Edmund Spenser


'Heare lyes
(expecting the Second comminge of our Saviour Christ Jesus)
the body of Edmond Spencer the Prince of Poets
in his tyme whose Divine Spirrit needs noe othir witnesse
then the works which He left behinde him.'


Edmund Spenser is buried in 'Poets' Corner', Westminster Abbey, London, England next to Chaucer. (The monument to Spenser was made in 1778 and is a replica of the original one erected by Ann Clifford, Countess of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery in 1620. )

Memorial to Edmund Spenser
Photograph by Kieran Smith

Spenser was educated at Merchant Taylor's School and at Pembroke College Cambridge. In 1579 he obtained a position in the household of the Earl of Leicester - who was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth. It was here that he first became acquainted with  Sir Philip Sidney.

In 1580 Spenser was appointed secretary to Lord Grey and moved to Ireland where he acquired Kilcolman Castle in County Cork. While in Ireland he continued to write The Faerie Queene and also completed Astrophel - his elegy for Sidney.

Edmund Spenser

In 1594 he married Elizabeth Boyle and to celebrate their marriage wrote his famous Epithalamion. In 1598 his castle at Kilcolman was burnt down during an uprising and he was forced to flee Cork with his wife and three children. He subsequently returned to London and died, in poverty, in lodgings in King Street, Westminster. 

It is reported that his funeral was attended by Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher and Shakespeare. Apparently they all wrote elegies for Spenser which they threw into the grave along with their pens. In 1938 the nearest grave to his memorial was opened in the hope of finding the pens and elegies, but unfortunately all that was discovered was a collapsed lead coffin surrounded by dry soil.

It was not until 10 years after his death that the first folio edition of The Faerie Queene was published. He is also remembered for The Shepeardes Calender.

Spenser was one of the forefathers of English poetry and his work was a major influence upon Keats, Milton and Yeats

(See also allegory, epithalamion, and Spenserian stanza.)

In that same Gardin all the goodly flowres,
    Wherewith dame Nature doth her beautifie,
And decks the girlonds of her paramoures,
    Are fetcht: there is the first seminarie
    Of all things that are borne to live and die,

From The Faerie Queene - The Garden of Adonis

Read more of Spenser's poetry






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