Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 40, 2000

The Poetics of Accommodation in Spenser's "Epithalamion"

by Judith Owens

Spenser's "Epithalamion" has been long praised for elegant harmonies, for the celebratory gathering of created and immaterial worlds, and for universalizing tendencies--in short, for astonishing syncretic power. More recently, critics have begun to focus instead on the ways in which issues of gender and vocation disturb the poem's express harmonies. However, little detailed attention has been accorded the immediate political, cultural, and social contexts of the poem. My argument will begin to redress this neglect. [1]

We need to trace more assiduously the connections between this poem and Ireland, particularly Spenser's tenure in Munster as official and settler. [2] These connections bring into relief Spenser's colonialist and reformist designs, not only for Ireland but also for his bride, Elizabeth Boyle. While such a context encourages us to find conflict where earlier critics found harmony and to regard as hegemony what earlier critics called unity, we need to observe that Spenser's mediation of tensions accommodates considerable range of response with respect to both Ireland and Elizabeth. Spenser leaves room, I will argue, for the autonomy and agency of these subjects to emerge, by declining to fully sound--in the senses of plumb and proclaim--Elizabeth's sexual nature and by entertaining, without absorbing, cultural voices other than his own. [3] Although this mediation is not to be identified led with the harmony praised by so many readers, it does make Spenser's representation of Ireland and of his bride more than a stark document in imperialism.

The refrain in the "Epithalamion"--variations on "The woods shall to me answer and my Eccho ring"-- provides a useful point of departure for considering what the poem makes of its world and subjects. [4] For those readers who find in the poem harmony, unity, and jubilation, Spenser's refrain figures a world that answers his celebration with echoing joy. [5] Those who hear in the refrain something other than unmitigated joy and assurance of the world's responsiveness typically identify the figure of echo as the source of disturbance and regard the disturbances as psychological, vocational, or metaphysical. [6]

I wish to shift the emphasis from "Eccho" to "woods" and--moving out from the poem to the woods around Spenser's home at Kilcolman and more generally to the Plantation of Munster--to charge the refrain with social and political significance. The first instance of the refrain indeed invites us to reverse the customary orientation: syntactical ambiguity permits us to surmise that the woods do not only echo--ring with--the poet's song but also ring--circumscribe--the speaker's resonance. [7] In the "Epithalamion," the woods sometimes return answers of their own and not ones of the poet's making. We can appreciate more fully the significance of Irish woods in this poem if we turn first to consider the woodlands of Ireland and how Irish woods figure in Spenser's A View of the Present State of Ireland.


The woodlands of Ireland feature prominently in the English experience of that country, as we can surmise from sources ranging from Giraldus Cambrensis's twelfth-century description of Ireland as a land where forests exceeded open country, to records of the export market for Irish timber in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. [8] What is more pertinent to this essay is that the woods of Ireland became prime sites of the grim, often horrific, conflict between the Irish (with the Anglo-Irish) and the English. From the point of view of the English, Irish woods harbored particular and extensive perils for English settlers, officials, and soldiers. [9] The Aherlow Wood, located just south of Tipperary and northeast of what became Spenser's home at Kilcolman, was the most notorious of several forest fastnesses in which Irish forces could muster or from which killing raids could be made on isolated English settlers. Aherlow remained a rebel stronghold in both the Desmond rebellion (1579-83), from the crushing of which Spenser and other Munster undertakers obtained their lands, and the Tyrone rebellion (1596-1600), which wiped out the Munster Plantation, including Spenser's home at Kilcolman, in the fall of 1598. Plans in late 1579 to "reduce" the Desmond rebellion included the recommendation to "cut and burn" the woods. [10] Generally, in this period and earlier, English military policy, if not practice, included such campaigns. Woods such as Aherlow made Irish positions virtually impregnable to the English, and in these woods the Irish forces could move undetected, gaining the advantage of surprise. [11]

Spenser's View mirrors the English experience in Ireland in the significance accorded to Irish woods. Spenser assumes that the subjugation of Ireland necessarily involves the clearing of woods; through Irenius, he speaks of the need to secure passageways through the woods: "And first I wish that order were taken for the cutting down and opening of all paces through the woods, so that a wide way of the space of a hundred yards might be laid open in every of them for the safety of travellers, which use often in such perilous places to be robbed and sometimes murdered." [12] Beyond its immediate literal reference, this statement provides an apt emblem for the English project in Ireland, especially in Spenser's province of Munster. The successful plantation of Munster depended upon the clearing away of "barbarous" and, to the English mind, surprisingly intransigent Irish beliefs, customs, costumes, laws, and loyalties in order that "civil" English ways could take root. [13] To a large extent, this "reformation" could only proceed by transforming the landscape: through enclosure, the making of more ploughlands, and deforestation. Such measures would disrupt such Irish customs as booling (nomadism), which rendered the Irish invisible and so beyond effective English control, and uncontracted tenancy, which both encouraged rootlessness and made tenants more pliable to the interests of their (Irish and Anglo-Irish) lords. [14]

We can trace, in the View, a network of references and images which suggest that Spenser considered deforestation to be integral to the English subjection of Ireland and to the securing of the English commonwealth. Speaking of how readily thieves elude justice, Irenius remarks--with parallelism which verges on apposition--that the principal thief is seldom caught, "being in rebellion or in the woods" (p. 26). Elsewhere, Irenius makes more explicit the close association of woodlands and rebellion, speaking of the "rebel" who "lurketh in the thick woods" (p. 52). Like the Irish mantle, the woods of Ireland hide malefactors. It is the invisibility of the foe--whether "traitor" or "rebel" or "thief" (each of whom poses a threat to the commonwealth)--that seems particularly worrisome to Spenser. The very title of Spenser's political tract reflects his concern with being able to see this country and its people, a concern that, in this document, has as much to do with surveillance as with understanding. Arguably, S penser's project thus participates in forming what Michel Foucault calls a "disciplinary society" in which "visibility is a trap...assur[ing] the automatic functioning of power." [15]

The woods that "house" rebels and thieves (p. 52) are an anathema to Spenser not only because they literally hide culprits but because they represent a polity beyond English law, punishment, and religion. A very large part of what defines Spenser's apprehension of the Irish in the View is his sense of their occludedness and consequent imperviousness to English ways. Frequently in the treatise, we meetwith Spenser's recognition of the perdurable bonds among the Irish. Irenius speaks with wonder of the foster mother who drank, and covered herself in, the blood from the severed head of an executed rebel (p. 62); he speaks with distaste of the "raising" of war cries as making "a terrible yell and hubbub, as if heaven and earth would have gone together" (p. 54); he speaks of the "barbarous" custom of calling "upon the names of captains" when entering battle (p. 54). These are among the several customs that Spenser adduces in order to trace Irish ancestry to Scythians and Gauls (among others). Time and again, Spen ser, through Irenius, cites evidence of the ties binding the Irish to their "barbarous" origins and to each other in ways that shutout the English and make the Irish impervious to the English gaze. The woods, literally and metonymically, pose, in densest form, this threat of Irish imperviousness.

