Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-x24gv Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-19T00:08:46.169Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

“To catchen hold of that long chaine”: Spenserian echoes in Jonson's “Epode”

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2021

Get access

Summary

THIS paper deals with “Epode,” the eleventh poem in The Forrest of Jonson's 1616 Folio. This poem provokes an irritated footnote from Wesley Trimpi, who says that it “tediously works out the old allegorical analogy of the senses” and that it is a “good example of overt didacticism plus ornament, and it fails either to teach or to delight.” Herschel Baker, on the other hand, calls the poem “one of Jonson's noblest ethical pronouncements.” I want to suggest that a part of the poem's effect is the result of Jonson's evoking— unexpectedly, perhaps—of Spenser, specifically of Book Two of The Faerie Queene.

It is important to take note of the overall shape of The Forrest. Jonson himself points out that the title silva implies “workes of divers nature, and matter congested” (H&S 8.126); Sara van den Berg, while admitting the diversity, has argued persuasively for the coherence of the fifteen poems around three organizing principles, Horace, the Sidneys, and the shaping of an ideal poetic voice. In addition, it is easy to see that the collection is symmetrically constructed, bookended by poems about choice of subject matter (Love vs. Heaven); that it contains two balancing sections dealing with the aristocratic and courtly world (nos. 2–4 and 12–14); and that at its center it contains a group of five poems having to do with amorous attraction, the carpe diem stance, and reflections on gender roles (nos. 5–9). The collection as a whole thus places the power of sexual attraction at the center and surrounds it with an ample representation of the features of courtly life, the ceaseless quest for wealth, power, fame, and influence.

To link Jonson with Spenser may seem dubious. In the first decade of James's reign, as David Norbrook reminds us, the “Spenserians” were the aggressively Protestant war-party. Jonson was at odds with this group, and furthermore, Norbrook claims, he had “found the whole cult of the Fairy Queen somewhat absurd.” Jonson, a couplet-man, told Drummond that he did not like Spenser's stanza, and as everyone knows he said in Discoveries that Spenser “writ no language.”

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2015

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×