The Joy of Reading Spenser’s Poetry

– Matt Almeida

When first sitting down to write this blog I was asking myself, why am I telling Professor Hall about my experiences? I’m sure he knows more about English than I do  as he does indeed teach the class I am in, and did he not say having read Spenser’s The Faerie Queene  is like wearing badge of honor? Perhaps he should be telling me about reading The Faerie Queene, but regardless I shall discuss my experiences. I assume other IT professionals have much less interest in or knowledge of Spenser’s poetry. Also, sorry Professor but after reading just a few cantos I have no desire to acquire this badge of honor you spoke so highly of.  

Well what can I say? Reading parts of this complex, lengthy, ridiculous excuse for a poem was more or less like slamming my head into a wall. Repeatedly. I was debating whether or not it was less enjoyable than playing LOTRO, and I think I’ve made it clear through my blogs that I thoroughly do not enjoy LOTRO. It wasn’t even close. I would rather be locked in a room playing LOTRO for a weekend then read Spenser for an hour. At least I would be able to level my character up, and that’s always a plus as I don’t really see anything to gain from reading Spenser’s barely coherent poetry.

Spencer’s words are just so hard to read and the poem is very difficult to get through for a few reasons. From just looking at the poem you can see that the English is not quite what us 21st century folk are used to. We were told it was slightly more difficult than Shakespeare, but I’d say it’s a bit more than only slightly more difficult. Granted, I have seen some Old English such as that written in Beowulf, and Spenser is not nearly as difficult. The Old English barely even looks like letters, more like symbols, and at least Spenser uses normal English letters in his poetry. But regardless the words which he uses are often beyond my immediate comprehension. Spenser switches up certain letters and spells words in alternative forms that are not always instantly recognizable. This makes for not only a very slow read but also a very painful and un-enjoyable one. On top of that Spenser uses ridiculous words that sometimes don’t even make the slightest bit of sense. I weet (apparently this means know?) some words or can figure them out but even that is sometimes impossible which is why notes are often provided. It’s not even as if I can use dictionary.com or some other useful technology as these words seem to not exist anymore, only in Spenser’s fantastic world of poetry.

Spenser not only uses this complex and confusing version of the English language in his poetry, but he also writes in an incredibly complex manner and ties in deep meaning to all his cantos. He is writing poetry and he uses a specific rhyming scheme. I often felt when reading the poem some words were forced or altered in some way to make a rhyme, further adding to the confusion of the poem. Additionally, the poem seems to jump around a lot. There are a few different story lines going on and Spenser jumps back and forth between them, making the poetry not always easy to follow. Also, it appears that Spenser was a crazy smart guy who just couldn’t find enough things to tie into his poem. After going through all the various allegories today in class I felt as if my head was about to explode. We had such difficulty picking up on and noticing these allegories and I’m sure we didn’t even see half of them. As was noted in class each symbol in Spenser’s poetry has more than one meaning and has ties to more than one thing. All these allegories were pretty overwhelming and to think Spenser actually wrote this stuff with all those ideas in his head prior to actually writing them is almost unfathomable. To fully understand Spenser’s poetry, you must pick up on and explore these allegories as they provide a much deeper meaning to the poetry. This just further piles on to the agony and frustration that comes with reading The Faerie Queene. I think I’ll go play LOTRO now. Just kidding.

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