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"Awen yn codi o'r cudd ac yn cydio'r cwbl"
- Waldo Williams
(Awen arising from hiding and everything binding)

Spenser's Glosses

As for the Spenser quotes over on the right... why is it that I find the glosses so fascinating in The Shepheardes Calendar? Apparently they were done by Spenser's associate Edward Kirke who, it has been noted, "sometimes unconsciously, sometimes of set purpose, fails to express his author's intention" (E de Selincourt). Ostensibly part of the project of redefining English poetic diction (not for the last time) they capture in their very irascibility the tone of the fascination of the current of platonic mysticism in the protestantism of the period with the pastoral ideal, while needing to dismiss the pagan superstitions which might be associated with it. That marvellous gloss on 'Ladyes of the lake' with its dismissal of the 'lowd lyers' who perpetrated Arthurian myth together with the desire to precisely define the nature of nymphs is a glorious example.


  1. I'm a fan too. I rather like the way the poems are set within this fractious, irritable context. I suppose too that EK/Spenser is trying to imitate a text of Vergil's Eclogues as the Renaissance had it, with Servius' glosses.

  2. Yes certainly Virgil, and if also Servius this might raise the question of the identity of EK. The comment of de Selincourt suggests Edward Kirke did the Glosse as a commenatary after the event (though not so long after as Servius!) But if we take the poems and the glosse as being composed in tandem the the view that EK is Spenser himself consciously creating a whole manufactured artefact seems more appropriate.


What do you think?