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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Amoretti LXII: "The weary yeare his race now having run" - Edmund Spenser

The weary yeare his race now having run,
The new begins his compast course anew:
With shew of morning mylde he hath begun,
Betokening peace and plenty to ensew.
So let us, which this chaunge of weather vew,
Chaunge eeke our munds and former lives amend,
The old yeares sinnes forepast let us eschew, 
And fly the faults with which we did offend.
Then shall the new yeares joy forth freshly send,
Into the glooming world his gladsome ray:
And all these stormes which now his beauty blend,
Shall turne to caulmes and tymely cleare away.
So likewise love cheare you your heavy spright,
And chaunge old yeares annoy to new delight.










In advance of the new year, I thought it only appropriate to look at a poem welcoming the new year, a Spenser sonnet which deliberately seeks to liberate the reader and poet from the bonds of the old.  Spenser here is writing in an English which is somewhere in between Middle English and Early Modern English, and as such, uses spellings and words that are unfamiliar to our modern eyes.  This was deliberate on Spenser's part, an affectation meant to sound "old" in the same way that an American author today could try to evoke a sense of time and place by modeling their language on Melville.  Don't think too hard about it, though, and just sound the words out loud, slowly, and it should be clear.  

Summarized, the poem, in our modern English, more or less means:

The weary year, his race now run,
The new year begins his compassed (set, fixed, planned) course anew:
With a show of mild morning he has begun,
Betokening peace and plenty (more) to ensue.
So let us, with the change of weather,
Change also (eek is a lovely Middle English word for "also") our minds, and amend our own lives,
Eschew the sins of the old year,
And let go of the faults with which we offended.
After that, the new year will send forth fresh joys
Into the glooming (gloomy) world with a gladsome (cheerful) ray.
All these storms that blend (obscure) the year's beauty
Will turn calm, and clear away in time.
So, likewise, love (you, the subject), clear away your heavy spright (spirit)
And change the old year's annoyances to new delight.

Hopefully that's easier to read!  The poem is an entreaty to recognize the old year's storms, sins, annoyances, and grievances, and to turn towards the new year, and to "chaunge eeke our mynds and former lives amend."  The new year always seems to inspire in us the opportunity for a fresh start, to turn a page, and to live better, with more love, and just as storms clear away in time, we too can find a calmer, better life.

On a personal note, I've long been annoyed with celebrations of the new year.  It has always seemed so terribly arbitrary to me, and I confess, even in the face of a beautiful poem like this, I remain unconvinced.  But, in the spirit of this poem, I'll put away my quarrel with celebrating the new year, and instead, try to cheer my heavy spirit, and change my old year's annoyances into new delights.  This poem was certainly a delight for me, and I hope it was for you, as well.

I hope this poem, and the new year, find you well.  I recognize that I've posted precious little in the way of poetry these past two years, but I assure you, I've not forgotten it.  I have been amazed for years now at the sheer volume of readership of my tiny little blog, and am humbled that others take the time out of their days to search for poetry, and maybe even read what little I may have to add.  Thank you.

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