Saturday, December 19, 2015

Spenser's Amoretti & Lord Oxford

© Eric L. Miller, 2000/2015
The scholars claim that Spenser’s Amoretti was written about 1595 (i.e., the date of publication) because it was bound with Epithalamion, allegedly Spenser’s own marriage song, and hence must have been about his future wife-to-be. It is conceded by most scholars that Spenser’s portrait of his intended showed a very idealized fiancé, indeed. Some scholars are sure that a number of the poems were actually written probably to “Rosalind” and date from over a decade earlier, in 1580. The title page for Spenser’s Amoretti (which we are assured by professor Rollins was never written by the author) states: Amoretti and Epithalamion. Written not long since by Edmunde Spenser. And the title page also gives the date of printing, 1595. Is there any merit to the scholars claims that Amoretti was written to his fiancé? Is there any intrinsic or extrinsic evidence that the two volumes, Amoretti and Epithalamion were written “not long since” – meaning, in the near past?
If we accept as credible the claim that some of the poems in either collection were written as early as 1580, then we cannot credit the title page. This is because a span of time of fifteen years (from 1580 to 1595) is a little more than “not long since.” Obviously, none of the poems, if written circa 1580, could have been written to Spenser’s alleged fiancé He met her, allegedly, in Ireland, sometime in the early 1590s. And, if there ever were an actual fiancé and if she is the subject of any of the poems, then we have at the outset not “poems to his fiancé” but a collection of poems to at least two persons. Fortunately, there is no need to go on with this logic, because many of the poems are clearly written to Queen Elizabeth, as shall be shown. Many of the poems are out and out pleas not be executed, beseechments that if his life is spared he will use all of his talents to immortalize the Queen’s name -- that his own talents at “immortalizing” are held to be of the highest. The proposition which is set forward here is so contra literary convention that our case must be solid to carry credibility.
The simple fact of the matter is that the first sonnet of the Amoratti speaks of the grim story we have before us, of Spenser, as with Lord Oxford, condemned to die, under sentence of death, at the Queen’s pleasure.
Happy ye leaves when as those lilly hands,
which hold my life in their dead doing might,
shall handle you and hold in loves soft bands,
like captives trembling at the victors sight.
And happy lines, on which with starry light,
‘those lamping eyes will deign sometimes to look
and read the sorrows of my dying spright
written with tears in hearts close bleeding book.
And happy rimes bath’d in the sacred brook,
of Helicon when she derived is,
when ye behold that angels blessed look,
my soul’s long lackéd food, my heavens bliss.
Leaves, lines and rimes, seek her to please alone
whom if ye please, I care for other none.
Here we do well to pause. It is clear Spenser’s life is in the hands of “dead doing might.” His situation is likened to “captives trembling at the Victor’s sight.” In the second sonnet, Spenser reveals the morbidity of his “unquiet thought.” His inner thoughts, he admonishes, to “break forth,” these thoughts, he says, that “lurkest like to viper’s brood.” These viperous thoughts seek release, he says, “some succor both to ease my smart/and also to sustain thyself with food.” But, if he should chance to see her (the Queen) he tells his other part to “fall lowly at her feet:/and with meek humbleness and afflicted mood/pardon for thee and grace for me intreat.” We are informed in the concluding couplet:
When if she grant, then live and my love cherish
if not, die soon, and I with thee will perish.
In the third sonnet he states he is forbidden to tell of his “love” in her true virtues and “titles” (“and when my pen would write her titles true/it ravished is with fancy’s wonderment.” Though he cannot name her titles aloud; he tells us he is at liberty to do so only in his own heart (“Yet in my heart, I them both speak and write/the wonder that my wit cannot endite.”
In the fifth sonnet we learn that Spenser’s “love” apparently has many enemies as well as “fair countenance like a goodly banner, spreads in defiance of all enemies” (we learn in the fifth sonnet). In sonnet eight, Spenser seems to depart from the main thrust of his poem and ends it with an anomalous remark involving another person (“Dark is the world, where your light shined never;/well is he borne, that may behold you ever.”). Who is he? Merely the “well born” (that is to say, those about her at court) who may behold her “EVER.” We shall return to this.
In the eleventh sonnet, Spenser reveals more of the truth of his situation, which is desperate:
Daily when I do seek and sue for peace,
And hostages do offer for my truth:
she cruel warrior doth her self address
to batttle, and the weary war renew’th.
Ne will be mov’d with reason or with ruth,
to grant small respiet to my restless toil:
but greedily her fell intent pursueth,
Of my poor life to make unpittied spill.
Yet my poor life, all sorrows to assail;
I would her yeild , her wrath to pacify;
but then she seeks with torment and turmoil,
to force me live, and will not let me die.
All pain hath end and every war hath peace,
but mine no price nor prayer may surcease.
