FAERIE QUEENE AS A LOVE POEM.
The Spenserian stanza, in which was writ The Faerie Queene, is an entirely new invention and should serve as an early indication of a new treatment of courtly love. Jon Rooks’ analysis in Loves Courtly Ethic in The Faerie Queene From Garden to Wilderness serves as an adequate introduction to courtly love for the novitiate, though his attempt to reconcile the Bower of Bliss to a simple allegorical statement of courtly love dourly misses the point. “Acrasia and her minions are at odds with the works of art” (Rooks 9) demonstrates the essential misunderstanding. For the Rooks, the art within the Bower of Bliss is an idealized manifestation of pure non-sexual love, antithetical to the Queen of that realm, the erotic Acrasia. Spencer, however, focuses upon the counterfeit nature of art: art as imitation; and it is in the Bower of Bliss that art becomes an imitation of nature and serves rather to characterize the seductive and false nature of Acrasia herself. Rooks’ error is understandable, for the Bower of Bliss resembles in many ways the walled garden in Guillaume de Lorris’ Roman de la Rose.
As we see, Spenser inverts the garden of love, the court of love, and presents its worldly luxury as a symbol of the decadent”unspirituality” of the Catholic church. The corruption of courtly love is therefore a social commentary. Courtly love, in Spencer, demonstrates a new dimension to its allegorical nature: a symbol of Protestantism. The Bower of Bliss, to reiterate, rather than providing a parallel to the walled garden in Roman de la Rose, demonstrates with all its artfulness and hedonism, a corruption of that court. As we saw with Spencer, the concept of courtly love remains essentially intact, though its treatment, as we shall later explore more fully, demonstrates an historical context.
Moving forward now to our final reincarnation of courtly love, as it appears in Samuel Richardson’s...