Spenser's Anacreon: a new model for the new Poet?

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Written by Miklós Péti

Spenser’s career, and especially the several important books and studies that have turned Spenser into the “career critic’s poet”[1] in the past three decades would certainly deserve a “Leader” in e-Colloquia. Research done and published on the subject has not only transformed Spenser studies, but has also influenced the way we think about important aspects of early modern literature and culture (the working of the literary system, the reception of the classics, etc). Quite intimidated by the idea of passing general judgment on such a significant critical corpus, I venture to offer a case study on a single aspect of Spenser’s self-presentation in his late career. However, the problem I propose to discuss is in many ways related to issues and topics central to recent scholarship, and as such might hopefully provide opportunity for the kind of general reflection e-Colloquia accommodates.

 

The Hymne of Heavenly Beautie contains a direct allusion to another poet, the only one of its kind in the Fowre Hymnes. The reference is in the description of Sapience, more precisely, in the four stanzas where the hymnic speaker first points out the impossibility to depict this divine figure either in language or in the visual arts, but then goes on to suggest that this impossibility is also due to the previous ages’ ignorance of “this beauty soverayne,” and his own lack of skill:

The fairenesse of her face no tongue can tell,
For she the daughters of all wemens race,
And Angels eke, in beautie doth excell,
Sparkled on her from Gods owne glorious face,
And more increast by her owne goodly grace,
That it doth farre exceed all humane thought,
Ne can on earth compared be to ought.

Ne could that Painter (had he lived yet)
Which pictured Venus with so curious quill,
That all posteritie admyred it,
Have purtrayd this, for all his maistring skill;
Ne she her selfe, had she remained still,
And were as faire, as fabling wits do fayne,
Could once come neare this beauty soverayne.

But had those wits the wonders of their dayes,
Or that sweete Teian Poet which did spend
His plenteous vaine in setting forth her prayse,
Seene but a glims of this, which I pretend,
How wondrously would he her face commend,
Above that Idole of his fayning thought,
That all the world shold with his rimes be fraught?

How then dare I, the novice of his Art,
Presume to picture so divine a wight,
Or hope t’expresse her least perfections part,
Whose beautie filles the heavens with her light,
And darkes the earth with shadow of her sight?
Ah gentle Muse thou art too weake and faint,
The pourtraict of so heavenly hew to paint.

Let Angels which her goodly face behold
And see at will, her soveraigne praises sing,
And those most sacred mysteries unfold,
Of that faire love of mightie heavens king.
Enough is me t’admyre so heavenly thing,
And being thus with her huge love possest,
In th’only wonder of her selfe to rest.
(ll 204–238)[2]

The “Teian Poet” is Anacreon who—due to Henri Estienne’s first edition of his work in 1544 (of which more below)—was known up to the nineteenth century as the author of what we now call the Anacreontea (i.e. Anacreontic songs or odes), and whose “sweetness” had since antiquity been a critical commonplace. But since antiquity the same Anacreon had also been famously or infamously known as a poet of what a recent commentator called “the art of feeling very very good,” that is, drinking and easy love. [3] What does this aged hedonist have to do with the Fowre Hymnes, and especially the sublime vision of the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie? And why does the hymnic speaker refer to himself as “the novice” of Anacreon’s art? While there have been numerous attempts to explain the allusion away with reference to some Anacreontic text, strangely, neither of these questions has been asked so far. In this study, therefore, after reviewing previous understandings of Spenser’s allusion, I shall delineate some new interpretive possibilities. As I shall argue, the reference to “that sweete Teian Poet” should be understood in the context of Anacreon’s early modern reception, which, in turn, will prompt the reconsideration of the passage under discussion in terms of career criticism. Anacreon’s figure thus becomes an integral part of Spenser’s ambiguous self-presentation in the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie, and also emerges as one of the poet’s late reflections on his poetic career. Further, the (hitherto unacknowledged) presence of such a significant allusion to the “Teian Poet” in Spenser’s oeuvre could also make us rethink certain aspects of Anacreon’s early modern reception in England. Before drawing such general conclusions, however, let us first see how critics in the twentieth century dealt with Spenser’s “sweete Teian Poet.”

 

Curiously enough, according to the testimony of the Variorum commentary, critics in the first part of the twentieth century found Spenser’s allusion noteworthy only in its possible relation to the preceding stanza, Spenser’s suggestion of the impossibility to paint Sapience.[4] Lilian Winstanley, for example, points out in relation to lines 211–214 (“Ne could that Painter...” that “[t]he reference, as the next stanza suggests, is probably to Anacreon (Ode 56), who describes a marvelous painting representing Venus in all her beauty floating on the sea.” W. L. Renwick allows for more possibilities when he proposes that “[t]his may be a reference to Anacreon, Ode 56, or to Apelles, whose picture of Venus rising from the sea was accounted the greatest of ancient paintings.” That is, according to these commentators, the reference to “that painter” with “his maistring skill” might already be alluding to Anacreon, more precisely, one of the ekphrases in the so-called Anacreontic odes.

There are some problems with this line of interpretation. Considering the source identified by Winstanley and Renwick, we might have the strange feeling that the commentators had access to a different tradition of the Anacreontic texts. It is true that “Anacreon, Ode 56,” i.e. today’s “Anacreontea 57 (55 B) West” contains an ekphrasis comparable to what is described in the above quoted critics’ work, but if we take a closer look at this piece, it seems that the analogy between it and Spenser’s work is, to say the least, far-fetched.

ἄρα τίς τόρευσε πόντον;
ἄρα τίς μανεῖσα τέχνα
ἀνέχευε κῦμα δίσκῳ;
ἐπὶ νῶτα τῆς θαλάττης
ἄρα τίς ὕπερθε λευκὰν
ἁπαλὰν χάραξε Κύπριν
νόον ἐς θεοὺς ἀερθείς,
μακάρων φύσιος ἀρχάν;
ὁ δέ νιν ἔδειξε γυμνάν,
ὅσα μὴ θέμις δ’ ὁρᾶσθαι
μόνα κύμασιν καλύπτει.
ἀλαλημένη δ’ ἐπ’ αὐτὰ
βρύον ὥς, ὕπερθε λευκᾶς
ἁπαλόχροον γαλήνας
δέμας εἰς πλόον φέρουσα,
ῥόθιον παρ’ οἶμον ἕλκει.
ῥοδέων δ’ ὕπερθε μαζῶν
ἁπαλῆς ἔνερθε δειρῆς
μέγα κῦμα χρῶτα τέμνει.
μέσον αὔλακος δὲ Κύπρις
κρίνον ὣς ἴοις ἑλιχθέν
διαφαίνεται γαλήνας.
ὑπὲρ ἀργύρου δ’ ὀχοῦνται
ἐπὶ δελφῖσι χορευταῖς
δολερὸν νόον μερόπων
Ἔρος Ἵμερος γελῶν τε,
χορὸς ἰχθύων τε κυρτὸς
ἐπὶ κυμάτων κυβιστῶν
Παφίης τε σῶμα παίζει
ἵνα νήχεται γελῶσα.