If we accept that his poetry has any grounding in reality, then his life is clearly on trial. His Queen is furious with him. She forces him to live and will not let him die. (“to force me live, and will not let me die.”) The phrase itself is widely used in Elizabethan poetry, but are we really dealing with a vain poetic conceit or are we dealing with a real situation? Is the Queen really furious with him?
In the very next poem, Spenser describes the reality of his position. He is an accused traitor! Sonnet twelve tells us:
One day I sought with her heart-thrilling eyes
to make a truce, and terms to entertain;
all fearless then of so false enemies
which sought me to entrap in treason’s train.
So as I then disarmed did remain
a wicket ambuse which lay hidden long,
in the close covert of her guileful eine
thus breaking forth did thick about me throng.
Too feeble I t’abide the brunt so strong
was forced to yield my self into their hands:
who me captiving straight with rigorous wrong,
have ever since me kept in cruel bands.
So Ladie, now to you I do complain,
against your eyes that justice I may gain.
Those readers who are familiar with my biographical drama, A Labor of Love, will observe that I laid bare the charge of treason against Spenser and showed the reasons for it and the grounds of his being exiled. I did not know then, that Spenser (as well as Oxford at this same time) was actually under sentence of death, as freely and repeatedly confessed by them both.
In sonnet number thirteen, we cannot doubt to whom the poems of the Amorrati are written. He describes his love as “mild humbleness mixt with awful majesty.”
Curiously, in sonnet fourteen, we hear a repetition of the same lines as those uttered by Lord Oxford in A Poetical Rhapsody. “And if those fail, fall down and die before her,/so dying live, and living do adore her.” Time after time we shall hear in Spenser’s sonnets the same themes and phrases as used by Oxford in IPP. Sonnet number fifteen is, in fact, a take-off on Sonnet one hundred eleven which opens the section on “Anomos” poems in The Rhapsody. Spenser’s description of his situation is further enforced in sonnet twenty:
In vain I seek and sue for her grace,
and do mine humble heart before her pour,
the whiles her foot she in my neck doth place,
and tread my life down in the lowly floor.
And yet the Lyon that is Lord of power,
and reigneth over every beast in field,
in his most pride disdeigneth to devour
the silly lamb that to his might doth yield.
But she [Queen] more cruel and more savage wild,
then either Lyon or the Lyoness:
shames not to be with guiltless blood defiled,
but taketh glory in her cruelness.
Fairer than fairest, let none ever say
that ye were blooded in a yielded prey.
Sonnet number twenty-two is amazing:
This holy season fit to fast and pray,
Men to devotion ought to be inclined:
therefore, I likewise on so holy day,
for my sweet Saint some service fit will find.
Her temple fair is built within my mind,
in which her glorious image placéd is,
on which my thoughts do day and night attend
like sacred priests that never think amiss.
There I to her as th’author of my bliss,
will build an altar to appease her ire:
and on the same my heart will sacrifice,
burning in flames of pure and chaste desire:
The which vouchsafe O goddess to accept,
amongst thy dearest relics to be kept.
Here, in complete imitation of Oxford’s poem in IPP, at the end of his book of poems, Spenser shows that he is either in possession of Oxfords poems or knows them well. We need not be surprised at this, as in IPP, Oxford specifically states that the Queen is sharing his poems with her other lover, whom I have identified as Raleigh. From Raleigh, or from the Queen herself, directly to Spenser is a stone’s throw. In his prison poems, Oxford repeatedly refers to the Queen’s “ire,” the cause of his imprisonment. When Oxford was “restor’d to life” and his execution sentence was abated, he wrote a poem of self-immolation, entitled An Altar and Sacrifice to Disdain, for freeing him from love (of anyone else but the Queen that is). The poem is, in fact, shaped into an altar, and the poem is written inside of the shape. The final stanza of that poem reads:
All these I offer to Disdain,
By whome I live from fancie free.
With vow, that if I love again,
My life the sacrifice shall be.
The piece concludes with a Latin tag (“Vicmus E domitum pedibus, calcamus arorem”) from vid’s Amores, 111. Xi. 5, “Victory is mine, and I tread my conquered love under foot.” As with Oxford’s verse, Spenser repeatedly states that “death out of her shiny beams do dart.” (Sonnet twenty-four). In sonnet twenty-five he tell us he lives, just as Oxford, in “fear and hope.”
How long shall this like dying life endure,
and know no end of her own misery,
but waste and wear away in terms unsure,
twixt fear and hope depending doubtfully.
Yet better were atonce to let me die,
and show the last example of your pride:
to prove your power, which I too ell have tried.
But yet, in your hardened breast ye hide,
a close intent at last to show me grace:
then all the woes and wrecks which I abide,
as means of bliss I gladly will embrace.
And wish that more and greater they might be,
that greater meed at last may turn to me.
