An epithalamion is a type of poem that has its origin in Greek nuptial day celebration poetry. Spenser wrote his Epithalamion to celebrate his wedding day although it was written three years after he had to flee Ireland with Elizabeth in the midst of an enraged Irish uprising that resulted in, among other things, his house being burned to the ground and the death by fire of his newborn baby. Some critics see the Epithalamion as a symbolic appeal for the unification of the English and Irish factions, which is depicted by the presence of the Greek god Hymen, who reconciles the humanity in the village wedding procession with nature, as Spenser weaves it into his wedding poem, and who stands for the symbolic hope of similarly reconciling the warring social and political factions of England and Ireland.
Epithalamion is intricately wrought in the use of archaic Middle English language that would have been used by Chaucer, in the majestically repeating and building imagery, and in the incorporation of astronomical and calendrical elements into the verse and structure of the poem. The 24 stanzas (23 stanzas and one envoi) correspond to the 24 hours of a day, while the 365 long lines correspond to days of the year, and the 68 short lines represent 52 weeks, 12 months, and 4 seasons (52 + 12 + 4 = 68). In addition to which, Spenser makes calendrical allusion to the summer solstice in mentioning St. Barnabas's day, an allusion which brings in the import of the solar cycle.