What metalworker created the sea? What inspired art poured the waves on a salver? Who with his mind soaring heaven-high took the first step towards immortality by carving on the sea’s back soft white Cypris? He showed her naked, covering with the waves only what ought not to be seen. Roaming over the waves like sea-lettuce, moving her soft-skinned body in her voyage over the white calm sea, she pulls the breakers along her path. Above her rosy breasts and below her soft neck a great wave divides her skin. In the midst of the furrow, like a lily wound among violets, Cypris shines out from the calm sea. Over the silver on dancing dolphins ride guileful Love and laughing Desire, and the chorus of bow-backed fish plunging in the waves sports with the Paphian where she swims laughing.

The poem is about a piece of inspired art (μανεῖσα τέχνα) representing Cypris (Aphrodite). However, the artwork described is not a painting, but the work of a silversmith: the figure of the goddess is carved by the artist (χάραξε) on a salver (δίσκῳ), and so are the sea (ἄρα τίς τόρευσε πόντον;—“Who carved the sea?”), and Love and Desire who ride on dolphins ὑπὲρ ἀργύρου, over the silver. But even if we disregard Winstanley’s slip of the tongue about the “painting,” it seems clear that she herself is aware of the main difference between “Anacreon’s” and Spenser’s poems: whereas the anonymous author of the Anacreontic ode describes the lively representation of the naked body of Aphrodite, or at least what “ought to be seen of it,” and thereby also offers indirect praise of the craftsman, Spenser in the quoted stanzas focuses exclusively on Sapience’s face (“The fairenesse of her face no tongue can tell” (l 204); “How wondrously would he [Anacreon] her face commend” (l 222)). In spite of these remarkable differences the idea of Anacreontea 57 being Spenser’s source had a long career: it crops up as late as 1989 in the commentary of the Yale Edition of the Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser: “Teian Poet: Anacreon (born at Teios) whose Ode 57 describes a painting of Venus on a dish.”

One could, however, argue that this is simply a mistake, and not an error, i.e. that Spenser’s allusion should be interpreted in relation to the preceding stanza, but it refers to some other Anacreontic text. If we browse through the Anacreontic odes, we do find poems about skillful painters and paintings. Two pieces (Anacreontea 3 and 16) start with the formulaic line “ἄγε, ζωγράφων ἄριστε” (“Come, finest of painters”), while a third one commences with the direct order “γράφε μοι” “Paint to me” (Anacreontea 17). What is more, in the latter two texts the first thing the painter is instructed to depict is the beloved’s face: the hetaira’s eyes in Anacreontea16 should be ὑγρόν, ὡς Κυθήρης “moist like Cythere’s [i.e. Aphrodite’s],” and Bathyllus’s eyes in Anacreontea 17 should be serene (γαληνή) like those of beautiful Cythere. As for the painter’s “maistring skill,” it is clearly suggested by the Anacreontic speaker when he cries out at the end of Anacreontea 16: ἀπέχει· βλέπω γὰρ αὐτήν·/ τάχα, κηρέ, καὶ λαλήσεις (“Enough—I can see her! Soon, wax, you will be talking”).[5] Intriguing as these parallels may seem, they are nevertheless also problematic. In the Hymne of Heavenly Beauty the artist is explicitly said to have painted Venus, and not some other person with characteristics resembling the goddess. Moreover, the painter in the Anacreontic pieces is a stock-character (the “best of painters” being anyone the enthusiastic speaker may get to paint the picture), whereas Spenser describes a specific artist who, as already Renwick pointed out, and as the editors of the Yale Edition confirm on the basis of Pliny’s testimony, is most probably Apelles.[6] It is impossible to rule out the possibility that Spenser was indirectly influenced by any of the above-mentioned pieces of the Anacreontea, but it is clear that none of them could serve as the direct source for lines 211–224 of the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie.

In fact, nothing in Spenser’s text indicates that the figure of the “painter” in line 211 should be taken to refer to an Anacreontic poem; what is noticeable in the above quoted stanzas, rather, is that Spenser explicitly differentiates between three different historical perspectives—“that painter,” “those wits the wonders of their dayes,” and “that sweete Teian Poet”—from which it is impossible (for various reasons) to grasp heavenly beauty. This narrative strategy is not without precedents in Spenser’s oeuvre: in the proem of the third book of the Fairie Queene we find a set of adynata, i.e. hyperbolic expressions of impossibility, to introduce the virtue of Chastity, more precisely, the perfect expression of this virtue in Queen Elizabeth’s heart (“in my Soveraines brest”):

But living art may not least part [of “her hart” expresse,
Nor life-resembling pencill it can paint,
All were it Zeuxis or Praxiteles:
His daedale hand would faile, and greatly faint,
And her perfections with his error taint:
Ne Poetswit, that passeth Painter farre
In picturing the parts of beautie daint,
So hard a workmanship adventure darre,
For fear through want of words her excellence to marre.

How then shall I, Apprentice of the skill,
That whylome in divinest wits did raine,
Presume so high to stretch mine humble quill?
Yet now my lucklesse lot doth me constraine
Hereto perforce. But o dred Soveraine
Thus farre forth pardon, sith that choicest wit
Cannot your glorious pourtraict figure plaine
That I in colourd showes may shadow it,
And antique praises unto present persons fit.