These exact sentiments are stated over and over by Oxford, that he can not die nor live, that he lives in hope and fear. That the Queen is blood thirsty, is repeated over and over by both Spenser and Oxford. In sonnet thirty-one, the last stanza, we read:
But my proud one doth work the greater scathe,
through sweet allurements of her lovely hue:
that she the better may in bloody bath
of such poor thralls her cruel hand embrew.
But did she know how ill these two accord,
such cruelty she would have soon abhor’d.
Would Oxford or Spenser have dared to speak in such terms to the Queen? One can well bet, not if she didn’t like it. Modern scholars (Jenkins, Erickson, Hume) confirm that Queen Elizabeth, was bloody, masculine, enjoyed seeing others suffer, attended tortures and had a streak of cruelty that no one doubts.
Again, in sonnet thirty-three we cannot doubt Spencer is talking to the Queen:
Great wrong I do, I can it not deny,
to that most sacred Empress my dear dred,
not finishing her Queen of Fairy,
that mote enlarge her living praises, dead.
And, also, Spenser, as with Oxford, tells the Queen that by killing him she will bring dishonor on herself. In sonnet thirty-six, Spenser tells the cruel facts of his existence:
Tell me when shall these weary woes have end,
or shall their ruthless torment never cease,
but all my days in pining languor spend,
without hope of assuagement or release.
Is there no means for me to purchase peace,
or make agreement with her thrilling eyes:
but that their cruelty doth still increase,
and daily more augment my miseries.
But when ye have showed all extremities,
then think how little glory ye have gained,
by slaying him, whose life though ye despise
mote have your life in honor long maintained.
But if his death which some perhaps will moan,
yet shall condemnéd be of many a one.
This is just what Oxford told her! In the next sonnet, Spenser again pleads for his life and ends his sonnet with the couplet: “Chose rather to be praised for doing good/then to be blam’d for spilling guiltless blood.” The “I love my pain” theme, so oft repeated in Oxford (“Shakespeare” Ignoto, etc.) Is also sounded by Spenser in his sonnet sixty-two:
The love which me so cruelly tormenteth,
so pleasing is my extreamest pain:
that all the more my sorrow it augmenteth,
the more I love and do embrace my bane,
He continues however, with the not too convincing desire to continue to be her thrall:
Ne do I wish (for whishing were but vain)
to be acquit for my continual smart:
but joy her thrall for ever to remain,
and yeld for pledge my poor cativéd heart;
the which that it from her may never start,
let her, if please her, find with adamant chain:
and from all wandering loves when mote pervart,
his safe assurance strongly it restrain,
only let her abstain from cruelty,
and do me not before my time to die.
Spenser is also in the same position as Oxford in that the Queen has forbidden him (them) to speak of their sorrow. Spenser responds, much as Oxford did, with the retort that since you are going to kill me at will I might as well speak. If I speak I incur your wrath, if I am silent you assume I am guilty:
Shall I then silent be or shall I speak?
And if I speak, her wrath renew I shall:
and if I silent be, my hart will break,
or choked be with overflowing gall.
Apparently, and he mentions this more than once, Spenser’s inner mind is full of vipers, overflowing gall, and, as we shall soon see, unmitigated hatred. The poem continues:
What tyranny is this both my heart to thrall,
and eke my tong with proud restrain to tie?
that neither I may speak nor think at all,
but like a stupid stock in silence die.
Yet I my heart with silence secretly
will teach to speak, and my just cause to plead:
and eke mine eyes with meek humility,
loves learnéd letters to her eyes to read.
Which her deep wit that true hearts thought can spell,
will soon conceive and learn to construe well.
A number of sonnets ensue, echoing “Shakespeare’s” sonnets and also the poems in IPP. I will select here, for our current purpose, one on Will.
The careful reader of the Amoretti will note that there is a rival poet in the pile, who is his enemy and who seeks to do him harm at court. Begining with sonnet sixty, however, we read a simile that is taken directly out of Oxford. Spenser writes:
which on each eyelid sweetly do appear
an hundred Graces as in shade to sit.
Oxford wrote:
What cunning can express
the favor of her face?
To whom in this distress,
I do appeal for grace.
A thousand Cupids fly
About her gentle eye. (Pg.563, Looney)
Perhaps this is an accidental or coincidental image, but can we say the same for “Will” in the following sonnet, number 61: (I add capitals to will)
Is it her nature or is it her Will
to be so cruel to an humbled foe?
Surely, Spenser is not directly referring to himself as a “foe” of the Queen. That cannot be his meaning, we have a play off the name “will” – as the rest of the poem shows. Continuing:
if nature, then she may it mend with skill,
if Will, then she at will may Will fogoe,
but if it is her nature and her will be so
that she will plague the man that loves her most
and take delight t’encrease a wretches woe,
then all her natures goodly gifts are lost,
And the same glorious beauties idle boast,
is but a bait such wretches to beguile:
as being long in her loves tempest tost,
she means at last to make her piteous spoil.
O fairest fair let never it be named
that so fair beauty was so fowly shamed.
