Spenser’s autobiographical marriage ode Epithalamion attempts to fuse public proclamations of joy culled from the Book of Common Prayer and the Psalter with private expressions of marital joy and sexual union. The poem simultaneously celebrates the joy of public, ordained marriage and the “private joy” of the bedchamber, but does so in specifically sacramental language that restores Protestant marriage to its sacramental status while recognizing the private, individual experience of the marital blessing. Marriage is the pinnacle of Protestant joy, Spenser’s poem seems to claim, which can only be appropriately expressed through public sacramental ordinance alongside sacred, inward experience.


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