There are significant differences between this text (published in 1589, at the zenith of Spenser’s career) and the passage under discussion. The epic narrator characteristically presents himself as being under obligation or constraint (cf. the proem to the first book of the epic where he claims to be “enforst”), and following the quoted stanzas even marks out a “delitious Poet,” Ralegh, the writer of Cynthia, as fitter for the task undertaken, and from whom his “rusticke Muse” may beg leave to proceed. In spite of the all the modesty, however, the proem is actually an indirect statement of confident insight: as William A. Oram pointed out “[w]hat is important about Spenser’s stance here is its knowingness as he gestures toward the relation between Ralegh and the Queen.” [7] The speaker in the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie, on the other hand, is apparently unconcerned with fitting “antique praises unto present persons”: “rapt with the rage of [his] own ravisht thought” he rises “aloft through heavenly contemplation” to the vision of Sapience, but then confesses his Muse to be “too weake and faint, / The pourtraict of so heavenly hew to paint,” and stays content “in th’only wonder of her selfe to rest.” What is more, in the hymn Spenser apparently contrasts impossibility with possibility: both painter and poet have the wrong subject, but were it not for his being an ancient the “sweete Teian Poet” would actually be able to sing successfully the praise of Sapience. In the epic, by contrast, the acknowledgment of insufficient skills by both poet and painter cannot suggest anything else but impossibility. Still, the presence of the same narrative and thematic pattern (the use of adynata, the reference to classical artists, and the process from the visual arts to poetry combined with some variation of the so-called “modesty topos”) [8] is remarkable, and it suggests caution about identifying the actual references of Spenser’s allusions. In the proem Zeuxis and Praxiteles are nothing more than well-known ancient artists’ names cited as examples of perfection in the visual arts without reference to any particular piece they created. Additionally, “Poet’s wit” designates poetry in general rather than any specific poet or text. By comparison, the allusions in the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie seem to be more specific, but it is an important question to what extent they are merely formulaic.

Indeed, even though the “painter” in the hymn can easily be identified on the basis of ancient tradition as Apelles, in the wider context of 16th-century literature the reference to his famous Aphrodite Anadyomene is clearly a commonplace that frequently appears in adynata. It is sometimes used in critical contexts, e.g. by Nicholas Grimald in praise of Virgil, [9] or by Ascham in the illustration of “paraphrases,”[10] but it appears more commonly in descriptions of beauty. Thus, for example, as early as 1567 George Tuberville lists Apelles among those Greek artists (Myron, Zeuxis, Praxiteles) who would not be able to represent “the singular beautie of his ladie,”[11] and in 1582 in one of the love-passions of Hekatompathia Thomas Watson begins with him the roll call of artists (Praxiteles, Homer, Virgil) who could not—“for all their maistring skill”—set forth “the surpassinge worthines of his Ladie.”[12] Spenser also made use of the motif in the final dedicatory sonnet to the Fairie Queene (“To all The Gratious and Beautifull Ladies in the Court”) as well as in the fourth book of the epic, the competition for Florimel’s girdle. [13] Consequently, we may assume that the function of the allusion to “that painter” in the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie is not so much to call the attention to a specific artwork, but rather to evoke—and at the same time criticize the original context of—a conventional example through which Spenser may express the impossibility of depicting Sapience’s face. The painter thus becomes an emblematic figure of all ancient and modern, essentially misdirected attempts to represent heavenly beauty. Besides revising the received traditions, however, Spenser’s recycling of this conventional device also accords with the “amending” and “reformation” of the two earthly hymns proposed in the dedication to the poem,[14] as well as the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie’s earlier movement from fair to fairer heavens (ll 71–105).

Although in the next stanza the abilities of “that sweete Teian Poet” and “those wits the wonders of their dayes” are contrasted with those of the painter, the function of the allusions is the same. It is difficult to identify the “wits” precisely—on the basis of the hymns’ general philosophical background, and the specific reference of lines 82–84. Plato and the Neoplatonic philosophers would be good candidates—,[15] but even if they stand generally for “the great minds of the past,” their exclusion from the speaker’s vision is obvious. Likewise, the figure of Anacreon is an excellent choice to express the contrast between heavenly beauty and “the idole” of the ancient poet’s “fayning thought.” The Teian poet appears as an emblematic figure in some of Spenser’s most important sources concerning the philosophy of love: he is evoked as the “wise” (σοφός) in the discussion of love in Plato’s Phaedrus (235c), [16] and Ficino ranks him among those who are most possessed with amatory “furor.” [17] Moreover, as Janet Levarie Smarr points out: “describing Sapience as a beautiful queen, he [Spenser] contrasts his high subject and lowly skill with the lowly subject and high skill of Anacreon.”[18] That is, instead of pointing to a specific Anacreontic text, the allusion to the “sweete Teian Poet” contrasts the “pagan poet of this world,” the traditional conception of Anacreon as the singer of love poetry, and the hymn’s speaker “who wants to describe not only human and natural beauties but heavenly perfection.”[19] As Spenser himself punningly suggests, in spite of his “plenteous vaine” the art of the sweete Teian Poet” was also essentially vain.

It seems, then, better to forget the idea of Spenser’s direct indebtedness to “Anacreon,” and to consider the allusion in its immediate context as the last one of Spenser’s examples in a recurring narrative pattern that asserts the impossibility of representing the poet’s subject by enumerating (often by names) traditionally idealized artist-types who for various reasons would not be able to perform the task at hand. Considering this, it is tempting to rest content with the ruling of the Yale Edition that in general “[t]he whole passage is colored by Plato’s contempt for the poet and painter, who merely copy reality” (where “poet” would presumably include the hymnic speaker, too). However, if we recall the first occurrence of this narrative pattern (in the proem to the third book of the Fairie Queene), where the adynata together with the speaker’s use of the modesty topos (“How then shall I,” etc.) are an integral part of the poet’s carefully ambiguous, but explicit strategy of self-promotion in the literary system of his day,[20] it will be necessary to reconsider the function of this passage, too. The hymnic speaker’s self-effacement is also curiously ambiguous: he draws a clear distinction between himself (who can claim at least some access to heavenly beauty (“this, which I pretend”)) and the other artists who had been ultimately excluded from this experience. What is more, the speaker’s self-presentation as the “novice” of Anacreon’s art also seems to suggest that there is more to the passage than a wholesale condemnation of artists and art in Platonic terms, especially since, as we have seen, the Teian poet is presented as actually capable of depicting the beauty of Sapience. There is only one other occurrence of the word “novice” in Spenser’s oeuvre, and it is in one of the most significant contexts of the New Poet’s career: in the proem to the first book of the Fairie Queene where the epic narrator invokes the “holy Virgin, chief of nine” to help her “weaker novice [i.e. the narrator] to perform thy [i.e. the Muse’s] will,” that is to be able to accomplish the “far unfitter task” of writing an epic. The presence of the same expression in the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie, therefore, clearly needs some explanation in terms of career criticism. Returning to the question posed at the beginning we ask again: in what sense may Spenser be considered the “novice” of Anacreon’s art? And how should we interpret the presence of this term at the end of one of the last pieces Spenser publishes, that is, virtually at the end of his career? In order to be able to give some tentative answers these questions, it will be necessary to take a look at the special conception of Anacreon and his art Spenser knew.

