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  • Spenser Allusions


  1. 1. Webbe, William. A Discourse of English Poetry. STC 25172. UMI 401:1.

Webbe (fl.1556–1591), a critic and translator, is thought to have graduated from St. John’s College (Cambridge) the same year as Spenser did from Pembroke College. Although Wells notes (1:7–9) numerous references to Spenser in Webbe’s Discourse, there is another in a section on “sundry kindes of rare devises” and “pretty inventions.” Here Webbe writes of SC (“August,” lines 151 ff.),

I coulde sette downe manie: yet because I want bothe manie and the best kindes of them, I will overpasse:onelie pointing you to one or two which may suffice for example. Looke uppon the rufull song of Colin sung by Cuddie in the Sheepeardes Calender, where you shall see a singuler rare devise of a dittie framed upon these sixe wordes Woe, sounde, cryes, pact, sleep, augment, which are most prettilie turned and wounde uppe mutually together, expressing wonderfully the dolefulnesse of the song.



  1. 2. Harvey, John. A Discoursive Probleme Concerning Prophesies How Far They Are to Be Valued or Credited. STC 12908. UMI 321:12.

Harvey (1564–1592) was an astrologer and brother of Gabriel and Richard Harvey. In the second part of the work at hand, “specially examining and discussing the speciall Prophesie of this famous yeere, 1588 . . . vulgarly fathered upon Joannes Regiomontanus [i.e., Johann Müller von Königsberg, better known by his Latin pseudonym]; but woorthily suspected by some learneder men, never to have proceeded from that excellent Mathematician, or any like notable Scholler,” Harvey uses Spenserian names from SC and Colin for unlearned country boys and those who make foolish prognostications. In a sarcastic aside, he writes, “Rejoice then, O ye Coridons: Rest you merrie, O ye Colin clowtes: Clap your hands, O ye Lobilins. For lo a most plentifull and happy yeere awaiteth you” (98).


  1. 3. Fraunce, Abraham. The Countesse of Pembrokes Yvychurch. STC 11340. UMI 241:18.

Fraunce (1559?–1592/3?) was a lawyer and poet. Wells notes (1:24) a quotation from Spenser in The Third Part of The Countesse of Pembrokes Yvychurch (1592), and there may well be another allusion in The First Part. In the first scene of the fifth act, Fraunce writes (apparently without irony) of a “bowre of blisse” in the conventional sense of the words, but shortly thereafter he appears to use the same [End Page 353] locution in the Spenserian sense (i.e., the abode of Acrasia). Elpinus sings of Amyntas who is presumed to be dead:

Lov’s æternal lawes are most unworthy blamed, Upright laws in deede . . . . . . . . . . O by what strange meanes and wondrous ways, fro the dungeon Of despayre, to the bowre of blisse doth he4 bring in a moment His loving subjects?

The chorus of shepherds responds, “Bitter bowre of blisse, where monstrous murder aboundeth, / Loving fooles Paradise” (F2r).


  1. 4. Nashe, Thomas. Pierce Penilesse. His Supplication to the Divell. STC 18371. UMI 1636:8.

In a passage in praise of Henry Smith (ca. 1560–1591?), a clergyman whose sermons at St. Clement Danes (London) drew huge crowds, Nashe (1567–1601) appears to allude to The Teares of the Muses or at least to echo Spenser’s title. He writes,

Silver tongu’d Smith whose well tun’d stile hath made thy death the general teares of the Muses, queintlie couldst thou devise heavenly Ditties to Apolloes Lute, and teach stately verse to trip it as smoothly . . . before thou entredst into the wonderfull wayes of Theologie, thou refinedst, preparedst, and purifiedst thy wings with sweete Poetrie.

(fol. 17r–v)

Immediately preceding the quotation with a reference to “heavenlie Spencer” that was noted by Wells (1:26), there is an allusion to FQ. In a passage about famous knights of yore “in whome all ornaments both of peace & war are assembled in the height of their excelence,” Nashe writes,

[N]one but Desert should fit in Fames grace, none but Hector be remembred in the chronicles of Prowesse, none but thou most curteous Amyntas be the second musicall Argument of the knight of the Red-crosse...


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