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The Renaissance Epic and the Oral Past$
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Anthony Welch

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780300178869

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300178869.001.0001

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The Oldest Song

The Oldest Song

Ronsard and Spenser

(p.50) Two The Oldest Song
The Renaissance Epic and the Oral Past

Anthony Welch

Yale University Press

This chapter explores two dynastic epics that take up national origin myths: Pierre de Ronsard's Franciade (1572) and Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene (1590, 1596). Ronsard's unfinished epic embarks on a restless search for ever-older historical models to undergird its fiction, a quest that finally leads to the Orphic Hymns. Spenser's epic draws instead on the poet's encounters with the Irish bardic tradition, which force him to confront the primitive oral origins of both British chronicle history and the European epic tradition: a confrontation expressed in The Faerie Queene through fictions of primordial strife and Hesiodic theomachy.

Keywords:   Pierre de Ronsard, Franciade, Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene, epic poetry, Orphic Hymns, Irish bardic tradition

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