Poems of Spenser (1906)
To the left, we show a copy of Poems of Spenser, as illustrated in colour by Jessie M King and published by T C & E C Jack (Edinburgh) in 1906. It shows the original gilt-stamped purple cloth cover.
This edition of Poems of Spenser also included an introduction by W B Yeats.
To the left, we show the Frontispiece depicting Edmund Spenser prepared by A S Hartrick.
On the right, we show the Vignette Title
also prepared by A S Hartrick.
In his Introduction to Poems of Spenser, Yeats provides a succinct biography for Spenser in addition to a critique of his
body of work. Yeats also provides an insight into his personal experience of Spenser's work thus:
I have put into this book only those passages from Spenser that I want to remember and
carry about with me. I have not tried to select what people call characteristic passages, for
that is, I think, the way to make a dull book. One never really knows anybody's taste but
one's own, and if one likes anything sincerely one must be certain that there are other
people made out of the same earth to like it too.
I have taken out of the 'Shepherds Calender' only those parts which are about love or
about old age, and I have taken out of the 'Faerie Queen' passages about shepherds and
lovers, and fauns and satyrs, and a few allegorical processions. I find that though I love
symbolism, which is often the only fitting speech for some mystery of disembodied life, I
am for the most part bored by allegory, which is made, as Blake says, 'by the daughters
of memory,' and coldly, with no wizard frenzy.
The processions I have chosen are either those, like the House of Mammon, that have
enough ancient mythology, always an implicit symbolism, or, like the Cave of Despair,
enough sheer passion to make one forget or forgive their allegory, or else they are, like
that vision of Scudamour, so visionary, so full of a sort of ghostly midnight animation,
that one is persuaded that they had some strange purpose and did truly appear in just that
way to some mind worn out with war and trouble. The vision of Scudamour is, I
sometimes think, the finest invention in Spenser. Until quite lately I knew nothing of
Spenser but the parts I had read as a boy. I did not know that I had read so far as that
vision, but year after year this thought would rise up before me coming from I knew not
where. I would be alone perhaps in some old building, and I would think suddenly 'out
of that door might come a procession of strange people doing mysterious things with
tumult. They would walk over the stone floor, then suddenly vanish, and everything
would become silent again'. One I saw what is called, I think, a Board School
continuation class play 'Hamlet'. There was no stage, but they walked in procession into
the midst of a large room full of visitors and of their friends. When they were walking in,
that thought came to me again from I knew not where. I was alone in a great church
watching ghostly kings and queens setting out upon their unearthly business.
It was only last summer, when I read the Fourth Book of the 'Faerie Queen', that I found
I had been imagining over and over the enchanted persecution of Amoret.
I give too, in a section which I call 'Gardens of Delight', the good gardens of Adonis and
the bad gardens of Phædria and Acrasia, which are mythological and symbolical, but not
allegorical, and show, more particularly those bad islands, his power of describing bodily
happiness and bodily beauty at its greatest. He seemed always to feel through the eyes,
imagining everything in pictures. Marlowe's 'Hero and Leander' is more energetic in its
sensuality, more complicated in it s intellectual energy than this languid story, which
pictures always a happiness that would perish if the desire to which it offer so many roses
lost it indolence and its softness. There is no passion in the please he has set amid perilous
seas, for he would have us understand that there alone could the war-worn and the
sea-worn man find dateless leisure and unrepining peace.
The illustrations by King - highlighted by silver- and gold-gilt and rose accents - are gorgeous and capture the themes
identified by Yeats in the work of Spenser wonderfully.
And let them also with them bring in hand
Another gay girland,
For my fayre love, of lillyes and of roses,
Bound truelove wize
And, thinking of those braunches greene to frame
A girlond for her dainty forehead fit,
He pluckt a bough; out of whose rifte there came
Small drops of gory blood that trickled down the same
Florimell and Marinell
There they him laid in easy couch well dight
The House of Despair
About his neck a hempen rope he weares
That with his glittering armes does ill agree
The House of Friendship
And in the midst thereof a pillar placed;
On which this shield, of many sought in vaine,
The shield of Love whose guerdon me hath graced,
Was hanged on high with golden ribbands laced
The sixth was August, being rich array'd
In garment all of gold down to the ground;
Yet rode he not, but led a lovely Mayd
Forth by the lily hand, the which was crown'd
With ears of corn, and full her hand was found
The Islands of Phædra and Acrasia
And therein sat a Lady fresh and fayre,
Making sweet solace to herselfe alone:
Sometimes she song as lowd as larke in ayre,
Sometimes she laughed, as merry as Pope Jone
Una among the Fauns and Satyrs
And with green branches strewing all the ground,
Do worship her as Queen with olive girlond crown'd