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"The planet-like music of poetry" : The Music of the Spheres and the Poetics of Mimesis in Spenser's Bower of Bliss and Milton's Nativity Ode

Title data

Klaeger, Florian:
"The planet-like music of poetry" : The Music of the Spheres and the Poetics of Mimesis in Spenser's Bower of Bliss and Milton's Nativity Ode.
In: Etudes Epistémè : Revue de littérature et de civilisation (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles). Vol. 43 (2023) .
ISSN 1634-0450

Official URL: Volltext

Project information

Project title:
Project's official title
Project's id
Cosmopoetic Form-Knowledge: Astronomy, Poetics, and Ideology in England, 1500-1800
429827737

Project financing: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Abstract in another language

This essay explores two variations of the commonplace allegorical identification between poetry and the music of the spheres in the English Renaissance. In Edmund Spenser’s Bower of Bliss episode from The Faerie Queene, Book II (pub. 1590), and John Milton’s ‘Nativity Ode’ (pub. 1645), it highlights the inversion of the trope, by which poetry is contrasted, rather than identified, with the music of the spheres. That practice is traced back to Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘poetics of noise’, and it is further argued that Spenser and Milton invert the trope in an effort to Christianize it. Their variations are discussed in terms of the formal relationship between cosmic harmony (suggesting a homogeneous whole comprising the heavens and earth) and the inaudibility of the music of the spheres in this fallen world (suggesting a qualitative difference between the two realms and thus, a binary hierarchy). In Spenser’s Bower of Bliss, the knight of Temperance encounters an alluring semblance of heavenly music, which he must recognize as deceitful and overcome in order to achieve his end. Spenser here self-consciously presents poetic mimesis and the transgression of ontological boundaries as dangerous; Christian poetry must in good faith warn readers of its own ‘flawed’ mimetic nature. Milton, on the other hand, offers an epiphanic vision of cosmic harmony in an ambitious attempt to inspire his readers to strive for moral perfection. He hedges his mimetic practice in the conditional to signal that he accepts, but also moves beyond, the mimetic principle suggested by Spenser.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Refereed: Yes
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Languages and Literature
Faculties > Faculty of Languages and Literature > Professor English Literature
Profile Fields > Emerging Fields > Cultural Encounters and Transcultural Processes
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 800 Literature > 820 English and Old English literatures
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2023 07:59
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2023 08:25
URI: https://eref.uni-bayreuth.de/id/eprint/85954