And, we must ask again, does Spenser play the same game on the name “will” with this poem, sonnet number 66
When my abodes prefixéd time is spent,
my cruel fair straight bids me wend my way:
but then from heaven most hideous storms are sent
as willing me against her will to stay.
Whom then shall I or heaven or her obey?
The heavens know best what is the best for me:
but as she will, whose will my life doth sway,
my lower heaven, so it perforce must be.
And in the following stanza, Spenser identifies two persons, an unnamed person (“Will”) and the Queen. Spenser declares, not only here, but elsewhere that he is under the sway of will, that will is against him and that the Queen is influenced by will. He continues the sonnet:
But ye high heavens, that all this sorrow see,
sith all your tempests cannot hold me back:
assuage your storms, or else both you and she,
will both together me too sorely wrack.
Enough it is for one man to sustain
the storms, which she alone on me doth rain.
It is enough he has to deal with the storms that the Queen rains on him, he does not need will, too (“or else both you and she, will both together me too sorely wrack”). The second person is obviously “Will.” (“but as she will, whose Will my life doth sway.”)
The savage picture that Spenser paints of the Queen’s bloody desires is truly amazing. Even Oxford, I dare say, goes not so far, and quite sensibly, too, no doubt. He was released and Spenser was never to obtain the “grace” he sought – as Oxford tells him incidently, in IPP (“Collin thou’t never shall have grace.”). An obvious echo of “Shakespeare” sonnets is this line from sonnet number 64:
But this continual cruel civil war,
the which myself against myself do make
Of course, it is not so good as Shakespeare’s but Spenser takes all the elements of Shakespeare’s great poem for his own, rather lame version:
But when in hand my tuneless harp I take,
then do I more augment my foe’s despight:
and grief renew, and passions do awake
to battle, fresh against myself to fight.
‘Mongst whom the more I seek to settle peace,
the more I find their malice to increase.
In brief, Spenser, too, is engaged in a civil war with himself and takes the part of his foe to defeat himself. Of course Shakespeare’s sonnet is more “real.” There seems, to this writer at least, a certain insincerity in the Spencer poem, perhaps because it is self-consciously capping on Oxford’s poems and the theme of a war against himself and his parts.
It is in sonnet sixty-eight, that we learn, specifically, why Spenser was exiled, under death sentence. It was for “treason” and “heresy.” This is exactly what this writer indicated in his play, A Labor of Love, based upon an entirely separate body of evidence, which is once again here abundantly confirmed with this examination. The amazing, soon to be famous sonnet, reads:
Innocent paper, whom too cruel hand
did make the matter to avenge her ire:
and ere she could thy cause well understand,
did sacrifice unto the greedy fire.
Well worth thou to have found better hire,
than so bad end for heretics ordained:
yet heresy nor treason disdst conspire,
but plead thy master’s cause unjustly payned
Whom she all careless of his grief constrained
to utter forth the anguish of his heart
and would not hear, when he to her complained,
the piteous passion of his dying smart.
Yet live for ever though against her will,
and speak her good, though she requite it ill.
Here Spenser includes another cap on one of the Shakespeare Sonnets as well as various poems in IPP. In IPP, too, Oxford complains that she destroys his poems and does not want to hear any of his complaints or sorrows, but only praises to her beauty confessions of his complete love for her, and that he will never love another if she will but let him live.
There is no sniveling depth to which Spenser will not crawl in fawnish obsequiousness to his Queen. He adopts in this next poem the old Jewish Proverb: “Lord set fire to my neighbors house but spare mine!” In sonnet 69 he writes:
Fair cruel, why are ye so fierce and cruel?
Is it because your eyes have power to kill?
then know, that mercy is the mightiest jewel,
and great glory think to save than spill.
So begins his plea not to “spill” him (“destroy, kill”):
But if it be your pleasure and proud will,
to show the power of your imperious eyes:
then not on him that never thought you ill,
but bend your force against your enemies.
Let them feel th’utmost of your cruelties,
and kill with looks as Cocatrices do:
but him that at your footstool humbled lies,
with merciful regard, give mercy, too.
Such mercy shall you make admired to be
so shall you live by giving life to me.
Because, of course, he has the power to make the Queen immortal.
Spenser shamelessly mimics Oxford’s poem, too, in sonnet number 54, and a rather obvious case of it.
If this world’s Theatre in which we stay,
My love like the Spectator idly sits,
beholding me that all the pageants play,
disguising diversely my troubled wits.
Sometimes I joy when glad occasion fits,
and mask in mirth like to a Comedy:
soon after when my joy to sorrow fits,
I walk and make my woes a Tragedy.
Yet she beholding me with constant eye,
delights not in my mirth nor rues my smart:
but when I laugh she mocks, and when I cry
she laughs, and hardens evermore her heart.
What than can move her? if nor mirth nor moan,
she is no woman, but a senseless stone.
