Why Spenser is Called “The Poet’s Poet”?
Why Spenser is Called “The Poet’s Poet”? : It was Charles lamb who called Spenser “the poet’s poet” and lamb was not wrong in giving him that honored title. Spenser is regarded as the poet’s poet and the second father of English poetry and Chaucer is the first. The poetic faculty in Spenser is so abundantly and predominantly present that we cannot think of any other poet without Spenser to occupy the pride of place among English poets.
Why Spenser is Called “The Poet’s Poet”?
There are several grounds for calling Spenser the poet of poets. He can be regarded as the poet of poets because he is not a poet of common man but a poet of only scholars and poets who are well versed in classical lore and humanistic studies. During the Renaissance, poetry of the type that Spenser wrote could really be appreciated by those who were familiar with classical writers and authors of the Renaissance.
But Lamb had several other qualities and contribution of Spenser for calling him the poet’s poet. Lamb called him the poet’s poet because it was Spenser and not Chaucer who gave to poetry and poets poet a place nearer to God. He had intense conviction in the value of poet’s work and believed that the poet is the chosen agent of God. Spenser gives a higher conception of poetry and he did something new which other poets before him had not dared. His faith in immortality of poetry and the greatness of the poet’s vocation have rightly entitled him to be recognized as the poet’s poet.
Spenser is considered the poet’s poet in England because of his glorification and elevation of English poetry which no one had done before Chaucer. Spenser set out to endow England with poetry which is great in kind, in style and in thought. In order to do so he studied the works of great poets like Virgil, Catullus, Petrarch, Ariosto, Tasso, Marto and Ronsard to become acquainted with their excellencies and shortcomings. While Spenser composed his own verses, he transcended them and beat them hollow in their own line. He outdid Ariosto and Tasso and imbibed the spirit of Plato and Aristotle in his Faerie Queene and the Four Hymns. He matched Petrarch in sonneteering and vied with Theocritus, Byron and Virgil in pastoralism. For rendering this great service Spenser has been given the title of the poet’s poet.
From very old times divergent opinions have been held about the function of poetry and art. Moralists like Plato have emphasized that poetry should be moral and should be an instrument of moral edification. But those who advocated art for art’s sake has considered the poet as a ministering angel of joy and delight. Art in their opinion is for joy. Spenser harmonized both these views in his poetry. To a profound moral tone he added the greases and charms of beauty, loveliness decoration and picturesqueness. He beautifully blended the message of the Renaissance and the Reformation in his poetry. He came to be regarded as the writer for artists because of his insistence on beauty, love, richness, exuberance and pageants.
Spenser has improved English diction, style and versification. He enriched the English language and made it musical. His mixture of the old English words with syntax produced something new for English poetry. He enriched the English language by importing foreign words and by coining new words. He realized that for the purpose of great English poetry. There was need of a new language. He altered words, made one word do the duty of another, interchanged actives and passives, transferred epithets from their proper subjects and gave them any shape that the case may demand. In this way, he created a truly royal style beautiful, feasible and magnificent.
Spenser’s contribution to English versification was wide and varied. His greatest contribution was the Spenserian stanza which firmly established itself as a metre of all kinds of narrative or reflective poetry. On account of its grace and voluptuous turn of rhythm, the Spenserian stanza is admirably suited to the pictorial as well as musical faculty of a poet. This stanza exercised the deepest fascination on romantic poets and was used admirably by Thomson in The Castle of Indolence, by Keats in the Eve of St Agnes, by Shelley in the Revolt of Islam and by Byron in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
Spenser’s verbal melody and music based on the use of onomatopoetic words, proper employment of vowels and consonants, alliteration, is something unique in English poetry. Shelley, Keats, Tennyson and Swinburne learnt the melody of their verse from Spenser.
Thus Spenser exercised the deepest influence on a hoist of poets in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The Spenserians followed his example and exalted him as their leader. For his great service to English poetry he is called the poet’s poet.
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