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Discuss the use of time and temporality in Spenser's poetry.

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sharief78 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted May 17, 2012 at 8:24 PM via web

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Discuss the use of time and temporality in Spenser's poetry.

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tas25 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 6, 2013 at 8:54 AM (Answer #1)

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The Epithalamion is a carefully crafted yet exuberant song celebrating the poet's love for and marriage to Elizabeth Boyle. In which there is an elaborate use of time and temporality.

 

The poem is in 24 stanzas, representing the hours of the day, with a total of 365 long lines of five feet or more, representing the days of the year. It serves to simultaneously accentuate the sense of immediacy and of a longer duration, as if one gives rise to the other. At the same time, the poem draws together the universal and the temporal, the idea of a love that is divine and transcendental with a more earthly, sensual love. Following the consistent Spenserian strategy of reconciling the Platonic and Christian perspectives, the poem seeks to celebrate the eternal in the temporal, the divine in the mortal. In other words, Spencer's conception of love is firmly located in time, even as it is proffered as lasting and undertermined by time. The element of time or temporality is therefore central to the crafting of the poem, not just in its formal aspects but at the level of the theme of love and its treatment as well.

 

There is also the repetition of the refrain ' the woods shall to me answer and my Eccho ring' even here there is an element of time where in the first sixteen stanzas the refrain is positive while the eight follow with a negative one. This is not coincidental, but matches the number of hours of daylight and dark, respectively. The sense of balance that is achieved is reinforced by the offsetting of the celebratory tone in the poem with passages of deep anxiety and worry in stanzas 18 and 19. 

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