Oxford’s poem goes thus:
Thus am I free of laws that others bind,
Whose diverse verse to diverse matter frame;
All kind of styles do serve my lady’s name,
what they in all the world, in her I find.
The lofty verse doth show her noble mind,
By which she quencheth love’s enragéd flame,
Sweet Lyrics sing her heavenly beauty’s fame,
The tender Elegy speaks her pitty kind.
In mournful Tragic Verse for her I die,
In Comic she revives me with her eye,
All serve my goddess both for mirth and moan:
Each look she casts doth breed both peace and strife,
Out of myself, I live in her alone.
In both poems, the poets sing their praises the various poetic forms: lyrics, comedy, tragedy, etc. Of course, the Queen mocks Spenser’s efforts, and though she destroy’s some of Oxford’s poems and forbids him to write about his afflictions (and even shares them with the “rival poet,” Ralegh) she does not “mock” him -- as I recall.
Pure poison spills out as Spenser rails at his enemy:
Venomous tongue, tipp’d with vile adder’s sting
of that self kind which the Furies tell
their snaky heads do come, from which a spring
of poisoned words and spiteful speeches well.
Let all the plagues and horrid pains of Hell
Upon thee fall for thine accurséd hire:
that with false forgéd lies, which thou didst tell
in my true love did stir up coals of ire.
The sparks whereof let kindle thine own fire
and catching hold on thine own wicked head
consume thee quite, that didst with gile conspire
in my sweet peace such breaches to have bred.
Shame be thy meed, and mischief thy reward
Due to thy self that it for me prepared.
The only “enemy” of Spenser’s in the historical record was Lord Oxford. He, had before, in SC called him “wicked” and heaped upon him the same sort of abuse. Again in my play, A Labor of Love, I produce primary documentary evidence to prove the fact that Spenser was little more than a paid character assassin against Lord Oxford. I have just quoted one of Spenser’s invectives, many more are easily at hand. Spenser, whose attack is essentially political, surely wants the world to know the object of his attack while at the same time hiding under anonymity. History does record, however, that Mother Hubherd’s Tale was full of invective also against Lord Burghley, as well as Muiopotmos: Or the Fate of the Butterfly. A clear indication of the identity of his enemy is given, rather sophomorically by Spenser in the introductory poem to Virgil’s Gnat (purposefully not spelled correctly, we would guess, VERgil’s Knat). Published in 1595, the title page declares it to be “Long since dedicated” to the Earl of Leicester, late deceased.
The introductory poem to Virgil’s Knat is an odd thing. Scholars have universally thought it a message about a secret offense Spenser suffered from Leicester, but profess not to know what it could be. The poem itself is transparently simple:
Wronged, yet not daring to express my pain,
To you (great Lord) the causer of my care,
In cloudy tears my case I thus complain
Unto your self, that only privy are:
Now, it is hardly likely (is it?), that Spenser is only complaining to Leicester who is acknowledged in the poem to be dead some time since. That would be odd. No. He says he addresses his complaint to the person who is privy to the meaning of what he will say. If this interpretation is true, “great Lord” does not refer to Leicester, but to a living great Lord. To continue with the poem:
But if that any Oedipus unware
Shall chance, through power of some divining sprite,
to read the secret of this riddle rare,
And know the purport of my evil plight
Let him rest pleased with his own insight.
In other words, the person to whom he speaks, the “other,” who is privy to his complaint (if he sees it, and has the powers of Oedipus) will be able to read the riddle – the person whose identity is hidden. Let him, the secret identity, speak not of Spenser’s self-declared “evil plight,” Spencer says, but keep the solution to the riddle to himself. Here, we would note, Spenser is just about to give his riddle when he has completed these words. In his next line says there is no need to go further to solve the riddle, if solution you would have:
Ne further seek to glose upon the text
Why do we not need to seek further? to not further “gloss upon the text.”? The answer is given:
Ne further seek to gloss upon the text
For grief enough it is to grieved wight
To feel his fault, and not be further vext
He then goes on to say that “But what so by my self may not be shown/May by this Gnats Complaint be easily known.” We are told there is a riddle, that we need seek no further. The reason we need seek no further is because “For grief enough it is to grievéd wight / To feel his fault and not be further vex’d.” To feel his fault. His fault, he says is Oedipus. That is, Oedipus is himself the answer to the riddle. In other words, we need go no further in his poem than to the name of Oedipus to solve the riddle. The “great Lord” who is alive is E.O., or as Spenser spells it in his poem “OEdipus.” Simply, EO transposed. That is why we need go no further he has already spelled his name. .
We shall have ample opportunity to establish overwhelming evidence that Spenser hated Oxford, Oxford was the evil Menalcus of Shepherds Calendar and it was Lord Oxford, “Will” who held sway over his life, who stole his beloved, Rosalind, who ruined his life.
