Today, a bright spring day here, is my youngest granddaughter's wedding day.
Edmund Spenser wrote hisEpithalamion to celebrate his wedding, on June 21, 1594, to Elizabeth Boyle. In twenty-four stanzas he describes the entire wedding day, beginning while it is still dark and he anxiously waits for his bride to awake, continuing through the actual ceremony, and ending with the hope that “the sweet pleasures of theyr loves delight… may raise a large posterity, Which from the earth, which they may long possesse, With lasting happinesse” may finally rise to heaven.
The poem is long, complex, and intricate, like marriage itself, with reference to both Greek mythology and Christian symbol. It has a complex pattern of rhyme and meter; it numbers 365 lines, for example, one for each day of the year.
Spenser’s language is early modern English, which sounds quite different from our English, more French, and without silent vowels. I have kept the original rhyme and meter as much as possible while slightly adapting the original meaning to this special day, “forever holy” to many of us.Stanza 14, from Epithalamion
Now al is done; bring home the bride againe,
Bring home the triumph of our victory,
Bring home with you the glory of her gaine,
With joyance bring her and with jollity.
Never had man more joyfull day then this,
Whom heaven would heape with blis.
Make feast therefore now all this live long day,
This day for ever to me holy is,
Poure out the wine without restraint or stay,
Poure not by cups, but by the belly full,
Poure out to all that wull,
And sprinkle all the postes and wals with wine,
That they may sweat, and drunken be withall.
Crowne ye God Bacchus with a coronall,
And Hymen also crowne with wreathes of vine,
And let the Graces daunce unto the rest;
For they can doo it best:
The whiles the maydens doe theyr carroll sing,
To which the woods shal answer and theyr eccho ring.
It’s done: you’re married, Framza, with a single name,
And soon be on your way to your own home —
Fly home in glory, happier than you came.
Where doesn’t matter: Portland, Venice, Rome —
No one has seen a day more joyful than this one,
No matter how much favor he’s been shown.
Let’s party on, the rest of this whole day!
This day will always be holy to you—
Pour out the wine! No measure, no delay,
No half-full glasses: fill them to the brim
Pour out for her and him.
Sprinkle wine on the door-posts and the walls;
Let them get drunk and happy just like us!
And crown the jolly god of wine, Bacchus,
Vine leaves for Hymen, for the god of marriage calls.
Let the Three Graces dance among the rest,
For they can do it best,
While all the maidens sing their wedding song
And all of Nature answers back the whole day long.
—for the wedding of Francesca and Hamza, April 21, 2018