"Last Not Least"

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 155

Context: Edmund Spenser gives his impressions of life in the court of Cynthia, who represents Queen Elizabeth I. He also talks of the shepherds, or poets, who sing her praises. Most of the poets have allegorical names and have been variously identified. For example, Aetion has been identified as both Shakespeare and Drayton. This bit of folk wisdom, common today, has been wisely used in literature. Shakespeare varied it as, "Though last, not least in love (Julius Caesar, Act III, scene i. line 189), and as, "Now, our joy,/ Although our last, not least (King Lear, Act I, scene i, line 84). Alexander Pope used it as "The last, not least in honour or applause" (The Dunciad, 1728, Book IV, line 577). Edmund Spenser used it in a very similar manner:

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And there, though last not least, is Aetion,
A gentler shepherd may no where be found:
Whose Muse, full of high thoughts invention,
Doth like himselfe heroically sound.

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