheney 1997, 2009), Shakespeare (Hadfield 2005; Greenblatt 2010; Fernie 2017), and Jonson (Sanders 1998). Yet critics have long been telling stories about Spenser’s professional ‘independence’ (Norbrook 2002: 80). Renwick says that Spenser ‘persisted in his own way, for he had other authority to show for all he did’ (1925: 32), while McCabe observes that ‘artistic freedom . . . lent the Calender its edge’ (2010: 468). According to Pugh, ‘the problem evoked [in October] . . . is not merely the failure of the Queen to extend patronage to poets. . . . It is the condition of reliance on the monarch, with the obligations it brings and the constraints it places on the poet’s freedom’ (2016: 181; cf. 98-9). However, Pugh, like other critics, does not discuss Spenser’s discourse of freedom, or make the topic central to SC.
73OED overwhelmingly assigns negative connotations to ‘boast’—‘To speak ostentatiously’—but the word could also mean, simply, ‘To extol’.
74Feb 42; Maye 155; June 13; Nov 179; Dec arg.4, 52; Epilogue 7.
75Collinson uses these terms to speak of ‘The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I’ (1997: title). Lewis would disagree, for he asserts that most sixteenth-century ‘men . . . ignored the few who spoke for liberty’ (1954: 41; see 63), as would Simpson, who finds ‘a narrative of diminishing liberties’ in sixteenth-century England (2002: 1). Yet for counter-views, see Guy 1995, who sees only the 1590s as the time that government clamped down on freedom; Peltonen 1995, who tracks republican thought back into the sixteenth century; and esp. Skinner 1978, who is instrumental in charting the history of liberty as tied to European and English republics (see also Skinner 1998).
74See Norbrook 2002; Hadfield 1998, 2003; Montrose 2002; Hammill 2003; Baker 2001, 2010. In 1998, Hadfield first raised the question, ‘Was Spenser a Republican’ (essay title), and answered yes, to be followed by Montrose in 2002, who pivots off of Collinson’s aside on ‘Spenser’s barely suppressed republicanism’ in the Grindal affair (1997: 133n42), to suggest that ‘Spenser’s political sympathies were “republican”’ (2002: 914).
75See Hadfield 2012: 63-6, 88-91.
76Jardine and Grafton 1990. Baker 2010 shows how Smith toes the party line of the Elizabethan regime in emphasizing the role of the sovereign, at the same time that Smith reminds Englishmen that their country was a ‘mixed’ monarchy, combining government by ‘one alone’ (the queen) with government by both ‘the smaller number’ (Parliament) and ‘the multitude’ (the people) (Smith 1982: 49, 52). Baker argues that in SC ‘Spenser’s political sympathies . . . lie with Thomas Smith’ (2010: 59).
77In his overview study, Baker 2010 vacillates between a political model of the man and an aesthetic model of the author: ‘What, then, of Spenser’s political influences? . . . Perhaps it would be better to say that Spenser was influenced by that complex of ideas that came to be associated with Smith and that was (variously) elaborated out of his writings’ (2010: 61). Thus, Baker concludes: ‘Spenser’s work . . . cannot be subsumed under a single, consistent vision. Understanding Spenser’s politics . . . leads us to the place where The Faerie Queene begins: with doubtful “Allegories” and “darke conceit[s]’” (62). This idea coheres with that of McEachern on Spenser’s religion, cited earlier (2010: 40-1).
78Cf. Montrose 2002, who has called for ‘close readings of the complex operations by which figurative language produces knowledge and power, and by which it shapes experience and belief’ (908).
79For a recent, authoritative study of patronage in the Renaissance, see McCabe 2016.
80The only critic to discuss republicanism in SC is Montrose, whose brief remarks concentrate on textual ‘markers’ for the ‘danger’ of ‘free speech’, such as the ‘cautionary myth of Niobe’ at Aprill 86-90, the reference to Algrind in Julye, and the emphasis on language that conceals political critique in September (2002: 914-6). Most commentary attends to later works, e.g., FQ. For commentary on the importance of free speech during the Elizabethan (as well as Jacobean) era, see Colclough 2005; Kuzner 2012. In particular, Kuzner follows Cheney 2009 in emphasizing Marlowe’s poetic freedom.
81Hadfield 2012: 120, 150; see Piepho 2010: 573.
82McLaren 1999: 159, cited Montrose 2002: 911.
83See Hadfield 2012: 5, 125-7; Danner 2011.
84As Berger emphasizes, ‘both in subject and in style, September is the eclogue most directly concerned with the failure of communication’ (1988: 309).
