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MU3619 - Fastness: A Translation from the English of Edmund Spenser

ISBN-10: 188116361X

ISBN-13: 9781881163619

Trevor Joyce

TheMutability Cantoshave long been recognized as Edmund Spenser's crowning achievement, and along with his unfinishedFaerie Queene, of which they appear to be an isolated fragment, they constitute a founding text of English poetry, and of the entire Romantic movement. InFastness, Trevor Joyce gives us a poem which his subtitle describes as "A Translation from the English" of the Mutability Cantos. His introduction justifies this provocation on historical and poetic grounds. Spenser migrated to Ireland in 1580 and, as administrator and settler colonist, he served as an intrinsic part of England's colonial enterprise, and a participant in its barbarities. It was in his castle at Kilcolman in north County Cork that he wrote most of theFaerie Queene, including theMutability Cantos, and it was in that Irish landscape that he situated many of the idylls of his epic poem. It was there too that he composed hisView of the Present State of Ireland, a prose tract which advocated the conquest of Ireland through a savage policy of scorched earth and induced famine, which provided a model for Cromwell's campaign fifty years after Spenser's death. It is the break made by Cromwell's conquest, and the massacres and ethnic cleansing which accompanied it,that radically alters the meaning of Spenser's text viewed in historical retrospect, and justifies callingFastnessa translation. Joyce's poem turns allegory inside out, foregrounding the political narrative which underlies the mythological surface of Spenser's text. TheMutability Cantos grafted Elizabethan colonial politics onto a base of classical mythology. InFastness, Joyce strips out Spenser's poetic dialect, and refits the narrative with modern poetic vernacular, viewing this monument of English culture through four centuries of British imperial and colonial history.

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