In The Phoenix Nest (1593) there appeared Three Elegies on Sidney. One of the three (actually two are epitaphs) is by an anonymous writer, “a most worthy gentlemen.” This worthy gentleman had a peculiar eccentricity of speaking of his own woes and sorrows, independent of Sidney, in his epitaph – a habit I have noted of Ignoto’s, W.S., etc.(See Epicidium). As this worthy gentleman is the same as all of them, each being an aka of the other, we should not be surprised to find it here as well.
In his poem, the worthy gentleman states:
Now sink of sorrow I, who live, the more the wrong;
Who wishing death, whom death denies, whose thread is all too long,
Who tied to wretched life, who looks for no relief,
Must spend my ever-dying days in never-ending grief.
The author must spend his “ever-dying days” in “never-ending grief.” Is this E.Ver-dying days. Yes, it would seem it is. The next stanza unveils it all:
Heartsease and only I like parallels run on,
whose equal length keep equal breadth, and never meet in one;
Yet for not wronging him, my thoughts, my sorrow s’cell,
Shall not run out, though leak they will, for liking him so well.
There is an obvious riddle here. “Heartsease and only I like parallels run on.”
We are told that equal length keeps equal breadth, and never meet in one” What could that possibly mean? If we look to the couplet immediately preceding it, we have our answer. It is he, who is tied to wretched life; and one who looks for no relief. The parallels are set up in the next line “my ever-dying days, in never ending grief.” His dying comes to no end, nor does his grief come to an end. He cannot die; he can not get relie; both his living in grief and his not-dying, ever-dying, have “equal length” and “equal breadth” and never meet – as parallel lines do not meet. But what does “Heartsease and only I” like parallels run on. Heartsease, as we have shown in IPP is a flower called “Sweet William.” Of course, they are all EVER, the Great Lord, he whom Spenser hated with a passion nearing sexual intensity.

But there is, too a parallel with a parallel. In IPP Oxford wrote under the name of Anomos:
She [Queen] spied a flower unknown
that on his grave was grown,
Instead of learned Verse his Tomb to grace.
If you the Name require,
Hearts-ease from dead Desire.
That is his name, if we must know, of the Unknown tomb, Hearts-ease.
What are we to make of this enigmatic situation, where one or the other (Spenser or Oxford) is playing off the other? Who is copying whom? Is it possible that this is nothing more than a case where a lot of stock-in-trade poet “conceits” are used, and there is nothing significant at all in the numbers of similar lines, phrases, and even specific poems. Would we be justified in this point of view. The answer is no. There are too many correlations; in both cases their “lady” has exactly the same characteristics and decidedly sadistic. The “lady” in both Spenser’s poems in the Amoretti and in IPP has these unique characteristics in common:
• she is a tyrant
• she loves to have others love her but loves no one
• she is Sovereign, the Ruler, with power of life and death over them
• both tell the Queen they are the best of all the poets and should be spared to spread her name and fame
• both say they are in a living hell, twixt hope and death
• she is witty, learned, a wonder of the world
• she delights in torturing them
• they have both invoked her “ire”
• both state that she despises them
• she has power to kill with her glance, she is a cockatrice. Has power to save with a glance
• both say she has a “marble heart”
• they are both subject to “unjust suspect”
• they both ask: “Is this the guerdon for my pains?”
• bshe has sworn to make their days come to nothing
• they both say their “lady” loves praises to her beauty
• Oxford admits his is a just reward, Spenser does not do so
• both say they are deprived of that which they most wish, to be near their lady
• she lives in delight of their pain
• she has a “golden net of hair”
• she is “tall” (Elizabeth was tall)
The list could go on and on. These all go outside the scope of the sighing damsel and the knight of old who lives and dies in his lovers eye. Here there is true terror, threat of life, agony, hope and despair, and especially with Spencer’s craven pleasing to spare his life and “get the others.”
One is not heartened to read in the Oxford University edition of Spenser’s poems:
“But whilst it is possible that some of the sonnets were in the first place inspired by Lady Carey, or indeed by Rosalind, or some earlier and still more elusive flame, there is no reason for suspecting the integrity of the series as a whole; and amid much that is borrowed from the stock-in-trade of the French sonneteers, and recounts the emotions incident to every courtship, real or feigned, there is much also that, to the sympathetic reader at least, seems circumstantial in detail, both in the progress of his suit and in the character of his mistress. Anyhow it is evident from their publications with the Epithalamion that Spenser intended them to be regard as addressed to his future wife . . . the Amoretti are written with an easy and familiar grace, at once clear and melodious, capable of touching into beauty the ordinary changes and chances of the lover;’s fortune or of voicing the rarer ecstasy, so typically Spenserian, of the sonnet Most glorious Lord of Life.”
“Recounts the emotions incident to every courtship, real or feigned”? Spenser intended the Amoretti to be considered poems to his wife because he published them with a book entitled Epithalamion? Capable of touching into the beauty of the ordinary changes and changes of the lover’s fortune? Why the Oxford editors of Spenser must be mad! You would have had to have been the wife of a Henry the Eighth have had such a “normal” love.