To Spenser's mind, the clearing of the woods would help to secure the English commonwealth, not only because it would leave open to view "that rebellious rout of loose people which. . . in wandering companies do keep the woods spoiling and infesting the good subject" (pp. 95-6), but also because the lumber furnished by the clearing could be used to "civilize" Ireland through the building of (English) houses and, more importantly, the building of ships. [16] Irenius describes Ireland as "adorned" with "goodly woods fit for the building of houses and ships so commodiously, as that if some princes in the world had them, they would soon hope to be lords of all the seas and ere long of all the world" (p. 19). The woods are "goodly" in part because they could serve to advance English expansion. Later, in explaining why there remain more Scythian than Gaulish or Spanish customs in Ireland, Irenius praises sea trade "for the trade and inter-deal of seacoast nations one with another worketh more civility and good fas hions in them, all sea men being naturally desirous of new fashions, than amongst the inland dwellers which are seldom seen of foreigners" (p. 60). The concluding clause-"which are seldom seen of foreigners"-makes explicit a revealing assumption: being seen by foreign (and more civilized) men eradicates "barbarity." [17] To convert the Irish woods to ships would expose the rebellious and barbarous Irish and render them pervious to the civilizing English. The twin desires of making pervious and godly are the very desires that underwrite substantial portions of the "Epithalamion" and that make its refrain so evocative.


"The woods shall to me answer and my Eccho ring" (118). The context just provided prepares us to hear, in the refrain of the "Epithalamion," something more than literary, pastoral convention, as well as something more than the peril associated with woods elsewhere in Spenser's work and in that of his contemporaries. Spenser's refrain takes us into the heart of the Elizabethan and Spenserian experience of Ireland. More, the ambiguity and nuances of the refrain's grammar and syntax promise that, for Spenser, in his poetry if not in his treatise, this experience accommodates a range of response. This is so, not simply because poetry generally works in less procrustean ways than does political discourse, but specifically because in this poem Spenser's Irish experience is intimately informed by the dynamics of his erotic vision--a vision which generates subtle, reciprocal, scopic economies. The "Epithalamion" engages issues of hiddenness and visibility in ways which move beyond the Foucaultian, panoptic, paramete rs of the View to grant autonomy to surveyed subjects.

To turn to the "Epithalamion" from the View is certainly to hear something of the imperiousness that largely characterizes the political tract. It is to understand more fully the seeming imperative in this poem to make the woods answer to Spenser's song: to turn Irish woods to Spenserian uses is to subject both Ireland and Spenser's bride, Elizabeth, to English ways. That it seems to Spenser imperative to do so we can gauge from the poem's opening stanza, which looks expressly back to England (and beyond, to classical literary antecedents) to find the order and vision into which Spenser at least initially wishes to place his bride and thus Ireland. Although Spenser had been some fourteen years in Ireland by the time he composed his wedding song, the poem opens with pointed reminders of his English laureate ambitions. Spenser alludes to his own already published works (The Shepheardes Calender, The Faerie Queene 1-3, and the Complaints), works which, despite having been mostly written in Ireland, remain orien ted to English issues, politics, and personages.

Spenser calls upon the muses of these works to help him "his loves prayses to resound" (114), expecting that, in good epideictic fashion, the praising of his love (that is, Elizabeth and his love for her) will edify Ireland and Elizabeth. An Elizabeth rendered this way would be exemplary. An Ireland resonating with his exemplary love--one condition expressed in Spenser's wish that the woods will echo his song--would be an Ireland reformed by his poetic vision and so rendered intelligible. The relationship in the poem between Elizabeth and Ireland is thus more than an analogy. Sheila Cavanagh has noted the extent to which English complaints about Irish political and social customs merged with specific censure of Irish women, whose perceived "disorderliness" was taken as both sign and cause of general Irish disorder. [18] Arguably, Spenser's linking of his reformist ideas for Ireland to his fashioning of his bride rests on similar assumptions about women's double significance, with Spenser's design, however, b eing to promote orderliness.

Spenser's song does not finally resound as the poem's opening stanza suggests, however. The poet's singing of praises does not fully "sound" (in the senses both of plumbing and giving expression to) either Ireland or the bride. Spenser's masque of Hymen (stanzas 1-6), in its designs and defaults, illustrates the poetics of accommodation that informs the "Epithalamion." Orchestrated with care, joy, and expectancy, and intended to give sacramental form to the body of desire, and so also to promote the "Englishing" of Ireland's political body, the masque does not quite succeed.

Elizabeth's awakening furnishes my opening instance of the designs and defaults of the masque. When, in stanza 2, Spenser calls upon the "learned sisters" to awaken his bride, they act as heralds of Hymen. As a mythical god, as an a priori poetic construction, Hymen has been "long since ready forth his maske to move" (2.26). At some level, clearly, Spenser wishes Elizabeth's awakening on this day to be an awakening into a poetic vision of a sacred and eternalizing union; he wants his muses to awaken Elizabeth "Early before the worlds light giving lampe / His golden beame upon the hills doth spred" (2.19-20) because he wishes the ceremonial, sacred, and spiritual form of the marriage to precede its material form. But Elizabeth does not waken to the muses' song; she awakens into the natural, rather than sacramental or poetic order, as if in response to the rising sun, the caroling birds, and the woods' echo of their song. Indeed, the actual moment of Elizabeth's crossing of the threshold--from sleeping to waki ng, from the darkness of night and the body to the light of day and consciousness--is elided, the moment filled instead with the resonance of stanza 5. Stanza 6 begins, "My love is now awake out of her dreame" (6.92). Spenser's masque of Hymen, then, does not inscribe this threshold. Also notably, it is in the stanza describing the birds' song that, for the first time in the poem, the refrain assumes the indicative mode; the woods answer the birds. Thus, not only does Elizabeth respond to a song which is not, so to speak, the poet's, but so also do the woods.

As well as presenting the visionary form of marriage, the masque of Hymen seems intended to circumscribe Elizabeth's sexual nature by recreating the landscape around Kilcolman as Edenic and offering it as a mirror to Elizabeth. Again, though, such designs falter. In orchestrating Hymen's masque, Spenser directs his muses to recruit the help of nymphs, saying "Bring with you all the Nymphes that you can heare" (3.37) and stipulating further that these garlanded nymphs (3.40) should "also with them bring in hand, / Another gay girland / For my fayre love of lillyes and of roses, / Bound truelove wize with a blew silke riband" (3.41-4).

While the directive "Bring with you all the Nymphes that you can heare" might be easily regarded as another example of the ways in which Spenser gathers both the created and the immaterial worlds to fuse nature and art in celebration of his wedding, the command here might well record an exclusionary gesture. [19] Ambiguous syntax permits us to interpret the line as "bring with you all the nymphs that are capable of hearing you," a reading supported by the fact that, at this point in the poem, it is the muses, not the nymphs, who are imagined as singing. The muses are to bring only those nymphs who can hear the muses' song of "joy and solace" (2.35), only those nymphs who understand poetic making and the emblematic significance of the garland of lilies, roses, and blue ribbon. [20] The forces that Spenser marshals in his masque thus "sound" only a portion of nature; other aspects of nature, and of Elizabeth's nature, remain unfathomed, beyond his ken and unresponsive to his very English, classical, and learne d muses.