 

At the beginning of this study I have passingly referred to the well-known fact that the early modern reception of Anacreon had been shaped by Henri Estienne’s 1554 first edition of “Anacreon’s” works.[21] The basis of this edition was the single manuscript (cod. Paris. Suppl. gr. 384) which contains (along with the Anthologia Palatina) the sixty poems of what we now call the Anacreontea. [22] In his edition Estienne made significant changes to the text recorded in the manuscript: he suppressed some of the Anacreontea referring to the poet in the third person,[23] and completely reordered the poems. In his Greek preface he carefully styled this invention as discovery: the image he promotes of the “sweet”  (ὁ γλυκὺς ἢ ὁ ἡδύς) old lyric poet on the basis of a selection of ancient testimony (albeit with apologetic notes about his “luxuriousness” (τρυφή) as well as cautionary remarks about the possible misuse of such poetry), very much accords with how the speakers of many of the Anacreontic odes present themselves.[24] Thus, in rescuing the poems for a modern readership, Estienne reintroduced a stereotypical image of Anacreon as an old poet of undemanding poems about love and drinking. It is this image which informed Spenser’s allusion to the “sweete Teian Poet,” and which had prevailed even after the revision of Estienne’s concept well into the 19th century.

This stereotype is also reflected in the reordering of the poems in the manuscript. By suppressing or (in the first editions) even removing some of the pieces on grounds of their doubtful authenticity, Estienne managed to present a fairly consistent collection of Anacreon’s “genuine” poems. Although a few of the contemporaries were unimpressed, and, as Patricia A. Rosenmeyer pointed out, Estienne’s “initial acts of editing eventually worked against him to deconstruct the whole corpus,”[25] this editorial policy obviously contributed a great deal to the immediate and then long lasting resurgence of interest in Anacreon and Anacreontic poetry among European writers of the day. Perhaps the most radical measure among Estienne’s alterations of the manuscript was the removal of the first poem (Ἀνακρέων ἰδών με) which, through the description of a symbolic act of initiation (Anacreon giving his garland to the speaker), explicitly suggests that the pieces to follow are imitations of Anacreon. Instead of this text, Estienne started his volume with the poem that is in modern editions Ode 23:

θέλω λέγειν Ἀτρείδας,
θέλω δὲ Κάδμον ᾄδειν,
ἁ βάρβιτος δὲ χορδαῖς
Ἔρωτα μοῦνον ἠχεῖ.
ἤμειψα νεῦρα πρώην
καὶ τὴν λύρην ἅπασαν·
κἀγὼ μὲν ᾖδον ἄθλους
Ἡρακλέους· λύρη δὲ
Ἔρωτας ἀντεφώνει.
χαίροιτε λοιπὸν ἡμῖν,
ἥρωες· ἡ λύρη γὰρ
μόνους Ἔρωτας ᾄδει.

I wish to tell of the sons of Atreus, I wish to sing of Cadmus; but my lyre-strings sing only of Love. The other day I changed the strings, indeed, the whole lyre, and began singing of the labours of Heracles: but in answer the lyre sang of the Loves. So farewell, heroes: my lyre sings only of the Loves.

In his commentary Estienne argues for placing Ode 23 to such an emphatic position on the basis of another manuscript on papyrus (in cortice). We do not have this source, and as Thomas A. Schmitz convincingly argued the fact that there is only one other, rather insignificant reference to it (also on the first page of the commentary), makes it quite likely that it was Estienne’s own invention to justify his rearrangement of the text.[26] Whatever the truth is, Estienne makes it clear in his comment that the papyrus is preferable since “in this [i. e. in Ode 23] he [Anacreon] sets forth the subject of his verses by employing a witty invention with which he seems to wish to excuse himself somehow” (Proponit enim in hac versuum suorum argumentum: idque, lepido utens commento, quo se quodammodo excusare velle videtur). [27] That is to say, Ode 23 becomes in Estienne’s interpretation an ingenious apologetic statement of a poetic programme, and the editor provides further support for this reading by citing parallels from Ovid (the first lines of the Amores) as well as another Anacreontic piece (Ode 26).

Ode 23 has a programmatic edge indeed. Like many other pieces in the Anacreontea, it employs the technique of recusatio (rejection, refusal).[28] A popular rhetorical strategy since antiquity, recusatio justifies the poet’s choice of a kind of poem (usually love poetry) over another (usually epic)[29], and although it is often used apologetically to suggest the poet’s inability or unwillingness to compose in the nobler genres, it can actually intimate perfect mastery of them.[30] Thus, in Anacreontea 23 the poet expressly wishes to sing in the tradition of Homeric and cyclic epic, but is frustrated in his attempts by his lyre, and finds himself singing about Love, which, being a repeated experience, prompts him to give up his epic project entirely. Moreover, this “lyric turn” is presented as virtually unmotivated, i.e. it is blamed entirely on the poet’s instrument, and comes without any specific personal, aesthetic, poetical, political, etc. reasons, which, as already Estienne observed, provides an excellent excuse for the poet. The placement of this ode at the beginning of the Anacreontic poems (which for centuries was the only available arrangement of the text for readers unacquainted with the manuscript), as well as the presence in emphatic places of several other poems employing similar recusationes[31], naturally determined the reception of the whole corpus. Shortly after the first publication of Estienne’s volume translation and imitation of “Anacreon” became an alternative to writing serious poetry in the high style of Pindar among French and Italian poets (a “contrastive dichotomy” Estienne himself introduced in his preface).[32] Thus, the stereotypical figure of the old singer of love and drink also provided a possible career model for lyricists wishing to give up or temporarily avoid public poetry without compromising their willingness and ability to compose in the highest forms.