85According to Crawforth, ‘Hobbinol’s anxiety about his own ability to understand the true meaning of Diggon’s language reflects efforts by Protestant polemicists to show that many of those who speak, read, and write English do so inaccurately because they are ignorant of its true origins’—origins that Crawforth finds ‘a group of scholars working in Archbishop Matthew Parker’s household [aiming] to preserve, edit, and publish [in the form of] Old English manuscripts’, on the grounds that such manuscripts reflect the originary form of Christianity (2011: 294). Crawforth objects to the extensive work that locates the origins of the Calender’s commitment to the ‘Mother tonge’ simply in Chaucer and medieval culture, because this origin cannot account for Spenser’s criticism of those who have ‘diluted the purity of the English language with excessive borrowings, of which Chaucer was the widely acknowledged champion in Spenser’s day’ (296). Alternatively, she suggests, ‘Spenser follows the early scholars of Old English, whose work he knows well, in locating his ideal church in Anglo-Saxon England’ (301); and, in the process, he produced ‘a word-centered poetic consciousness’ that foregrounds ‘a rhetoric of linguistic estrangement’ designed to ‘criticize the Elizabethan Church’ (309)
86See Hadfield 2012: 53, 67-8.
87According to Baker, ‘what Smith wanted was to exclude from absolute power one particular member of the governing class: Elizabeth I’ (2010: 57)
88As scholars point out, the mirror derives from Phaedrus 255D, and becomes a conventional metaphor for representing the ‘Platonic theory’ that ‘mortal beauty reflects that of immortality. . . . Ficino asserts that “the single face of God shines successively in three mirrors . . . the Angelic Mind, the World Soul and the [material] Body of the World” (Commentary, 5.4)’ (McCabe 1999: 562; see Var 7: 388; Ellrodt 1960: 32-3). Exhaustive scholarship on Spenser’s Platonism fills books (Ellrodt 1960; Bieman 1988; Quitslund 2001; Borris, Quitslund, and Kaske 2009). For recent overviews, see Borris, Quitslund, and Kaske 2009: 1-14; Escobedo 2010: 521-35. For a recent revisionary work on the specifically sublime Platonism of Spenser, see Borris 2017.
89Modern critics periodically link Spenser with Longinus: Nohrnberg 1976: xii, 192n, 347; Murrin 1980: 24-5; McKeown 2005: 48-9; J. Anderson 2009: 298; Borris 2010: 450 (the single reference in the Oxford Handbook); P. Cheney 2010a: 151-3. On the history of the link between Spenser and Longinus, tracing to the early eighteenth century, see P. Cheney 2018, chapter 2. On the longstanding classical inscription of the sublime independent of Longinus, see Porter 2016; on the same topic applied to the medieval sublime, see Jaeger 2010. As Porter summarizes, ‘Sublimity survived into later antiquity even when Longinus never did, because the sublime was conveyed by traditions independently of Longinus both before and after him’ (19). We have no evidence that Spenser knew Longinus, but recent scholarship uncovers important lines of transmission neglected in previous scholarship, and these lines include many authors whom Spenser imitates, from Virgil, Ovid, and Lucretius to Petrarch, Chaucer, and Tasso (Cheney 2018). Most importantly for October, Longinus himself singles Plato out as a sublime author (4.4-7: 147, 12.3: 157, 13.1-4: 157-8, 14.1: 159, 23.4: 168, 28.2: 171, 32.5: 174, 35.1: 177, 36.2: 178), and Porter has been instrumental in tracking the Platonic sublime (2016: 557-601), while Refini 2012 extends the discussion to Renaissance Italian Neoplatonism. As Porter puts the case, ‘The Platonising tradition that swept across Europe in the wake of Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, touching everything from theology to theories of art and aesthetics, has to be reckoned as one of the main contributing factors in the spread of the sublime independently of Longinus’ (39).
90Nicholson’s 2014 project on Spenser’s ‘strange’ eloquence can be brought into alignment with the sublime. She critiques critical narratives about the beginning of modern English literature: the ‘fantasy’ that ‘eloquence is the essence of sociability’, and that ‘mankind’s natural vagrancy yields to the attractive power of language’ (1), depicted by the story of Orpheus using song to tame nature and thereby to become the civilizing agent of society. As Nicholson points out, the myth of the civic Orpheus also includes its own disintegration, represented when the poet loses his wife Eurydice to the Underworld, but especially when the Maenads dismember him and cast his head in the river Hebrus, as it continues to sing (5). According to Nicholson, ‘It is this antisocial, outcast Orpheus who presides over the most significant stylistic innovations of the late sixteenth century, so much so that outlandishness becomes not simply the point of departure for English authors but the point of arrival as well’: Spenser paves the way for Lyly and Marlowe in achieving ‘renown by subjecting English to extreme elaborations, even deformations, in the name of eloquence’ (6). In particular, she challenges Helgerson and his heirs, who tether eloquence to a triumphalist myth about the writing of English nationhood. As Nicholson argues, ‘eloquence’ is ‘a more disorienting and disruptive force’ than criticism has allowed (7). On Spenser’s (and Harvey’s) ‘Strange Poetics’, cf. Wadoski 2015 (title).