Spenser's selectivity regarding the elements he will admit into his masque is charming (and indeed reads like a charm in the repetition of "And let them"); it signals tender regard for Elizabeth's well-being. In stanzas 3 and 4, Spenser's poetic making of the world clears and cushions a space for Elizabeth as he enjoins those nymphs who hear his muses to "make great store of bridal poses" (3.45) and requests that

the ground whereas [Elizabeth's] foot shall tread,

For feare the stones her tender foot should wrong,

Be strewed with fragrant flowers all along.


His re-creation of the landscape addresses real and immediate dangers of the English experience in Munster. [21] But, insofar as these stanzas concern Elizabeth's sexual vulnerability, this clearing is a paternalistic attempt to circumscribe Elizabeth's nature, to lay claim to the bride (as the pun on "poses" as the making of assertions intimates). For example, Spenser invites to the masque of Hymen the "lightfoot mayds" who with "steel darts doo chace from comming neer" the "wylde wolves which seeke [the deer] to devour" (4.67-70). Contemporary as well as ancient analysts of the Romulus and Remus story (a tale about the founding of Rome, as the "Epithalamion" is at least partly about the founding of the English commonwealth in Ireland) frequently associate wolves with harlots. [22] Spenser's reference to wolves, then, may well imply a wish not only to keep real wolves away from his Kilcolman home but also to present his bride as a model of chastity. [23]

Spenser's injunctions to the nymphs of the "rushy lake" (located next to Kilcolman tower) emblematize in a particularly resonant, if highly compressed, manner the presumptions in Spenser's regard for his young bride. "Bynd up the locks," says the poet, "which hang scatterd light" (4.62). The locks (which are at once the rushes in the lake and the hair of the nymphs) must be duly bound up, not only to preserve order and decorum, but also to fashion a particular vision of, and in, Elizabeth. First, the binding of the nymphs' locks ensures, proleptically, that Elizabeth's own loose bridal locks (stanza 9) convey virginity, as conventionally they do: any subliminal fears about Elizabeth's looseness are deflected onto the nymphs, bound up, so to speak, with their locks. [24]

We can unravel this dense metaphor to suggest something more about the poet's claims on his bride. The binding of the locks (the clearing of the rushes, which would permit the gathering of light) makes a mirror of the lake; in this mirror, the nymphs, having bound their locks, can behold their faces "as the christall bright," that is, as in a crystal, but also as crystal (4.64). In effect, the nymphs themselves become mirrors, into which Elizabeth can look to see her own nature reflected. Looking into this mirror, Elizabeth will see "no blemish" (4.66): she will see a nature--her nature--cleared of "rushes," that is, any unseemly passion, any violent or impetuous desire; she will see a nature without wantonness, a nature not "scatterd light" (4.62). Reflecting and reflected in such cleared nature, Elizabeth's face, too, will be as crystal. [25]

While the image of the crystal face indicates Spenser's wish to "clarify" Elizabeth's sexual nature and her vision of her sexuality, the image later in the poem of Elizabeth's blushing face testifies to Spenser's detection of something unfathomable in Elizabeth. Elizabeth blushes three times, and, while Spenser's first two references easily and conventionally construe Elizabeth's blush as a sign of her modesty (9.159-64; 13.223-33), his third reference hints at not fully disclosed--or even disclosable--depths of response in Elizabeth and in himself

When Elizabeth blushes at the moment in the ceremony when the hands of the bride and groom are joined in a presaging of the sexual bond in marriage, the poet asks, "Why blush ye love to give to me your hand, / The pledge of all our band?"(13.238-9). That this moment is a highly charged and compelling one for Spenser is suggested by his slight reordering of the marriage ceremony. (In a poem as scrupulously ordered as this one, even slight variations warrant attention.) Although the Book of Common Prayer stipulates that the priest's blessing follows the joining of the couple's hands, stanza 13 refers first to the priest's blessing and then to the joining of the hands. [26] Like his sending forth of the masque of Hymen, Spenser's beginning with the priest's blessing emphasizes the spiritual dimension of the wedding. But it is also as if Spenser first passes over the moment (out of delicacy?) but then must return to it. Despite its compelling force, this first moment of physical contact between the bride and gro om produces an unexpected reticence in the poet who, until this point, has displayed his bride openly, detailing her "beautyes grace" and "vertues store," and enjoining all to behold (10.170). While we can readily enough surmise, from the immediate context and from epithalamic convention, that this blush sustains a considerable erotic charge, Spenser does not articulate this conclusion. [27] His declining to answer his question registers a tactfulness that leaves Elizabeth not "clarified" but opaque, her selfhood intact and her erotic response unplumbed. [28] Moreover, Elizabeth's opacity at this moment surely turns Spenser's wondering gaze back on himself (metrically, emphasis falls on "me"), on his own responses to Elizabeth and to the erotic promise in the moment.

The part of the poem devoted to the church ceremony thus concludes with a question resonating with unarticulated implications about selfhood and sexuality in both Elizabeth and Spenser himself, and so furnishes another example of the ways in which the poem's subjects elude formative and reformative designs. The differences between a crystal face and a blushing one provide us with an elegant measure of Spenser's failure to "sound" his bride. Spenser would have her pervious, but Elizabeth's blush signals both occludedness and depths of response beyond Spenser's ken and control.

As is the case with Elizabeth's blush, Spenser's representation of the procession to the church admits responses which challenge the designs implicit in the masque of Hymen. Indeed, in his prelude to the procession, Spenser opens a gap between the events of this day and the kind of poetic making envisioned at the start of the poem. There Spenser had called upon his classical, English, courtly muses to help him resound his "loves prayses," imagining continuity between his earlier works and his present song (1.14). Here, in a second invocation, Spenser begs a respite from his vocation, imagining his present work as discontinuous with other poetic making: "O fayrest Phoebus, father of the Muse," implores Spenser, "let this day let this one day be myne, / Let all the rest be thine" (7.121,125-6). This discontinuity is underscored immediately by the sudden eruption, in the next stanza, of resounding music not of Spenser's making:

Harke how the Minstrels gin to shrill aloud

Their merry Musick that resounds from far,

The pipe, the tabor, and the trembling Croud. (8.129-31)