One would expect to find several Elizabethan translations of, or allusions to this programmatic piece, especially since the strategy of recusatio seems to be eminently adaptable to the techniques of literary self-presentation of both amateurs and laureates.[33] Yet, the first translation of Ode 23 into English dates from 1602 [34], and to my knowledge the closest we come to at least an imitation of it in the 16th century is in one of the poems of “that most nearly laureate of amateur poets,” [35] Sidney. The poem entitled “My Muse what ails this ardour” in the Old Arcadia, however, as Katherine Duncan Jones pointed out “is in no sense a translation of [Ode 23]”[36]. The real vogue of translating and imitating “Anacreon” started towards the middle of the 1600s (in the works of Herrick, Stanley, and Cowley) [37], while what we can recover from the Elizabethan reception of “Anacreon” seems to be confined to writing in Anacreontic verse (i.e. metrical experiments), or the odd translation or adaptation of certain Anacreontic odes.[38] In contemporary critical works, too, reference to Anacreon is either in discussions of meter (in Campion), or in unqualified lists of ancient lyricists where the opposition between the Teian poet and Pindar is absent (in Puttenham or in Meres’s Palladis Tamia).

Against the background of these scattered echoes, Spenser’s reference to Anacreon stands out as a marked instance of literary self-presentation. True, as we have seen above, Spenser introduces the allusion in a formulaic narrative pattern which designates a stereotypical image of Anacreon rather than a specific text as referent. It is my contention, however, that in styling himself the “novice” of “Anacreon’s” art, Spenser also appropriates certain aspects of the career model associated with Estienne’s “new poet” to reflect on his own strategies of self-fashioning on several levels from the immediate context of the passage discussed, through the position of the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie in the Fowre Hymnes, to, most generally, the developments of the last phase of his own poetic career. Like the modesty topos it introduces, the allusion is ultimately ambiguous, and could be interpreted as much the advertisement as the indirect criticism of the New Poet’s newest directions. All in all, if my points are acceptable, the seemingly commonplace reference to “that sweete Teian Poet” should emerge as a critical allusion,[39] one that not only provides supportive evidence for recent revaluations of Spenser’s career, but on a more general level also prompts a reconsideration of certain aspects of the Anacreontic tradition in England.

The general appeal of the Anacreontic model to Spenser in his late career is not difficult to imagine. Besides the publication of the second installment of the Fairie Queene (1596), the period from 1594 to 1596 also saw the printing of some of his most important lyric works most of which, like Amoretti and Epithalamion, Prothalamion, or Fowre Hymnes, “the Virgilian career pattern cannot accommodate.” [40] Spenser himself also reflects on this diversion from his ambitious project in two sonnets of the Amoretti: in XXXIII the speaker says he would not be able to accomplish his “Queene of faëry [...] without another wit,” since “this one is tost with troublous fit / of a proud love,” while sonnet LXXX expresses the wish for temporary rest from work on the epic to “sport my muse and sing my loves sweet praise.” The fact that Spenser’s late lyric works (with the exception of the first part of Colin Clouts Come Home Againe) are predominantly concerned with different forms of love seems to suggest that this wish is ultimately brought to fulfillment. Thus, the hymnic speaker’s reference to himself in the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie as the “novice” of “Anacreon’s” art could be interpreted as a retrospective reflection on the late changes in Spenser’s career. The New Poet’s lyre now also “sings only of the Loves” in diverse poems ranging from the so-called Anacreontics [41], to the elevated contemplative pieces of the Fowre Hymnes—“Anacreon’s” use of the plural, thus, seems especially pertinent. In contrast to Ovid’s similar, but genre-specific self-fashioning at the beginning of the Amores (which had incidentally been appropriated around the same time by Marlowe), the Anacreontic career model based on the recusatio of Ode 23 can generously accommodate all the different pieces of this remarkable “lyric turn” without doing “Great wrong [...] to that most sacred Empresse, my dear dread” (Amoretti XXXIII, lines 1–2), or indeed anyone expecting Spenser to continue and finish his epic. Not that Spenser’s contemporaries would have found his lyric work incompatible with his “laureate self”: besides extolling Spenser as the Virgilian poet of pastoral and epic, the comparative discourse of Francis Meres’s Palladis Tamia also mentions him (“who excelleth in all kinds”) as the first among English “makers” to be compared to the best ancient lyric poets (Anacreon being one of them).[42]

Along with this general reflection, Spenser could also use the Anacreontic career model to characterize important aspects of his developing self-presentation in the Fowre Hymnes. On the basis of the poem’s dedication in which Spenser proposes to “amend, and by way of retractation to reforme” the first two hymns, critics usually contrast the earthly and heavenly poems, but it is equally common to call into doubt the dedication, or to emphasize the continuity in Spenser’s design. [43] Additionally, considering the significant differences between the two heavenly hymns, it is also possible to see the Fowre Hymnes, in Feisal Mohamed’s words, “structured simultaneously as Neoplatonic scala and as diptych-within-dyptich.”[44] Interpreting the work in terms of the career model associated with Spenser’s “sweete Teian Poet” can also reveal such a complex set of relations between the hymn-pairs and the individual poems. While in Petrarchist manner the speaker of the earthly hymns often resorts to describe the torments of love with images and concepts borrowed from epic—he wishes to sing the “victorious conquests” and the “wondrous triumphs” of Love (Hymne in Honour of Love, lines 11 and 18, respectively), or tells about “Armies of Loves,” the “lovely kingdom” and the “conquest” of Cytherea (An Hymne in Honour of Beautie, lines 240, 266, and 268, respectively)—, in the second stanza of the Hymne of Heavenly Love he repents his “lewd layes” and “turn[s] the tenor of [his] string]” to “heavenly praises of true love.” Patricia Berrahou Phillippy interprets this latter change (together with Spenser’s dedication) as a “palinodic gesture” reflecting on “the ongoing debate between [the poet’s] private and public roles.”[45] By identifying himself as the Teian poet’s “novice” at the end of the hymn-sequence, the hymnic speaker revisits the same dilemma—present in the contrast of the “earthly” and the “heavenly” hymns as well as the two “reformed” hymns (which, according to Mohamed, enact “the compartmentalization of public and private worship”)—, but at the same time invites us to reconsider his motives. From the ecstatically sublime vision of Sapience, the conscious choice of repentance informing the Platonic and Chaucerian tradition of palinode may be replaced by the idea of the poet’s once-for-all surrender to his subject promoted in the Anacreontic recusatio. From this final vantage point, therefore, the emphasis falls on new beginnings rather than old mistakes: “late repentance” (line 293) is discouraged in favor of being “possest” with the love of God, a rapture which might find its parallels in Platonic mania, but could also be aptly described with the Anacreontic expression σώφρων λύσσα (sane madness) [46].