123P. Cheney 2010a.
91On the sixteenth-century renaissance of Longinus and the emergence of the English English word ‘sublime’, see P. Cheney 2010a, 2018. Cognates of the noun date to the late fifteenth century, as the OED records.
92See Norbrook 1999: 212-21.
93The above discussion borrows from Cheney 2018, introduction and chapter 1.
94Working from November, Knapp sees Spenser inaugurating a poetic model about Queen Elizabeth’s England as Elysium; yet, he argues, ‘Far from celebrating Eliza’s England as a true Elizium, . . . The Shepheardes Calender seems to attack the idea of applying the golden-age topos of Virgil’s fourth eclogue to Elizabeth in any materially realized or realizable fashion. The poem appears to claim instead that both the empirical inadequacy of Elizabethan England to this topos . . . and the logical incompatibility of Elizabeth’s virginity with material fulfillment . . . should force Englishmen to turn their eyes heavenward’ (99). Even so, Knapp continues, ‘Spenser had highlighted Elizian immateriality so as to insist, it seems, on the exclusively spiritual nature of the ideal that Elizabeth represents’ (1994: 99). In his chapter on ‘Eliza and Elizium’, Knapp uses cognates of the word ‘sublime’ some ten times (yet without reference to Longinus or the sixteenth-century rise of the sublime), as when calling The Faerie Queene ‘the major instance of Elizabethan literary sublimity’ (1994: 64).
95For Longinus, ‘imitation and emulation of great writers of the past’ is a major ‘road to sublimity’ (13.2: 158).
96LaBreche also notes this definition (2010: 101). Morley was the first to see a pun: ‘The “frank Shepherd” in his mind was Clement [sic] Marot’ (Var 7: 414).
97Patterson 1987: 107-8; see also 128-30.
98For the green cabinet as ‘the locus amoenus of Greek pastoral poetry’, see Rosenmeyer 1969, who borrows his book title from Spenser (vii).
99For ‘stately stage’ as also the theater of state at Oct 112, see Commentary.
100Spenser uses the phrase ‘life and liberty’ at FQ II.v.13.6, as well as in A Vewe (Gonville and Caius MS) 150 (twice). In A Vewe as well, the word ‘liberty’ appears an additional twelve times: 11, 12 (twice), 40, 78 (twice), 91, 150, 101 (twice), 179 (twice). Concepts of freedom also pepper the treatise.
101Thanks to Andrew Zurcher for help with this formulation. According to John Ponet, in A shorte treatise of politike power and of the true obedience which subjectes owe to kynges and other civile gouernours, with an exhortacion to all true naturall Englishe men (1556), ‘Goddes worde, will and commaundement is, that he that wilfully killeth a man, shall also be killed by man: that is, the Magistrate. But this lawe hathe not ben observed and all wayes executed, but kinges and princes vpon affection have dispensed and broken it, graunting life and libertie to traitours, robbers, murtherours, &c’ (B4v). See also Roger Ascham, A report and discourse written . . . of the affaires and state of Germany and the Emperour Charles his court (1570: 6v); Raphael Holinshed, The firste [laste] volume of the chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande (1577: 39, 161, 162).
102See D.L. Miller 1979: 235.
103For details, see P. Cheney 1993: 107-8.
104See the Commentary on the genealogy of this conceit, including Chaucer’s imitation of Statius and its afterlife in Lydgate, Skelton, and James VI of Scotland.
105On Spenser’s fraught paradigm of ‘artistic liberty and colonial censorship’, presented especially in FQ IV.pr and A Vewe, tracing to Plato’s Republic (where Socrates banishes most kinds of poetry from his ideal state), see McCabe 2009: 433-52. For detailed work on ‘passporte’ in SC but esp. its presence in Mother Hubberd, see E. Cheney 2021.
106For the phrase ‘free passporte’ alluding to Ovid’s exile, see Pugh 2005: 17-18, as well as 37-8 on the Ovidian nature of the Epilogue as a whole.