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Compare Epithalamion and prothalamion as wedding songs.

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piu38 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted March 3, 2012 at 2:32 PM via web

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Compare Epithalamion and prothalamion as wedding songs.

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prishi12 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted March 3, 2012 at 6:00 PM (Answer #1)

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Epithalamion - The term literally means the 'bridal chamber'. It is an ode written to commemorate the nuptials of Spenser and his bride. It is in 24 stanzas, representing the hours of the day with a total of 365 lines, representing the days of the year. The poem draws together the universal and the temporal , the idea of love that is divine and transcendental with a more earthly, sensual love.

The song begins before dawn and progresses through the wedding ceremony and into the consummation night of the newlywed couple. Throughout the poem, the speaker marks time by referencing the physical movements of the wedding party, the positions of the sun and other celestial bodies, and the light and darkness that fill the day. The poem has approximately five movements, in terms of dramatic action.
The refrain employed are variations on the last line of the first stanza: ”The woods shall to me answer and my Echo ring”, suggesting the circle of time. The element of time is central to the crafting of the poem.

Spenser is typically Petrarchan when he requests the ‘Heralds of Hymen’ to sing and enchant and invite the Sun to shine and remind his bride to wake up. He invites the Nymphs of river Mullla and refers to the potential of Trout  and the strength of Pike in the fourth stanza. The same stanza proclaims the prized possession of a bride (as) being her chastity.

Epithalamion is nevertheless a poem that is unique in the poetry of the 16th century. It offers a rich tapestry of sensual imagery borrowed from classical legends and myths from Christian ideas and beliefs and local folklore. Poet succesfully infused opposite religious beliefs - in terms of invoking pagan gods and yet retaining a strongly Reformist-Christian sensibility. This poem may be consideredas his most sucessful fusion of diverse poetic traditions and style.

Prothalmion on the other hand is a Spenserian neologism, invented to signify a preliminary nuptial song. The poem was written on the occasion of the wedding of Elizabeth and Catherine Somerset, daughters of Sir Edward Somerset in 1596. This poem is different from his own nuptial song and is shorter, more pensive and almost sedate in its pace.
Like The Epithalamion, this poem is also set in pastoral settings, on the banks of river Thames. It too, employs a couplet at the end of the first stanza that is reworked in a refrain at the end of each subsequent stanza. It too, eventually invokes pagan gods for the blessings to the newly wed couples.

However, poet makes no attempt to elaborate on the wedding, or the festivities that follow and instead confines itself to describing the bridal procession down the river Thames upto the Essex house where the wedding will be solemnised. In terms of time, a little more than few hours of the morning are encapsulated.

The real significance of the poem lies in its poetic achievements and in its biographical value.

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tas25 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 6, 2013 at 9:56 AM (Answer #2)

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Epithalamion

Prothalamion

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The Epithalamion is a form of poetry that dates back to classical Greek Literature.

Prothalamion a term invented by Spenser in order to differntiate between his own and earlier written bridal song

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Carries elements of eroticism

Devoid of eroticism and actually a little more than a thinly disguised complaint poem.

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Carefully crafted yet exuberant song celebrating the poets love for and marriage to Elizabeth Boyle.

Written on occasion of wedding of Elizabeth and Catherine Somerset, whose father was a sponsor of Spenser.

Its shorter, more pensive and almost sedated in its pace.

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Pastoral Setting

Pastoral Setting

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Couplet that is reworked into a refrain

Couplet that is reworked into a refrain

6.

Invocation to pagan gods

Invocation to pagan gods

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Elaborate description on wedding festivities

Confined to the bridal procession

8.

Describes the whole day

A little more than a few hours in the morning

9.

Fusion of diverse poetic traditions and of opposing religious beliefs. Successful fusion of style

An elaborate allegoric sturcture, where the two brides are likened to beautiful swans that sail down the river. The allusion is to the Roman classical myth of Jove and Leda, but it is used to suggest that the daughters of Somerset were in fact more beautiful than Jove  and Leda too.

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