One could, however, argue that this interpretation ventures too far, since even if the strategy of Anacreontic recusatio seems to be relevant to the interpretation of the allusion, nothing could be farther from Spenser’s complex, philosophically informed late lyric poetry, and especially the Fowre Hymnes, than the idea of love associated with Anacreon. After all, even Spenser’s lightest poems from this period, the so-called Anacreontics may be interpreted allegorically in Neoplatonic terms, whereas, as already Janet Levarie pointed out, the “neoplatonic concept of Eros seems lacking from Anacreontic imitations.”[47] Moreover, as we have seen above, in the passage under discussion Spenser himself calls the attention to this problem by providing an indirect critique of “that sweete Teian Poet” who is vainly obsessed with the “Idole of his fayning thought.” True, but we should also remember that at the same time Spenser makes a clear cut distinction between Apelles, “that Painter” who could not, “for all his maistring skill,” represent Sapience, and “that sweete Teian Poet” who—were he given the chance of a glimpse—would splendidly succeed. While in the latter case impossibility to conceive of heavenly beauty is absolute, poetry—depending on the poet’s skill and subject—actually carries within itself the potential to “picture so divine a wight.”[48] We don’t have to look farther than the “novice’s” latest work to find a turn from epic to a “reformed” kind of Anacreontic poetry in which sweetness and skill are complemented by a new conception of love, and the need “Of loves perfection perfectly to speake / Or of his nature rightly to define.” [49] In other words, Spenser’s allusion not only evokes the Anacreontic career model, but also readjusts it to fit the New Poet’s newest poetry. As if to demonstrate this point in practice, the “novice” presents the modesty topos in the form of a recusatio based on resorting to silent admiration and letting angels sing.

This radical adoption of the Anacreontic recusatio, however, also communicates Spenser’s awareness of the limitations of his late lyric turn. In the first stanza of the hymn the same rhetorical strategy is employed to introduce one of the central concerns of the poem, the inadequacy of human expression: “I faine to tell the things that I behold, / But feele my wits to faile, and tongue to fold.” Far from solving this problem, the “novice” actually confirms it at the end of the poem by claiming that even the “gentle” Teian Muse is “too weake and faint, / The pourtraict of so heavenly hew to paint.” Although he is “possest” with the “huge love” of Sapience in a similar fashion as Anacreon’s lyre seems to be possessed with “the Loves,” instead of starting to sing about it, he stays content “in th’only wonder of her selfe to rest.”[50] As the last stanza of the hymn pointedly suggests, however, this rest is not the brief respite from epic labor desired in Amoretti LXXX, but rather eternal rest, “that Shabaoths sight” wished for at the end of the Mutabilitie Cantos. While for old “Anacreon” singing “only of the Loves” represents the beginning of a poetic career in which death is merely “the limit of pleasure,” and is as such constantly deferred[51], for the “novice” the lyric turn brings the hope of ending his career in the “sweete pleasures” of eternal rest (lines 300–301). Spenser’s allusion thus contributes to the process in which—as Patrick Cheney points out—“the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie emerges as simultaneously an intensely private preparation for death and a public poem searching to communicate with the reader.”[52]

 

On the basis of the above, it seems that the unlikely figure of “Anacreon” can be added to the list of ancient and modern authors who and whose works provided possible models for the shaping of Spenser’s career. Compared to the numerous allusions to Virgil, Chaucer, or Orpheus throughout Spenser’s oeuvre[53], the single reference to the “Teian Poet” seems no more than an afterthought, but the fact that it is the last one of Spenser’s direct literary allusions in the works published during his lifetime, and at the same time probably the first significant instance in English literature of using the figure of Anacreon for literary self-presentation, clearly lends it some significance. By appropriating the Anacreontic career model in the Hymne of Heavenly Beautie Spenser not only marks the paradox of ending his career with leaving his epic unfinished and turning or returning to lyric poetry, but also sets an example for those who would pursue and complete his course. Ironically, as literary history tells us, it took an epic writer some seventy years later to reiterate the wish to tell of “things invisible to mortal sight,” and the poets coming after Spenser, most notably Jonson and his “sons,” turned to Estienne’s sweet old poet for quite different reasons.[54] One might, however, wonder, especially in the light of Jonson’s well-documented ambivalence toward Spenser, to what extent this “new” Anacreontic tradition in the first half of the 17th century was a reaction against Spenser’s “sweete Teian Poet.”

 



[1] The expression is Patrick Cheney’s: “’Novelles of his devise’: Chaucerian and Virgilian Career Paths in Spenser’s Fenruarie Eclogue,” in Patrick Cheney and Frededrick A. de Armas, eds., European Literary Careers: The Author from Antiquity to the Renaissance (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 231–267.

[2] William A. Oram et al. eds. The Yale Edition of the Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser (New Haven: Yale UP, 1989). All further quotations from Spenser’s shorter poems are from this edition.

[3] Cf. Critias’ account of him as quoted by Athenaeus (PMG 500): “τὸν δὲ γυναικείων μελέων πλέξαντα ποτ’ ᾠδὰς / ἡδὺν Ἀνακρείοντα Τέως εἰς Ἑλλάδ’ ἀνῆγεν, / συμποσίων ἐρεθισμα, γυναικῶν ἠπεροπέυμα”, that is: “Sweet Anacreon, who once wove the songs for women’s melodies, was brought to Greece by Teos, the excitement of the drinking-party, the deceiver of women”. David A. Campbell, Greek Lyric (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1988) II: 138. All further quotations and translations from the Anacreontea are from this volume. Cf. also Marty Roth, “’Anacreon’ and Drink Poetry; or the Art of Feeling Very Very Good,” Texas Studies in Literature & Language 42:3 (2000), 314-345. For a survey of how “Anacreon” became an emblematic figure of the “discourse of intoxication.”

[4] Edwin Greenlaw et al., eds. The Works of Edmund Spenser. A Variorum Edition, vol. 7. The Minor Poems. Part One (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1943). References in this section to the work of Winstanley, Renwick, and Lotspeich are to p. 567 of this edition.

[5] This mastery is perhaps less apparent in Anacreontea 17 where the impatient speaker stops the list of things to be painted because the painter’s art is “grudging” (φθονερὴν ἔχεις δὲ τέχνην).

[6] Cf. Lotspeich (quoted in the Variorum commentary) who, after reviewing the possible sources for the passage from Ovid to Pliny (Nat Hist. 35.26.), comes to the conclusion that “none of these” explains Spenser’s allusions sufficiently.