The comments from the Cambridge editors are no less embarrassing.
The date of their composition is fixed, almost beyond dispute, the inscription on the title page, ‘written not long since:’ for according to the 267 of the Epithalamion, Spenser’s wedding day was June 11, which the “not long since” marks for 1594, and there being no reason to suppose any considerable gap between the Epithalamion and the Amoretti sonnet lxvii of the latter must refer to the previous New Year’s sonnet iv to New Years 1593. All minor indications of time confirm this hypothetical chronology. (Pg. 716, Cambridge Edition, The Complete Poetical Works of Spenser)
The “almost beyond dispute” of the fixed date of the composition of Amoretti apparently did not impress the editors of the Oxford edition, who, as quoted, clearly stated that some of the poems may have been as early as his doings with Anne Vavasour (“Rosalind”). That the Amoretti was written at the same time as Epithalamion and that, therefore, it can be dated almost beyond dispute, is ridiculous in the extreme. Reasons follow:
The claim that there is no reason to suppose a “considerable gap” between the Epithalamion and the Amoretti, is unfounded, as is the claim that “the Amoretti sonnet lxvii of the later must refer to the previous New Year’s sonnet iv” in order to confirm this hypothetical chronology. Indeed, the referenced poems do not “confirm” anything other than that the editors of the Cambridge obviously don’t know of what they speak. As to poem vi there is absolutely nothing in it to give an indication of time. The other “proof,” sonnet lxvii, says nothing about a time period, does not even mention a New Years, and suggests nothing that can be deduced from the matter. The claim that Spenser was married on June 11, 1594 is likewise a complete fiction. The text referred to, in fact, specifically states that it was the “longest day and shortest night.” The text itself states that:
But for this time it ill ordained was
To chose the longest day in all the year,
And shortest night, when longest fitter wear.
This clearly indicates the marriage (if there ever was one) was “ill ordained” at that time and it did not take place then. If in fact Epithalamion is about a real marriage, whatever the year. Indeed, the last lines of Epithalamion indicate that they could not be married until approved, it ends:
So let us rest, sweet love, in hope of this,
And cease till then our timely joys to sing
The woods no more us answer, nor our echo ring.
Without fear of contradistinction, It can be stated there is nothing in any remarks about a New Years in Spenser’s poems that allow deduction of when the poems were written. The scholarly editors are merely “mind reading” when they observe that Spenser “wanted us to accept that the poems were written at the same time.” Indeed, as we can not deduce when these poems were written from mention of New Years, neither can we deduce the time from mention of “Holy season” nor the “holy day” mentioned in poem xxii. Certainly this “marker” is in nowise different from a “New Year” and from both of them we get nothing by way of a time reference.
That one can deduce the date of one unknown composition (Epithalamion) from another unknown composition date (Amoretti), speaks not well of the intellectual capacities of the scholars, nor of Cambridge nor of the Oxford
English Literature department. It is clear, without further argument, that there is no way whatsoever to deduce the date of composition of Amoretti, from mention of “New Year’s,” the “Holy day” or by the fact that Amoretti was published in the same volume with Epithalamion. We cannot meaningfully conjecture about the date of the composition of any book because it was published with another book – if there is no internal evidence whatsoever to confirm any material fact of relevance to the chronological issue.
Most absurd of all, is the claim of the University editors that the poems represented the typical fare of courting poems, a proposition for which neither Oxford or Harvard editors provided any evidence. We have already quoted the tortured fears of death and pleas of mercy, the fact he was exiled, the self-confessed charges of “treason” “heresy,” how he hates and harbors “viperous” hostilities, how he hails his “lady” as his Sovereign at whose word he lives and dies. The editors cannot simultaneously claim, as they do, that this is “typical fare” of ordinary lovers, the “stock-in-trade” of the French school, and yet is sincere and has integrity. With all due respect, that is balderdash. Did they not read the poems? Could they not understand the clear sentences of meaning in the poems? Their remarks themselves have all the earmarks of a scam, a scholarly fraud. Let us look carefully at this issue.
An obvious material fact of the issue is that there is other data by which we might attempt to deduce the date of composition of the Amoretti. In Sonnet number thirty-three Spenser states that he “did great wrong to the empresss”,
“Not finishing her Queen of Fairy.” [the phrase “Queen of Fairy” ostensibly being used in preference to Fairy Queen for rime purposes]. In sonnet number eighty-five, Spenser states that he has finished the first six books and is in the process of recovering from the effort. Does this help us? Indeed, it does. In 1589, Spenser presented the first three books of FQ to the Queen, as the introduction to FQ proves. Spenser had been writing on the FQ as early as before April, 1580, as proved by correspondence between Spenser and Harvey. That is all we know for sure.
