"Epithalamion," if I'm cutting and pasting that correctly, is a poem written to celebrate a marriage. So what better time to read one than in June, month of weddings? And how much cooler would that poem be if it were "comprised of 365 long lines, corresponding to the days of the year; 68 short lines, representing the sum of the 52 weeks, 12 months, and 4 seasons of the annual cycle; and 24 stanzas, corresponding to the diurnal and sidereal hours"? Way much cooler, that's how much.
So, if you haven't guessed it already, Edmund Spenser was a nerd. Who else would begin his own wedding poem with "Ye learnèd sisters"? But the big tipoff is how much Greek mythological knowledge he drops:
Like unto Maia, when as Jove her tookHow nice it must have been in the pre-spelling era! And how charmed his wife must have been with all the references to Hymen and Juno and the Nymphs of Mulla! Because if there's one thing women like, it's references -- the more recondite the better, in my experience. And whereas these days, fanboys have more places to whet their expertise -- sports, soul music, what have you -- in Spenser's day I guess it was either the saints or Greek myths.
In Tempe, lying on the flowry gras,
Twixt sleepe and wake, after she weary was,
With bathing in the Acidalian brooke.
Of course, we don't know how his wife took it, or was likely to take it, because in the action of the poem, which takes place during the course of her wedding day, she doesn't say a mumbling word, or even take any action (she is brought to the altar):
It's nice that she's so quiet -- more oxygen for Edmund!
As to the poem as poem, I'm not so sold on it. I enjoy the alternation of long and short, but the one really striking image in the following passage (her breasts are like uncrudded cream!) doesn't float my boat:
I do like the idea that the ultimate arbiters of taste are merchants' daughters. Some things indeed never change.
NOTE: Sorry for the formatting, by the way. It's the cutting-and-pasting-stuff-with-line-breaks issue again.