For the second time in the poem, Elizabeth is crossing a threshold, this time from her house (stanza 7) to the street (stanza 9); for the second time in the poem, the actual moment of crossing is elided, filled instead with music not of the poet's making. And for the second time in the poem, the woods do return an echo--"al the woods them answer and theyr eccho ring" (8.147)--again, in response to other voices, voices whose heralding of Hymen differs markedly from the muses' heralding. Elizabeth proceeds to the music and shouts of the crowd, a clamor which inverts any attempt to impose--from above, from the mind--an eternalizing form on the body of desire. Highly exuberant, the street scene unsettles virtually all the key assumptions underwriting the masque of Hymen. The townspeople's shrill cry of "Hymen io Hymen" rises up to "fill" the firmament (8.140, 142), invoking Hymen as a figure coming belatedly to join in, and give focus to, feelings and experiences already in place. The pun on "trembling croud," ( 8.131) as both the crowd and the musical instrument, emblematizes this succinctly: this music cannot be distinguished from its embodiment in the senses. The procession--a material and carnivalesque counterpart to the masque of Hymen orchestrated by the poet--plumbs those regions left unfathomed by Spenser's muses and nymphs: this masque "ravish[es]" the "sences" (8.136). Spenser himself seems close to collapsing into sensuous delight; the ambiguous syntax of lines 133-6 permits us to understand the "damsels" as either delighting in the minstrels' striking of the timbrels or causing delight when they strike the timbrels and dance and carol. The latter reading subjects Spenser himself to the ravishing delight. [29]

Spenser implicitly acknowledges the extent to which the elements and energy of the street scene inform his wedding day and help fashion his bride when, at the end of the day, he dismisses the "damsels":

Now ceasse ye damsels your delights forepast;

Enough is it, that all the day was youres:

Now day is doen, and night is nighing fast:

Now bring the Bryde into the brydall boures.

Now night is come, now soone her disaray,

And in her bed her lay;

Lay her in lillies and in violets,...

Now it is night, ye damsels may be gon,

And leave my love alone,

And leave likewise your former lay to sing.


The poet who had implored Apollo to "let this day let this one day be [his]" (7.125) now relinquishes that proprietorship to the damsels with "all the day was youres." More, the coincidence of "lay" as "to put into bed" (17.301) and "lay" as "song" (17.313) underscores the importance of the damsels' music in figuring the bride in the bridal chamber, where she is to become the site of sensuous delight. As the parallelism in the last two lines quoted ("leave my love" and "leave... your former lay") intimates, it is the damsels' song that, at this point, sounds Elizabeth and Spenser's love for her.

The poetics of accommodation, which, I have been arguing, informs Spenser's representation of Elizabeth as erotic subject, operates as well in Spenser's sense of the social, political, and cultural ramifications of his marriage--in his sounding of Ireland. That Elizabeth crosses into public view generates submerged but potent social tensions which reverberate for the next several stanzas in ways that undermine Spenser's expressly reformist designs. The street celebration itself, clearly popular in genesis and form, undoes the social presumptions in the masque of Hymen: English, courtly, and classical sources of song are supplanted by the minstrels, who come as if out of the Irish woods (their music "resounds from far" [8.130]), playing the instruments of popular entertainment. [30]

Similarly, Spenser's understanding of Elizabeth's relationship to the young women of the town admits conflicting effects. On the one hand, to the extent that Elizabeth remains exemplary, separate from and superior to the townsgirls, Spenser represents the relationship as one that promotes reformist designs for Ireland. Elizabeth's exemplariness is, first, moral, as Spenser's likening of his bride's hair to a mantle attests: "Her long loose yellow locks lyke golden wyre, / Sprinckled with perle, and perling flowres a tweene, / Doe lyke a golden mantle her attyre" (9.154-6). In his View of Ireland, Spenser singles out the Irish mantle as especially instrumental in covering outlawed Irish practices; with respect to Irish women, the mantle hides "light services" and "lewd exercise[s]" (p. 53). Elizabeth's "mantle," in contrast, is pervious, hiding nothing and in fact revealing (in the pearls, perling flowers, and loose locks) her virginity.

More than signaling moral superiority, Spenser's imagining of the effects Elizabeth will create reminds us of England's imperialist designs on Ireland. As Elizabeth proceeds to church, Spenser draws upon the iconography (much of it promulgated in his own poetry) of Queen Elizabeth, ascribing to Elizabeth Boyle pointedly sovereign aspects:

Loe where she comes along with portly pace,

Lyke Phoebe from her chamber of the East,

Arysing forth to run her mighty race,

Clad all in white, that seemes a virgin best.

crowned with a girland greene,

lyke some mayden Queene.


Subsequent stanzas continue this emphasis with "pallace fayre" (10.178) and a "Queene in royal throne" (11.194), imagery common, of course, to encomia of Queen Elizabeth, as well as characteristic of Spenser's habits of merging the important women in his life with his career. But here the imagery sustains social and cultural effects particularly pertinent to English designs for Ireland. The simile comparing Elizabeth to Phoebe establishes more than the bride's virginity, more, even, than the general analogy that she is to Spenser as the queen is to her subjects and kingdom. The simile reminds us of Elizabeth's Englishness and of the objectives in the Plantation of Munster: like the Phoebe of this simile, Elizabeth comes from the east, from England; she is part of the "mighty race" of English who have come west to plant English ways in Ireland. Each English bride who marries an Englishman in Ireland helps the Elizabethan plantation of Ireland, becoming, in this highly specific way, analogous to the queen. Inde ed, articles pertaining to the Plantation of Munster included stipulations regarding marriage and the holding of property, specifying, for example, that female heirs were forbidden to marry any but those born of English parents. [31] The political importance of all such English unions can be measured by the strength with which Spenser, in the View, denounces intermarriage as a "dangerous infection" (p. 67).

Like his conflating of the two Elizabeths, Spenser's references in later stanzas to the hoped-for progeny of his union with Elizabeth express the wish for continued, and more firmly established, English hegemony. Spenser prays that he and Elizabeth may raise a large posterity, Which from the earth, which they may long possesse,

With lasting happinesse,

Up to [the gods'] haughty pallaces may mount. (23.417-20)

Spenser's wish for children who will possess this earth assumes politically pointed meaning when we recall that the successful plantation of Munster required the burgeoning of the English population on lands formerly owned by Irish and Anglo-Irish, and that throughout the 1590s, the English government worried that the numbers of settlers were too few. [32]

That Spenser's representation of Elizabeth taps into this sociopolitical context should return us to one of the poem's most perplexing images-- the analogy of Medusa--to unravel its political meaning. [33] Spenser uses the analogy in describing Elizabeth's effects on "the merchants daughters," girls and young women who would have been predominantly Irish or old English, and, increasingly, recusant. Clearly, on some level Spenser intends "his loves prayses" to edify these "virgins," at least some of whom must be numbered among the "Damzels" who "doe delite" and "all the sences... ravish quite" (8.133--6). Through his bride, they should learn how to enter the temple, how to move from the carnivalesque street into the masque of Hymen; they should, that is, become more like those nymphs who hear Spenser's learned, classical, English muses. The edification of the girls represents--as a kind of synecdoche--the larger reformist designs in the poem, the attempt to make Ireland "resound" Spenser's "loves prayse," to recreate Ireland in England's image (1.14).