We can surmise, however, that the phrase that he did the Queen wrong by not finishing the Queen of Fairey, implies that he would not have “done her wrong” if she didn’t even know of its existence or if he had just enter into the writing of it. We may surmise that this was written after he had already presented the first three books, for this reason. It is easy to imagine, when Spenser came to London with his three books for the Queen to wonder: where is the rest of it? He did not get his “guerdeon” for his pains, as he hoped, in part because of this. He had done her wrong in presenting an incomplete work to the Queen. However convincing our argument might be, we only surmise. The first edition of the FQ was printed in 1590. In that edition the frontispiece states that it is “disposed into twelve books” – so, from the beginning he had planned twelve books and brought only three of them to present to the Queen and wanted her full praises.
Yes, he had done her wrong, and himself, too. To seek full reward for a partial effort. That is probably the truth of the time period of sonnet thirty-three, written not long after his return from London back to Ireland, with no “gueredon” in his pocket. As it turns out, Spenser only lived to complete the first six of the intended twelve books, announced in the original publication.
On the other hand, we may as equally well be justified in claiming that Spenser did the Queen wrong by not finishing it, to refer to the period before he was exiled, i.e., August, 1580. There, too, he might well have wanted to produce his defense that he was loyal and loved the Queen, and he did the Queen wrong, by not having the proof for her and making her subject to the views of his enemies against him. Such might be the line of reasoning of the Oxford University Press editors who remarked:
“... and the view has lately been advanced that the Amoretti are addressed for the most part to Lady Carey, and hence were written during Spenser’s residence in London [1580?]. But, whilst it is possible that some of the sonnets were in the first place inspired by Lady Carey, or indeed by Rosalind or some earlier and still more elusive flame, there is no reason for suspecting the integrity of the series as a whole; and amid much that is borrowed ...” (pg. xxxv).
While clearly suggesting that “some of the sonnets” were first “inspired” by Lady Carey or Rosalind (of Shepherd Calendar fame, i.e., 1580) there is no reason “for suspecting the integrity of the series” – but this is true the editors
quickly add, “as a whole.” Apparently it is only in part that we can suspect the integrity of the arrangement of these sonnets in the Amoretti. To which, I reply, “Oh, really, which part?.”
Interestingly, the Oxford editors then go on to “explain” away the fact that Spenser said on the title page of the book that the poems were “written not long since” and attempt to explain the dissimulation. Indeed, they are pressed to come to his defense for the obvious fraud that they were all “written not long since.” How could they be if some of them were probably inspired by Rosalind or Lady Carey (circa 1580). The editors defend Spenser’s honor: “and if he had been criticized for incorporating in the sequence poems of earlier date, his reply, like Donne’s in his Good Morrow, would have been:...” and goes on to quote Donne’s rationalization for lying.We have an interesting division amongst the scholars.
Cambridge believes it is a fact beyond reasonable challenge that Amoretti was written shortly before Epithalamion in 1595, but Oxford believes a number of the poems dates to circa 1580 and defends Spenser for lying about the matter. Cambridge editors consider it beyond dispute because Spenser’s title page said so; and Oxford editors that it is not so and Spenser’s lie must be justified. When we turn to another authority, also from Oxford, Professor Rollins, we are told by him that the author never had anything to do with the creation of the title page and publisher/printers were always apt to hype their books with “marketing devises.”
Thus, he explains the lie in The Poetical Rhapsody that the title page touted poems by Sidney, “never before published.” Rollins said this was not Sidney’s fault, for the reason given. But the editors of Spenser, ironically, both hold Spenser responsible, in the one case for lying, and in the other for telling the truth. So, the scholars, with conflicting winds of opinion leave us out to dry and more disposed to drop the subject entirely than to pursue it.
What is very important for our purposes, however, is that whereas, by whosever hand, Amoretti wanted to announce itself to be newly written (after all we then have new poems by Spenser on the market), in Rhapsody the title page is eager to announce that the poems by Anomos, most importantly, were written “some twenty years since.” As said, it was published in 1602, which would make composition circa 1581 (depending on reading of Old or New Time). Therefore, if all accounts are true (of the vintage of publication), Amoretti was written many years after Rhapsody. From this we can further conclude, that it was Spenser who was copying Oxford, not the other way around.
The fact of the matter is that they were both written at about the same time, 1581. We do not necessarily have to conclude that one was unethically copying the other, but they may have both been under the same command to produce certain kind of poetry for the Queen. Of course, there may have been a direct sharing by the Queen with the poems from one to the other. If this at all credible? If it is, we will have to agree, I trust, that the evidence would have to show that the Queen had gone into a fierce blood-lust and sadistically tortured both of them with threats of execution. Is this remotely possible? It is not only possible but the facts appear unassailable. It is to that subject we shall now turn, The Blood Lusts of Queen Elizabeth.
© Elwood LeRoy Miller, September 1, 2000