[7] William A. Oram, “Spenser’s Audiences, 1589–91,” Studies in Philology 100:4 (2003), 514–533.

[8] For a reverse pattern involving an actual list of comparisons to illustrate perfection cf. Colin Clouts Come Home Againe ll. 333-351.

[9] “Concerning Virgils Eneids” in Hyder Edward Rollins, ed. Tottel’s Miscellany (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1965), 99: “By heavens hye gift, incase revived were / Lysip, Apelles, and Homer the great: / The most renowmd, and ech of the fance pere, / in gravyng, paintyng, and the Poets feat: / Yet could they not, for all their vein divine, / In marble, table, paper more, or lesse, / With cheezil, pencil, or with poyntel fyne, / So grave, so paynt, or so by style expresse […] Of noble prince the lively shape descrived: / As, in the famous woork, that Eneids hight, / The naamkouth Virgil hath set forth in sight.”

[10] Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster (London: 1571), M4v: “The conference of these two places [i.e. Cicero’s two different paraphrases of a Greek text ], conteyning so excellent a peece of learning as this is, expressed by so worthy a witte, as Tullies was, must needes bring great pleasure and proffit to him, that maketh trew counte, of learning and honestie. But if we had the Greke Author, the first Patterne of all, and therby to see, how Tullies witte did worke at diverse tymes, how, out of one excellent Image, might be framed two other, one in face and favor, but somwhat differing in forme, figure, and color, surelie, such a peece of workemanship compared with the Paterne it selfe, would better please the eyes of honest, wise, and learned myndes, than two of the fairest Venusses, that ever Apelles made.”

[11] “The Lover extolleth the singular Beautie of his Ladie” George Tuberville, Epitaphes, epigrams, songs and sonets (London: 1567), 6r. “Though Venus forme Apelles made so well, / As Greece did judge the Painter to excell: Yet let that not enbolde the Greeke to grave / hir Shape, that beauties praise deserves to have.” Cf also the beginning of the poem entitled “The Lover exhorteth his ladie to take time, while time is” (32v): “Though brave your Beautie be and feature passing faire, / Such as Apelles to depaint might utterly despaire” etc.

[12] XXIX in Thomas Watson, Hekatompathia (London: 1582), D3r: “Apelles yf he liv’d would stand agast / With coulours to set downe her comely face, / Who farre excells though Venus were in place. / Praxiteles might likewise stand in doute / In metall to expresse her forme aryghte”etc.

[13] FQ IV. v. 12.

[14] “Having in the greener times of my youth, composed these former two Hymnes in the praise of Love and Beautie, and finding that the same too much pleased those of like age and disposition, which being too vehemently caried with that kind of affection, do rather sucke out poyson to their strong passion, then hony to their honest delight, I was moved by the one of you two most excellent Ladies, to call in the same. But being unable so to doe, by reason that many copies were fomerly scattered abroad, I resolved at least to amend, and by way of retractation to reforme them, making in stead of those two Hymnes of earthly or naturall love and beautie, two others of heavenly and celestiall.”

[15] The reference occurs in the hymnic speaker’s procedure from fair to still fairer heavens: “More faire is that [heaven], where those Idees on hie, / Enraunged be, which Plato so admyred, / And pure Intelligences from God inspyred.”

[16] Modern commentators have argued, however, that Plato’s allusion to Anacreon and Sappho in the Phaedrus goes beyond general reference. For a recent view cf. E. E. Pender, “Sappho and Anacreon in Plato’s Phaedrus,” Leeds International Classical Studies 6:4 (2007) <http://www.leeds.ac.uk/classics/lics/2007/200704.pdf>. Last accessed: 09 10 2009.

[17] Cf. Marsilio Ficino, Commentarium in Convivium Platonis de amore VII. xiv. “Amatorio maxime Saphon, Anacreontem, et Socratem fuisse correptos accipemus” <http://www.bibliotecaitaliana.it/xtf/view?docId=bibit001017/bibit001017.xml&chunk.id=d5542e1568&toc.id=d5542e1310&brand=default>. Last accessed: 09 10 2009.

[18] Janet Levarie Smarr, “Anacreontic”, The Spenser Encyclopedia, ed. by A. C. Hamilton, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990).

[19] Janet Levarie “Renaissance Anacreontics,” Comparative Literature 25:3 (1973), 221–239.

[20] Cf. William A. Oram above; cf. also: James P. Bednarz, “The Collaborator as Thief: Ralegh’s (Re)Vision of the Fairie Queene,ELH 63:2 (1996), 279–307.

[21] ΑΝΑΚΡΕΟΝΤΟΣ ΤΗΙΟΥ ΜΕΛΗ ANACREONTIS Teij Odae. Ab Henrico Stephano luce et Latinitate nunc primum donatae (Paris: 1554).

[22] A thorough account of the early history of the Anacreontea, and Estienne’s work on the MS is in the “Introduction” of Patricia A. Rosenmeyer’s The Poetics of Imitation. Anacreon and the Anacreontic Tradition (Cambridge: CUP, 1992). Cf. also Gordon Braden, The Classics and English Renaissance Poetry (New Haven: Yale UP, 1978), 255–258; Martin L. West, Carmina Anacreontea (Leipzig: Teubner, 1984), v–xxi; David A. Campbell, op. cit., 4–18.

[23] Patricia A. Rosenmeyer, Ibid. Some of these poems are even left out from the first edition, others are included, together with what we now consider to be genuine fragments of Anacreon, in an appendix.

[24] Patricia A. Rosenmeyer, Ibid; cf. also Thomas A Schmitz’s discussion of Estienne’s preface in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review (96.8.14) available at: <http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/1996/96.08.14.html>. Last accessed: 09 10 2009.

[25] Patricia A. Rosenmeyer, Ibid., 6. Among Estienne’s contemporaries Robortello was the most ardent critic of the “discovery”: cf. also Klara Vanek, Ars Corrigendi in der frühen Neuzeit: Studien zur Geschichte der Textkritik (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007), 40–43.

[26] Thomas A Schmitz, Ibid.

[27] Estienne, 65.

[28] For a list of the several different uses of recusatio in the Anacreontea, cf. Patricia A. Rosenmeyer, op. cit., 96–102.