Spenser's adjuration to the "merchants daughters" bears more immediate application, given the state of the church in which Spenser was married. [34] The English Church in Cork and elsewhere in Munster was much disregarded by the Irish and the Anglo-Irish; the religious reform, which many (including Lord Grey, in whose service Spenser first came to Ireland) felt had to accompany or even precede secular political reform, was slow to advance. Recusancy was particularly widespread in Munster from about 1593. In Cork, the native civic officials not only stopped helping Bishop Lyon enforce attendance at the established church but also stopped attending themselves. By September 1595, the bishop of Cork was complaining about the dwindling numbers in his congregations, noting in particular that the women had stopped coming altogether and had returned to the old religion. And if we can extrapolate from complaints about Waterford, many marriages in Munster--by one estimation as many as nineteen out of every twenty--too k place outside the English Church. [35] The symbolic value of marriages taking place inside the English Church is certainly spiritual and moral in that Irish marriage law "was believed to lead to sexual sinfulness on a massive scale." [36] But because ecclesiastical and secular reforms were so closely connected in the English strategies for Ireland, the exemplariness Spenser ascribes to Elizabeth, to their marriage, and to teaching the "merchants daughters" how to enter the temple has as much to do with political order and reform as with moral and spiritual order. In fact, perhaps nowhere else in the poem do the designs seem so starkly hegemonic, particularly when we follow the logic of the Medusa analogy to its conclusion. If the clamorous young women of Cork see Elizabeth's virtue--the thing which would edify them--they will turn to stone and be silenced; the woods will no longer answer them.

More than any other context, the political implications just sketched help us to account for the destructive charge in Spenser's use of the Medusa analogy. When Spenser conflates Elizabeth Boyle with Queen Elizabeth, we remember that behind Elizabeth Boyle's exemplary power lies the might of the English crown. The Elizabethan strategists and commanders who undertook the matter of Ireland regularly trusted the sword to accomplish what decree failed to do.

It is, however, a sign of Spenser's mediation of Irish tensions in his wedding poem that, through the Medusa analogy, he not only renders such strictly hegemonic designs but also registers resistance to these designs as they bear upon both Ireland and his bride. While the image of Medusa ostensibly praises Elizabeth's chastity as exemplary, the description of Medusa's head as "mazeful" (11190) nearly elides the carefully established distances between Elizabeth and the young women of the town: as construed by this image, Elizabeth seems as much a part of the labyrinth as of the temple. Like the blush, which may be construed either as a sign of "goodly modesty" (13.235) or as a sign of desire, the "mazefull head" figures ambivalently in Spenser's praise of Elizabeth and adjuration of the "merchants daughters." Notably, the "mazefull" head catches up both the image of Elizabeth's "long loose locks" and the earlier admonishment to the nymphs to "bind up the locks" to remind us of how the subjects in Spenser's po em elude control. I do not mean for one moment to suggest that Spenser calls into question Elizabeth's chastity; I wish only to stress that, in this poem, Spenser's expressly reformist designs, which largely depend on maintaining distance and distinction between English and Irish (and old Irish), repeatedly collapse or are qualified. Perhaps even more revealingly, the collapsing of distances and distinctions produces exuberance. The townspeople--the young women and, now, young men--retain a strong voice (in the stanzas and hours following the marriage ceremony) as "these glad many which for joy doe sing" so "That all the woods them answer and their echo ring" (16.294-5). This instance of the refrain marks the third and final time in the poem that the woods do resound, notably, again, to the songs of others.

Consideration of these songs shows Spenser making room once more for responses which oppose the expressly reformist intentions in his vision of Ireland. The immediate context of this refrain is the celebration of Venus, the evening star, the "glorious lampe of love" that "guydest lovers through the nights dread" (16.288, 290). Spenser celebrates generative, venerean love elsewhere in his poetry often enough using Venus in praise of his sovereign Elizabeth. But "guydest" contains enough of the suggestion of a maze to align this celebration with the antimasque (and anti-English) values figured by the young women and men in the poem.

The connection of this celebration with St. Barnabas's day presents a particularly subtle and suggestive instance of Spenser's accommodation of Irish pressures. Spenser calls upon the young men of the town, saying

Ring ye the bels, ye yong men of the towne,

And leave your wonted labors for this day:

This day is holy; doe ye write it downe,

That ye forever it remember may.

This day the sunne is in his chiefest hight,

With Barnaby the bright.

And bonefiers make all day,

And daunce about them, and about them sing. (15.261-76)

Spenser's reference to St. Barnabas's day has been little remarked, usually noted only to identify the wedding date as 11 June. As the lore around this day included its associations with tempests, and as Spenser alludes twice to storms in the stanzas which follow (18.327; 19.340), the reference to Barnabas's day seems more than casual and so invites speculation. [37]

In particular, Spenser's proclaiming this day "holy" merits scrutiny, since by 1561 the reformed calendar no longer included St. Barnabas's day as an authorized holy day (a day of prayer and worship and lawful exemption from labor). It seems likely, in view of the widespread recusancy in Munster in the mid 1590s, that St. Barnabas's day continued to be celebrated as a holy day by catholics in Ireland. Its association with the summer solstice means that its observance would have coincided with midsummer festivities, festivities often marked by bells, bonfires, dancing, and singing. [38]

By supplanting a catholic holy day with his exemplary wedding day, Spenser suggests that he is "remember[ing]" (15.264) this day, giving to it new English, protestant substance. His request that this day be written down signals a wish to align this day with the print-oriented protestant humanist culture (15.263). Fittingly, as Spenser would surely have known, St. Barnabas's day was the election day at the Merchant Taylors' school, where Spenser's protestant and English laureate ambitions must have been seeded. [39] The naming of St. Barnabas involves more wryly pointed significance as well: Barnabas, a wealthy Levite, sold his lands in his native Cyprus in order to donate his wealth to the church and the apostles. Barnabas is thus particularly suited to figure in the story of the English plantation of Munster, a project which depended upon the turning over of Irish lands to English settlers in order to reform Ireland in the image of protestant England. [40]

But Spenser's proclamation remains an ambivalent gesture: on the one hand, appropriating the street celebration--harnessing these high spirits--for English purposes; on the other hand, countenancing an Irish and "popish" practice. [41] Moreover, the reformist and colonialist designs implied by St. Barnabas do not, finally, leave more than traces on the social landscape which emerges near the end of the poem. The naming of Barnabas, in itself ambivalent, is bracketed by the resonant bell ringing and dancing and singing of the young men and women of the town.

I began this essay with reference to woodlands and have sought to show the ambivalence and range of response accommodated in Spenser's wish to make both the Irish woods and his bride answer to his song. In closing, I would like to return briefly to Irish land matters in order to reiterate that we need to retain flexible categories when attending to colonial contexts. In examining what was undoubtedly a largely oppressive regime, we need not always assume that the structures of power were asymmetrical and the colonialist institutions impermeable. [42]

The differences between the 1588 and 1592 land commissions in Munster provide a case in point. [43] As soon as they took possession of the seignories granted to them, English undertakers in Munster were subject to title suits by local men. To satisfy claimants' demands, initially dismissed Out of hand, the English government appointed a commission in 1588 to consider suits: all but one of the seventy-six cases were dismissed, revealing strong bias in favor of the English undertakers. "In summary," writes Michael Maccarthy-Morrogh, "it appears indisputable that the commissioners had decided beforehand that claims would be dealt with unsympathetically." [44] The results of the 1592 commission, headed by Sir Thomas Norris, under whom Spenser served as clerk, differ markedly: fifty suits in favor of the undertakers, forty-two against (sixty-three against, if the claims against one particular undertaker are counted individually). [45] Noting that these results are not as widely known as those of the 1588 commissi on, Maccarthy-Morrogh calls the results "remarkable" and concludes "that a reasonable level of objectivity was attained." He attributes the difference in outcome between the two commissions, in some part, to the impartiality of Norris (who, unlike the first commissioners, knew Munster well) and, in larger part, to a change in government policy, which moved away from imposing a final arbitration toward clearing up the suits by referring some suits elsewhere and "by offering compromises and incentives to abandon others." Following the 1592 commission with its "reversal" of the arbitrary and high-handed judgments of 1588, what had been a "trickle" of resumptions of land by former, local, owners turned into a "flood." [46] By 1611, about one-third of the lands in the Munster plantation had been regained by local inhabitants.

