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Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser was born in London in the year 1552 or 1553. Little is known about his family or his childhood, except that he received a scholarship to attend the Merchant Taylor School, where he likely studied Latin and Greek. He went on to study literature and religion at Cambridge University’s Pembroke Hall, receiving a BA in 1573 and an MA in 1576.

Spenser published his first volume of poetry, The Shepheardes Calender (Hugh Singleton), in 1579, dedicating it to the poet Sir Philip Sidney. He was also the author of The Faerie Queene (William Ponsonby, 1596), a major English epic, and Amoretti and Epithalamion (William Ponsonby, 1595), a sonnet sequence dedicated to his second wife, Elizabeth Boyle.

Alongside his poetry, Spenser pursued a career in politics, serving as a secretary first for the Bishop of Rochester and then for the Earl of Leicester, who introduced him to other poets and artists in Queen Elizabeth’s court. In 1580, he was appointed secretary to the Lord Deputy of Ireland; later, in 1596, he wrote an inflammatory pamphlet called A View of the Present State of Ireland (James Ware, 1633).

In 1598, during the Nine Years War, Spenser was driven from his home in Ireland. He died in London in 1599 and was buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

I’m not a fan of old-style poems, but I liked this one because I’ve often mused on the subject of sweet & sour and how you can’t have one without the other if you want to live a balanced life. Like my Saturday morning coffee and cookies! 

 Sweet is the rose, but grows upon a brere
(Amoretti 26)

SWEET is the rose, but grows upon a briar;
Sweet is the juniper, but sharp his bough;
Sweet is the eglantine, but pricketh near;
Sweet is the fir-bloom, but his branch rough;
Sweet is the cypress, but his rind is tough; 5
Sweet is the nut, but bitter is his pill;
Sweet is the broom-flower, but yet sour enough;
And sweet is moly, but his root is ill.
So every sweet with sour is tempered still,
That maketh it be coveted the more: 10
For easy things, that may be got at will,
Most sorts of men do set but little store.
Why then should I account of little pain,
That endless pleasure shall unto me gain!


Picture Source: Wikipedia