The Widow's Mite and the Value of Praise: Commendatory Verses and an Unstudied Marginal Poem in LSU's Copy of The Faerie Qveene 1590

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Abstract

This essay introduces a previously unstudied commendatory poem inscribed in a first edition copy of The Faerie Qveene (London: Ponsonby, 1590). Bound with a copy of 1596, this volume also contains corrections in the same hand that exceed those of the errata slip. Although the available evidence is not sufficient to establish the poem’s authorship, the poem is inscribed in the middle of an important epideictic literary context, the Commendatory Verses and Dedicatory Sonnets. While adopting some conventions of Renaissance praise poetry—allusiveness, aemulatio, treatment of the poet’s Muse and chosen genres—it ignores others. The margin poem, as script poems often do, challenges the literary conventions and values of the printed poems, inviting reconsideration of its commendatory context. This poem takes its cue from the mercantile implications of the final Commendatory Verse, Ignoto’s skeptical “To looke vpon a worke of rare deuise” (CV 7). By means of the familiar parable of the widow’s mite, the handwritten poem inverts Ignoto’s trade-based poetic economy and recalibrates the literary worth of the Commendatory Verses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-131
JournalSpenser Studies
Volume21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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