Judith Owens teaches English at the University of Manitoba. She has completed a book-length study of Spenser and patronage and is researching early modern forest law and literary forests.


I wish to thank Myron Turner, Faye McIntyre, and Robert Finnegan for reading and commenting on earlier versions of this paper; Judith Weil for suggestions that helped to shape the essay; and the anonymous readers at SEL for encouraging me to sharpen my argument.

(1.) For readings which stress synthesis and harmony, see, for example, Thomas Greene, "Spenser and the Epithalamic Convention," CL 9, 3 (Summer 1957): 215-28; C. S. Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century excluding Drama (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), pp. 372-3; Lewis, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1966), pp. 129-30; Richard Neuse, "The Triumph over Hasty Accidents: A Note on the Symbolic Mode of the Epithalamion," MLR 61, 2 (April 1966): 163-74; A. R. Cirillo, "Spenser's Epithalamion: The Harmonious Universe of Love," SEL 8, 1 (Winter 1968): 19-34; Wolfgang Clemen, "The Uniqueness of Spenser's Epithalamion," in The Poetic Tradition: Essays on Greek, Latin, and English Poetry, ed. Don Cameron Allen and Henry T. Rowell (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1968), pp. 81-98; W. Speed Hill, "Order and Joy in Spenser's Epithalamion," SHR 6, 1 (Winter 1972): 81-90; Linda Leavell, "And Yet Another Ring of Echoes in Spenser's Epithalamion," SCRev 3, 2 (Summer 1986): 14-26. Studies of the poem's thematic and ideological unity have been complemented by structural and numerological analyses, which have totalizing effects and discourage looking out from the poem to the particular Irish setting. See, especially, A. Kent Hieatt, Short Time's Endless Monument: The Symbolism of the Numbers in Edmund Spenser's "Epithalamion" (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1960); Max A. Wickert, "Structure and Ceremony in Spenser's Epithalamion," ELH 35, 2 (June 1968): 135-57; David Chinitz, "The Poem as Sacrament: Spenser's Epithalamion and the Golden Section," JMRS 21, 2 (Fall 1991): 251-68. For readings of the "Epithalamion" which stress discordance, isolation, evasion, and anxiety, particularly in connection to gender and vocation, see especially Douglas Anderson, "'Unto My Selfe Alone': Spenser's Plenary 'Epithalamion,'" SSt 5 (1984): 149-66; Joseph Loewenstein, "Echo's Ring: Orpheus and Spenser's Career," ELR 16, 2 (Spring 1986): 287-302; Jacqueline T. Miller, Poetic Lice nse: Authority and Authorship in Medieval and Renaissance Contexts (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1986), PP. 171-5, 216-7; Catherine Bates, The Rhetoric of Courtship in Elizabethan Language and Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992), pp. 138-51; Theresa M. Krier, Gazing on Secret Sights. Spenser; Classical Imitation, and the Decorums of Vision (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 187-9; Heather Dubrow, A Happier Eden: The Politics of Marriage in the Stuart Epithalamion (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990), Pp. 35-9. Alexander Dunlop, "'Amoretti' and 'Epithalamion': Introduction," in The Yale Edition of the Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser, ed. William Gram et al. (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1989), pp. 583-97, 591, notes the "tension" between the "large symbolic structures of the poem and its historical particularity." The historical particularities of the poem remain virtually unexplored by critics, however.

(2.) On the Elizabethan plantation of Munster, readers can consult the Calendar of the State Papers relating to Ireland, 24 vols. (London, 1860-1911) for the relevant years, 1573-1600 (hereafter CSP, Ir.), and the Calendar of the Carew Manuscripts, vols. 2-3, ed. J.S. Brewer and William Bullen (London: Longmans, Green, 1868-69). See, as well, Richard Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors with a Succinct Account of the Earlier History, 3 vols. (London, 1885-90; rprt. London: Holland Press, 1963), 3; Pauline Henley, Spenser in Ireland (Dublin: Cork Univ. Press, 1928), chaps. 3-4, 6; Raymond Jenkins, "Spenser and the Clerkship in Munster," PMLA 47,1 (March 1932): 109-21; Robert Dudley Edwards, Church and State in Tudor Ireland (New York: Russell and Russell, 1935; rprt. 1972), chaps. 17-20; A. L. Rowse, The Expansion of Elizabethan England (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1955), chaps. 3-4; David B. Quinn, "The Munster Plantation: Problems and Opportunities," Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 71(1966): 19-40 ; Richard Berleth, The Twilight Lords (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1978), pp.97-293; Michael Maccarthy-Morrogh, The Munster Plantation: English Migration to Southern Ireland, 1583-1641 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986). Among the increasing number of studies that treat the Irish contexts of Spenser's poetry, see Andrew Hadfield, Edmund Spenser Irish Experience (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997) and Christopher Highley, Shakespeare Spenser and the Crisis in Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997), chaps. 1 and 5.

(3.) Neuse remarks on the "polyphony of voices which... form an expanding context for the [marriage] rite to be enacted," but considers this "polyphony" to affirm the poem's resonance and the poet's "command" (p. 170). My reading, in contrast, will emphasize that the other voices produce social and cultural tensions which, while accommodated, are never fully relaxed.

(4.) Spenser, "Epithalamion," in Yale Shorter Poems, pp.659-79, stanza 1, line 18. Further passages are cited parenthetically in the text by stanza and line number.

(5.) See, for example, Greene, p. 228, and Enid Welsford, Spenser: Fowre Hymnes and Epithalamion: A Study of Edmund Spenser's Doctrine of Love(Oxford: Blackwell, 1967), pp. 21,73.

(6.) See especially Loewenstein, pp. 291, 301; Anderson, pp. 150,163; and Bates, p.150.

(7.) Loewenstein also considers the refrain's circumscription of the poet's resonance, but as a function of Echo and as evidence of vocational anxiety, as a sign that the "speaker [cannot] control his words" (p. 291).