[29] Joan G. Haahr, “Justifying Love: The Classical Recusatio in Medieval Love Literature,” in James J. Paxson and Cynthia A. Gravlee, eds., Desiring Discourse. The Literature of Love, Ovid through Chaucer (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 1998), 39–61. As Haahr points out, both classical and later poets used recusatio “to generate alternative rhetorical and narrative strategies justifying dissent from ostensibly more serious collective and institutional principles embodied in epic and other moral poetry.”

[30] The classic example is the beginning of Vergil’s Eclogue VI where Tityrus means to tell of “kings and battles” (reges et proelia), but Apollo strongly discourages him. Spenser also adopts this strategy in the “June” eclogue of The Shepheardes Calender, to counter Hobbinol’s prophecy about Colin’s talents, but also, according to Patrick Cheney, “to predict his own Chaucerian revision of the Virgilian model.” “Spenser’s Pastorals: The Shepheardes Calender and Colin Clouts Come Home Againe,” in Andrew Hadfield, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Spenser (Cambridge: CUP, 2001), 79–105.

[31] Cf. for example Ode 2 (in modern editions) in which the Anacreontic speaker asks for Homer’s lyre φονίης ἄνευθε χορδῆς, that is: “without the murderous string.”

[32] For the history of “conducting literary history through contrastive dichotomies, a strategy that is at once enabling and limiting, illuminating and blinkering” cf. Philip Hardie, “Contrasts,” in S. J. Heyworth et al., eds., Classical Constructions. Papers in memory of Don Fowler, Classicist and Epicurean (Oxford: OUP, 2007), 141–173; for the vogue of Anacreon among French and Italian poets of the Renaissance cf. Janet Levarie, op. cit.

[33] For the different Elizabethan strategies of literary self-presentation see Richard Helgerson, “The Elizabethan Laureate. Self-Presentation and the Literary System,” ELH 46:2 (1979), 193–220.

[34] Stuart Gillespie, “The Anacreontea in English: A Checklist of Translations to 1900,” Translation and Literature 11:2 (2002), 149–174.

[35] The expression is Helgerson’s; cf. note 33 above.

[36] Katherine Duncan-Jones, “Sidney’s Anacreontics,” The Review of English Studies 36 (1985), 226–228.

[37] On the reception of the Anacreontea in England cf. Stella P. Revard, “Cowley’s Anacreontiques and the Translation of the Greek Anacreontea” in Alex. Dalzell, Ch. Fantazzi, and R. J. Schoeck., eds., Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Torontonensis Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies, Toronto 8 August to 13 August 1988. Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 86 (Binghamton, N. Y., 1991), 595–608; Stella Achilleos, “The Anacreontea and a Tradition of Refined Male Sociability” in Adam Smyth, ed. A Pleasing Sinne: Drink and Conviviality in Seventeenth-Century England (Woodbridge: DS Brewer, 2004), 21–36: “It [i.e. the Anacreontic corpus] does not appear to have had an immediate impact on English poets and initially it might have been looked on as a rather archaic form, available only to a social or educational elite who could read either the Greek original or a Latin translation” (24). Cf. also Stella Achilleos, “The Anacreontic and the Growth of Sociability in Early Modern England,” Appositions: Studies in Renaissance/Early Modern Literature and Culture 1 (2008) <http://appositions.blogspot.com>. Last accessed: 09 10 2009.

[38] See for example the beginning of “love-passion” XXVII in Thomas Watson’s Hekatompathia (D2r) the first part of which is a translation of Ronsard’s imitation of Anacreontea Ode 29.

[39] I adopt the term “critical allusion” from William M. Porter’s Reading the Classics and Paradise Lost (London: University of Nebraska Press, 1993). According to Porter, critical allusions are rarely the most conspicuous classical references, yet (contrary to simple echoes or borrowings) they always involve a marked contrast with the original.

[40] Colin Burrow, “Spenser and classical traditions,” in Andrew Hadfield, ed., op. cit., 217–236. Paul Alpers suggests that these late works “represent an alternative body of major poetry to Spenser’s epic endeavor.” “Spenser’s Late Pastorals,” ELH 56:4 (1989), 797–817.

[41] In modern editions this generic term has become the accepted title for the group of of the nine mythological poems inserted between the sonnets of Amoretti and the Epithalamion; Spenser himself never called these poems “Anacreontics.”

[42] Gregory Smith, ed., Elizabethan Critical Essays, 2 vols (Oxford: OUP, 1904), 2:319.

[43] For a selection of earlier criticism see the Variorum commentary. Cf. also György Endre Szőnyi, “The Synthesis of Renaissance Love-Theories: The Compositional Structure of Edmund Spenser’s Fowre Hymnes,” Papers in English and American Studies (Szeged: 1982), vol 2.

[44] Feisal G.Mohamed, “Renaissance Thought on the Celestial Hierarchy: The Decline of a Tradition?” Journal of the History of Ideas 65:4 (2004), 559–582.

[45] Patricia Berrahou Phillippy, Love’s Remedies: Recantation and Renaissance Lyric Poetry (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1995) 194.

[46] Cf. Phaedrus 244a–245c; Anacreontea Ode 2.

[47] Janet Levarie, op. cit. For possible interpretations of Spenser’s Anacreontics see the Yale Edition, 592–593.

[48] This might derive from the high status generally allotted to poetry in early modern critical thinking; cf. the proem to the third book of the Fairie Queene above where Spenser claims that “Poet’s wit [...] passeth Painter farre.”

[49] Colin Clouts Come Home Againe, lines 835–836. Cf. also Melissa’s reaction to Colin’s “hymn of love”: “Colin, thou now full deeply hast divynd: / Of love and beauty and with wondrous skill” (ll 896–897).

[50] This motif of resignation also appears at the beginning of the New Poet’s career in the recusatio of the June eclogue where Colin’s disavows epic ambitions: “Enough is me to paint out my unrest, / And poore my piteous plaints out in the same”; cf. note 29 above.

[51] Gordon Braden, op. cit., 198. Cf. especially Ode 40 for the view of death characteristic of the Anacreontea.

[52] Patrick Cheney, Spenser’s Famous Flight: A Renaissance Idea of a Literary Career (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993), 220.

[53] For the Orphean model cf. Patrick Cheney, op. cit., passim.

[54] Cf. Stella Achilleos, “The Anacreontea and a Tradition of Refined Male Sociability” in Adam Smyth, ed. A Pleasing Sinne: Drink and Conviviality in Seventeenth-Century England (Woodbridge: DS Brewer, 2004), 21–36.

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