Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 614
The Speaker, or the Groom
This is a poem, or ode, by Spenser’s speaker to his bride on their wedding day in celebration of their upcoming nuptials. The entire focus of the poem is the speaker’s bride-to-be. The speaker is largely believed to be Spenser himself, who lost his previous wife the same year that he marries Elizabeth Boyle. It is thought that the speaker writes and expresses the emotions that Spenser himself likely felt. The speaker is eager to create a beautiful atmosphere for his wedding and begs for the perfect evening to come faster. He calls upon mythological and classical figures to make the day the best it could be. As the wedding itself comes to a close, the speaker shifts focus to the wedding eve. He begins thinking of their future children, praying that his new wife’s womb will soon be host to their offspring.
The bride in the poem is believed to be Spenser’s second wife, Elizabeth Boyle. She is described as a beautiful, nearly angelic woman. The speaker cannot wait for his bride to wake up, and beckons her to begin going about her day so that they can be married sooner. At one point, the speaker compares her to Phoebe, the goddess of the moon, since she is clad in virginal white. Beyond her physical appearance, the speaker praises her for her disposition, her spirit, and her faith among other positive traits. He seems to be over the moon with anticipation of wedding his bride.
In the twenty-four stanzas of the poem, which represent the twenty-four hours of his wedding day, Spenser makes reference to many Greek mythological characters. He appeals to these creatures and characters for help in creating a perfect wedding day. Nymphs are spirits who can influence animals and nature. Spenser’s speaker asks that the nymphs help to make his wedding day magical and beautiful. He calls upon the water nymphs to make the lakes and ponds clear and full of fish, so much so that one can see their reflection. The nymphs of the woodland are asked to keep any dangerous wolves at bay.
Muses are artistic goddesses from whom Spenser’s speaker asks for help throughout his ode, especially in the actual writing of the poem. He seeks the right words to capture his joy and admiration.
Spenser also weaves references to other mythological characters throughout his poem. He references Mavis, a mythological nightingale, which will sing for his wedding day.
He mentions Hymen as well; Hymen is the god who presides over wedding ceremonies. In the beginning, Spenser’s narrator wants Hymen to go before the day and ceremony, as well as guide him and his bride later in life.
Orpheus is a poet and musician. Spenser likens the speaker to this character's love story with his wife and the lengths to which he would go for his love.
Spenser’s speaker references the story of how the goddess Eos (who is forever young) fell in love with Tithones, a mortal who does grow old. It seems that Spenser himself longs to grow old with Elizabeth.
Phoebus or Apollo
The character Phoebus is actually Apollo, the god of the sun. Spenser’s speaker wants the sun, Apollo, to wake up Elizabeth for their wedding day.
Spenser includes a reference to Maia, the goddess of nursing mothers, because the speaker hopes and dreams of his bride being a mother to his children. By the end of the poem, Spenser’s speaker has shifted his focus to their potential offspring. He hopes that his wife will have a hospitable womb.