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The Shorter Poems (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 30 Sep 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (30 Sept. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140434453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140434453
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Edmund Spenser (c.1552-1599) was educated in London and Cambridge and in 1580 moved to Ireland as secretary to the Lord Deputy. His poem, The Faerie Queene, was the first English epic.
Richard McCabe is a Fellow in English at Merton College Oxford and a lecturer at the University of Oxford. He has published widely on Renaissance Literature.


Edited by Richard A. McCabe


Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Jacobs VINE VOICE on 30 July 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a most pleasing collection of Spenser's poems other than The Faerie Queene and is highly accessible. It is the most comprehensive collection of such works to date, contains useful and in-depth, yet friendly, notes and has facsimiles of original publication covers (something which I always find delightful with literature from this period).
The book itself is also very well bound and has high-quality pages. A similar collection of his works published by Norton has almost unusably thin pages, which was quite annoying when trying to flick through, especially when cross-referencing.
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Critic Michael Schmidt expresses regret that this marvellously musical and prolific writer has become "an academic's poet". He has, and that's probably because of The Faerie Queene, a breeze-block volume of complex symbolism and contemporary reference largely lost on the modern reader and, unfortunately, thrust down the throat of many a disgruntled Eng Lit student. But Spenser's shorter poems are superb - The Shepheardes Calender, The Ruines of Time, Colin Clouts Come Home Againe (dedicated to Sir Walter Raleigh), the Amoretti sonnets and the sensational Epithalamion to name a few - and are packed with real emotion as well as his trademark dense symbolism. In his emotion quotient, ES differs from cold-fish technical genius and contemporary Sir Philip Sidney, being more of a warm-blooded, mammalian technical genius. Richard McCabe's academic yet accessible introduction and notes will answer most of the general reader's queries and the package comes complete with reproductions of the original woodcuts, essential for amplifying the text where they appear. This is a fantastic volume of poetry and a landmark of scholarly exegesis, well worth the admission price.
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Despite the title of this collection, the poems published here are not all “short” in any absolute sense of that word. “The Shepheardes Calender”, for example, runs to more than 2,000 lines, and “Mother Hubberd’s Tale” to well over a thousand. They are, however, “short” when compared to Spenser's maximum opus, “The Faerie Queene”.

“The Shepheardes Calender” was Spenser's first original poetic work, published in 1579. In common with most modern editors of Spenser, but in contrast to most modern editors of other Elizabethan poets, Richard McCabe keeps his original spelling and resists the temptation to emend that title to “The Shepherd’s Calendar”. The reason is that Spenser, a lover of mediaeval literature, especially Chaucer, often wrote in a deliberately archaic style, using spellings and grammatical forms which were old-fashioned even by sixteenth century standards. The work contains allusions not only to Chaucer but also to other earlier writers such as Langland, Lydgate and John Skelton. A feature is the commentary ascribed to one "E.K”, probably an alias for Spenser himself. Among other things, “E.K.” provides translations for words which had already become obsolete by the 1570s.

Despite the title, the work is not primarily a work of “nature poetry”, nor is it a description of the working life of an agricultural labourer during the different seasons of the year. Spenser's model was Virgil's “Eclogues”, and he seems to have intended the poem as preparation for writing “The Faerie Queene”, in direct emulation of the Roman poet who had also begun his career by writing pastoral verse before progressing to the “Aeneid”. It may in turn have inspired “Arcadia” by Spenser’s friend and contemporary Sir Philip Sidney, which appeared the following year.
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Everything you need in an edition of Spenser, with comprehensive notes, original printings reproduced and very attractively priced. A must - it opens smoothly and sits beautifully in the hand.
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Cannot give further review as product has not been delivered - and useless Amazon helpline cannot address this problem will be revoking order.

Stephen Haggie
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