(8.) Giraldus Cambrensis, "The Topography of Ireland" (ca. 1187) in The Historical Works of Giraldus Cambrensis, ed. Thomas Wright (London: H. G. Bohn, 1863; rprt. New York: AMS, 1968), pp.3-164. Eileen McCracken, "The Woodlands of Ireland circa 1600," IHS 11, 44 (September 1959): 271-96, provides a useful survey of the extent of the woodlands of this period and their economic importance; she notes that the forests of the east-west valleys of Cork and Kerry were used in the first part of the seventeenth century to cask nearly all the wine of France and Spain and to build many of the East India Company's ships (p. 280). Quinn identifies the Umber trade as "the only industry associated with the settlements," noting that this trade involved "prepared planking for shipbuilding, boards for scaffolding, barrel staves of all sorts" (p.32).

(9.) CSP, Ir. makes frequent reference to Irish woods in connection with skirmishes, ambushes, and raids. See, for example, the following pages in CSP, Ir. 1574-85 for references to Aherlow, the large wood close to Spenser's home: 217,219,237,241,373,376, 387-8,393,430,474,538.

(10.) This advice comes from Sir Warham St. Leger, who was subsequently one of Spenser's circle of friends in Ireland. Noting that the range of the "traitors" includes "the Great Wood, Aharlaugh [Aherlow] Wood, Dromfinyne, Glanmoire, and Glanfriske," St. Leger calls for "soldiers to back labourers in cutting and burning the woods" (CSP, Ir. 1574 -85, pp. 195-6).

(11.) For the Irish wars as they pertain to Munster, readers can consult, in addition to CSP, Ir., Bagwell, chaps. 36-9,47; Edwards, chaps. 18-20; Rowse, chap. 11; and Berleth, pp.97-293. Henry Hore in "Woodlands and Fastnesses in Ancient Ireland," Ulster Journal of Archaeology 6(1858): 145-61, asserts that "for three centuries subsequent to the [Saxon] invasion, a troop of the colonial cavalry could not ride twenty miles in any direction.. . without finding the pursuit obstructed by a wood," and echoes the frequent conclusion that "the forests presented the greatest obstacle to a complete conquest of the country" (p. 147).

(12.) Spencer, A View of the Present State of Ireland, ed. W. L. Renwick (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), p. 164. Further references will be cited parenthetically in the text by page number.

(13.) Contemporary English accounts of Ireland regularly distinguish between the "civil" English and the "rude and barbarous" Irish. See, for example, Edward M. Hinton, "Rych's Anothomy of Ireland, with an Account of the Author," PMLA 55,1 (March 1940): 73-101; Lord Mountjoy, "Suggestions for the Government of Ireland," in Frederick M. Jones, Mountjoy, 1563-1606 (Dublin: Clonmore and Reynolds, 1958), pp. 188-92. Spenser's tract is unique, as far as I have been able to determine, in linking this Irish "barbarousness" so integrally to Irish woods. For analysis of other ways in which Spenser's tract differs from contemporary accounts of Ireland, see Sheila T. Cavanagh, "'Such was Irena's Countenance': Ireland in Spenser's Prose and Poetry," TSLL 28, 1 (Spring 1986): 24-50.

(14.) See the View on the need for husbandry (pp. 156-7), on tenancy (p. 82), and on bollies (p.49). Spenser also implies that good husbandry is needed to advance the protestant church in Ireland (pp. 88-9), For the extent to which English frustrations in Ireland derived from the English inability to see and understand Irish political, economic, and judicial systems, see Cavanagh, "'The Fatal Destiny of that Land': Elizabethan Views of Ireland," in Representing Ireland: Literature and the Origins of conflict 1534-1660, ed. Brendan Bradshaw, Andrew Hadfield, and Willy Maley (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 116-31

(15.) Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), pp. 209,200-1 Like other works of the time, Spenser's View suggests that pace Foucault the ideology if not the apparatus of surveillance antedate the eighteenth century, the point at which Foucault marks the transition from spectacle to surveillance as the primary instrument of power. For critiques of Foucaultian paradigms of power, see John Michael Archer, Sovereignty and Intelligence: Spying and Court Culture in the English Renaissance (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 1-13, and Albert H. Tricomi, Reading Tudor-Stuart Texts through Cultural Historicism (Gainesville: Univ. Press of Florida, 1996), PP. 25-44.

(16.) See above, note 8, and McCracken, p. 289, on immigrant housing.

(17.) In contrast to Spenser's emphasis on the need for the Irish to be seen, Barnabe Rych assumes that in seeing others the Irish should be civilized. See Hinton, "Anothomy," p.82.

(18.) Cavanagh, "'Fatal Destiny,"' pp. 122-5.

(19.) Dubrow, p. 95, for example, cites this line in illustration of the use of copia in epithalamia.

(20.) On the emblematic and conventional literary associations of the garlands, see Spenser, The Minor Poems, vol. 2 of The Works of Edmund Spenser: A Variorum Edition, 10 vols., ed. E. Greenlaw et al. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1947), pp. 462-3; and Yale Shorter Poems, p. 663. Spenser's uses of the term "nymph(s)" are too frequent and widespread to permit easy generalization. However, in the dedicatory sonnet "To the... Earle of Ormond and Ossory"(The Faerie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton [London: Longman, 1977], p.742) and in "Prothalamion" (Yale Shorter Poems, pp. 753-69)--poems which adduce the two most immediately pertinent contexts of wedding days and Ireland--"nymphs" clusters with references to muses and graces ("To... Ormond and Ossory") and to myth, emblematic flowers, and poetry ("Prothalamion") in ways which support my contention that in stanza 3 of "Epithalamion" Spenser expects only certain nymphs to hear and understand his muses.

(21.) Tension between the newcomers and the Irish (and old English) in Munster resulted in raids, attacks, and robberies, as well as legal disputes. Spenser himself was involved with disputes, in the courts and out, with Lord Roche, who claimed that Spenser's allotment intruded upon his lands. Maccarthy-Morrogh observes that reactions in Munster toward the English settlers grew increasingly hostile, in two distinct phases, from 1586 through to the uprising of 1598. The years 1586 to mid-1590 saw much harassment of English undertakers; along the Blackwater, for example, settlers were subjected to "robberies, physical assault short of killing, burnings, and in the case of Spenser, a boycott [initiated by Lord Roche]" (p. 131). In these years, attacks, both legal and violent, stemmed largely from personal grievances and "not from a conviction that the settlers had no general right to the escheated land" (p. 132). From the mid-1590s hostility became more universal and more generally anti-English in intention (pp . 1312). In addition, wolves posed a serious threat to settlers; the lastwolf in Ireland was killed in 1770. See Joseph Strutt, The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England (1801), enlarged and corrected by J. Charles Cox (London: Methuen, 1903; rprt. New York: A. M. Kelley, 1970), p. 13.

(22.) For this point, I am indebted to Judith Weil, "The White Devil and Old Wives' Tales," MIR94,2 (April 1999): 328-40. Among other sources, Well cites Livy, trans. B. O. Foster, l4vols, (London: Heinemann, 1925), 1:19; and Plutarch's Lives, trans. Bernadotte Perrin, 11 vols. (Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 4959), 1:99, 101

(23.) A tantalizing, if admittedly elusive, connection between wolves and Spenser's wish to make his bride's chastity exemplary emerges from the fact that Spenser's wedding day -- June 11, St. Barnabas's day -- was the date on which, in dry summers, wolves were culled from Peak forest in Derbyshire, England, in the latter thirteenth century. See Strutt, p. 13.

