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The Style of Faerie Queene

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The Style Of “The Faerie Queene”

The epic allegorical poem “The Faerie Queene” was written by Edmund Spenser in the Renaissance Age. During that Age, Spenser invented his own writing style which was different from the style of his contemporary poets. He made use of a specific stanza in the Faerie Queene which later came to be known as “The Spenserian Stanza”. This stanza shows Spenser’s ingenuity and originality as a craftsman in verse. Indeed, it was the most outstanding contribution to English prosody. This stanza has been described as liquid, fluent and luxuriant.

The Spenserian Stanza is composed of nine lines, the last line being an Alexandrine and slightly longer than the other eight. An Alexandrine is a line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables. It tends to sum up the verse, as if at the end of each stanza there were a strong and clear pause. Spenser has used the rhyme scheme of “a b a b b c b c c” in his epic poem. A rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhymes at the end of each line of a poem or song. It is usually referred to by using letters to indicate which lines rhyme.

“Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske, (a)

As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds, (b)

Am now enforst a far unfitter taske, (a)

For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds, (b)

And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds; (b)

Whose prayses having slept in silence long, (c)

Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds (b)

To blazon broad emongst her learned throng: (c)

Fierce warres and faithfull loues shall moralize my song.” (c) (Alexandrine)

(Lines 1-9, Invocation)

The rhythm of the stanza is iambic pentameter for the first eight lines and iambic hexameter for the ninth line. Rhythm is the measured flow of words and phrases in verse or prose as determined by the relation of long and short or stressed and unstressed syllables.

“A Gentle knight was pricking on the plaine,” (Line 1, Canto I)

Iambic Pentameter

“As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fitt” (Line 9, Canto I)

Iambic Hexameter

Iamb is a type of foot containing an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.

“His Lady sad to see his sore con-straint” (Line 163, Canto I)


Foot is a pair of stressed and unstressed syllable. Meter is a recurring pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in the lines of a set length. When a meter is composed of five feet, then it is called pentameter. And when it has eight feet, it is known as hexameter.

Syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech words. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel) with optional initial and final margins (typically consonants). Words that are made up of more than one syllable have at least one stressed and one unstressed syllable. The stressed syllables are the ones which are emphasized or spoken more loudly. The unstressed syllables are not emphasized; they are not spoken as loudly. The example of stressed and unstressed syllables is as follows:

“That soone to loose her wicked bands did her constraine.” (Line 180, Canto 1)

Spenser has used archaic language throughout the poem. He has made use of personification to represent a non-human thing as if it were human. Personification is a figure of speech where human qualities are given to animals, objects or ideas.

“Whiles sad Night over him her mantle black doth spred.” (Line 351, Canto I)

In this line, the night has been personified as a lady who covers Morpheus (The God of Sleep) in her black gown.

“Watching to banish Care their enimy,” (Line 356, Canto I)

Here Spenser has given human qualities to care. It is not allowed by the guarding dogs at the gate of the dwelling of Morpheus to enter because it will create tension during the sleep of their master.

“Might there be heard: but careless Quiet lyes,” (Line 368, Canto I)

This line depicts that quiet lies carelessly wrapped in eternal silence far from enemies.

There are examples of Spenser’s capacity to make use of appropriate similes in The Faerie Queene. In Stanza 21 Canto I, there is the comparison of the monster’s numerous progeny to the numerous creatures which breed in the mud left by the retreating flood in the river Nile.

“As when old father Nilus gins to swell

With timely pride above the Aegyptian vale,

His fattie waves do fertile slime outwell,

And overflow each plaine and lowly dale:

But when his later spring gins to avale,

Huge heapes of mudd he leaves, wherein there breed

Ten thousand kindes of creatures, partly male

And partly female of his fruitful seed;

Such ugly monstrous



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