(24.) I owe the formulation of this point to an anonymous reader at SEL. (25.) Dubrow notes the poem's "impulse to control and purify sexuality" (p. 39), but locates the impulse primarily in Spenser's allusions to Maia and Alcmena in stanzas 17 and 18.

(26.) The Book of Common Prayer 1559, ed. John E. Booty (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1976), pp. 292-3.

(27.) Herrick's epithalamic treatment of the bride's blush points the erotic implications, for both bride and groom, of her blushing face. A canceled stanza from the Crewe epithalamion implies that the bride's reddening cheeks and "guilty" eyes reflect her anticipation of the erotic promise of the marriage. More, the "gleam" produced on her reddened cheeks by the rays of her downcast eyes "begettls] [presumably in the groom] lust and temptation to surfeit and hunger"(The Poetical Works of Robert Herrick, ed. L. C. Martin [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956; rprt. 1963], pp. 476-7). Outside epithalamic convention, too, women's blushes sustain sexual implications. See, for example, Claudio's charges against the blushing Hero in Much Ado about Nothing (IV.i) (The Norton Shakespeare, ed, Stephen Greenblatt et al. [New York: W. W. Norton, 1997],

IV.i.28-40); and, in II.i and III.ii of Romeo and Juliet Norton Shakespeare, II.i.127-9; III.ii.14-6), Juliet's references to her blushes, especially her punning sugges tion that her blushing face would bait (allure) her lover.

(28.) Krier has taught us to appreciate the importance, in Spenser's erotic vision, of rendering "hiddenness without violating it" and also to read the desire to remain invisible as a wish "to remain a subject to oneself rather than to become an object to another" (p. 11).

(29.) The crowd and the chant of "io Hymen" are conventional elements in epithalamia (see, for example, Catullus 61 and 62). The conventionality of these features does not preclude, however, particularized historical and political relevance. Similarly, the fact that as a form the epithalamion represents the relationship between sacrament and body cannot explain away Spenser's particular rendering. For discussion of conventional features of epithalamia, see Greene and Welsford.

(30.) The woods around Cork were reputedly extensive and dense; according to popular tradition cited by McCracken, "a squirrel could have hopped from Killarney to Cork by leaping from bough to bough" (p. 282). With a population of about 2,400, Cork ranked fifth or sixth among Irish cities in the 1590s; Irish towns of the time tended to compactness, with about 300 houses within city walls. It seems reasonable to suppose, then, that Spenser's "from far" gestures to the woods outside the town. Barring that, Spenser's phrasing points at least to the suburbs, whose population was largely papist. See Early Modern Ireland, 1534-1691, in A New History of Ireland, 9 vols., ed. T. W. Moody, F. X. Martin, and F.J. Byrne (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 3:10,161, 390,452.

(31.)See CSP, Ir. 1586-88, pp.84-9, for the Plantation articles. See Maccarthy-Morrogh's discussion as well.

(32.) See Maccarthy-Morrogh, pp. 108-19, on population numbers; he finds it "difficult to argue for a significant increase of the English population from 1592 to 1598," and notes that "observers continued to comment gloomily on the inadequate settling of the plantation lands" (pp. 116-7). Quinn, while stressing the difficulties in estimating the numbers of English settlers in Munster during Spenser's tenure, concludes that 15,000 may be a reasonable estimate. He notes further that "Whatever the precise number of English settlers, they were still outnumbered on their plantations by Irish and old English and continued to be a small minority in the total population" (p.30).

(33.) Even readers who stress harmony find this image discordant; they strive, however, to tone down the discordance. See, for example, Welsford, pp.74-5; Frank Young, "Medusa and the Epithalamion: A Problem in Spenserian Imagery," ELN 11, 1 (September 1973): 21-9.

(34.) There is general consensus that Spenser was married to Elizabeth Boyle in Cork by the bishop of Cork, William Lyon, Spenser's friend and Council associate.

(35.) See Alan Ford, The Protestant Reformation in Ireland, 1590-1641 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1987), p. 26, who notes that the change in Munster from conformity to recusancy can be dated quite precisely to 1593. Also see Edwards, chaps. 19 and 21, and Rowse, pp. 124-5. The close connection between religious and civic, political matters is illustrated by a letter of 17 November 1595, from the bishop of Cork to Burghley, in which the bishop notes that "four were refused the office of mayorality in Cork because they would not come to church" (CSP, Ir., 1592-96, p.433).

(36.) See John Gillingham, "The English Invasion of Ireland," chap. 2 in Representing Ireland, pp.24-42, 29. Gillingham's tracing of common features in medieval and early modern English attitudes toward Ireland demonstrates how long-standing was English antipathy to Irish marriage law. Debate in England about whether the church ceremony was necessary to the marriage contract (see Dubrow, p.6) does not preclude Spenser 5 attaching spiritual, moral, and political value to the English Church ceremony.

(37.) Neuse makes more than passing reference; he considers the "typology of the solstitial holy day," reading Spenser's "triumphant assertion that this is literally a calendrical holiday" as part of Spenser's "mimesis of the sacrament" (p. 172). On the association of St. Barnabas's day with storms, see John Brand, Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain: Chiefly Illustrating the Origin of Our Vulgar and Provincial Customs, Ceremonies, and Superstitions, 3 vols., revised by Sir Henry Ellis (London: H. G. Bohn, 1848), 1:294.

(38.) On popular festivities in England see David Cressy, Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1989), chaps. 1-3, 5. For the association of St. Barnabas's day with the summer solstice, see Festa Anglo Romana (Ann Arbor: Univ. Microfilms International, 1678; rprt. 1974), p. 72.

(39.) Variorum, p.479.

(40.) As Clerk of the Council of Munster (1584-89) Spenser would have been closely involved in the confiscation of the escheated Desmond lands. See Jenkins, "Clerkship of Munster," and Jenkins, "Spenser: The Uncertain Years: 1584-1589," PMLA 53,2 (June 1938): 350-62.

(41.) Toleration of catholicism must often have seemed expedient to the Munster undertakers. Edwards observes that although the English colonists "had agreed to keep English tenants and servants and to provide for the maintenance of the Established early as 1587, it was reported that these agreements were universally disregarded...It paid better to keep Irish servants and tenants and to ignore their Catholicism" (p. 264).

(42.) For a similar emphasis, but with reference to America, see the "General Introduction," Struggle and Survival in Colonial America, ed. David G. Sweet and Gary B. Nashe (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1981), pp.1-13. For the view that English difficulties in mapping Ireland "disrupt[ed]" while certainly not "displac[ing] colonial power" (p. 90), see David Baker, "Off the Map: Chaffing Uncertainty in Renaissance Ireland," in Rep resenting Ireland, pp.76-92.

(43.) My discussion of these land commissions relies on Maccarthy-Morrogh, pp. 97-106.

(44.) Maccarthy-Morrogh, pp.99-100.

(45.) Maccarthy-Morrogh, p. 101.

(46.) Maccarthy-Morrogh, pp. 102, 103,105.