Monday, August 23, 2010

Fairy Queen and Faerie Queene

From 1692, Henry Purcell's music to "The Fairy Queen" is the oldest music I've featured on the blog so far. When I heard the music and the title, I assumed it would be for Spenser's book "The Faerie Queene," from the 1590s. I'll admit: I got the book only because Beauty loves it in Robin McKinley's Beauty (my favorite novel version of Beauty and the Beast. Isn't it weird how books can influence you in so many ways, like what other books you choose to read?) And it hurts my pride to admit it was hard for me to just get through the first Book of the epic poem, although you adjust to the writing as you read more (like Shakespeare is to the modern reader, Spenser is to Shakespeare-at least to me). Spenser definitely enforces typical stereotypes such as the beautiful, dutiful, modest female and the strong, courageous male warrior. From Book I, Canto I:

"A lovely Ladie rode him faire beside,
Upon a lowly Asse more white then snow,
Yet she much whiter; but the same did hide
Under a vele, that wimpled was full low;
And over all a blacke stole shee did throw
As one that inly mournd, so was she sad,
And heavie sate upon her palfrey slow;
Seemed in heart some hidden care she had,
And by her, in a line, a milkewhite lambe she lad."

After reading it, I realized Robin McKinley meant it as a joke/commentary on the differences of culture. In Beauty, Beauty reads and rereads Faerie Queene and just loves it, but can't for the life of her understand modern writing, which is much more comprehensible to us. Which is an interesting twist on the modern person griping about having to read Shakespeare because it makes no sense-though our language has been simplified over the years, it certainly has its own uniqueness and our phrases and idioms would probably make Shakespeare himself scratch his head, if it makes you feel any better about suffering through (or enjoying, as I hope the case may be) him in high school literature.

But the music mentioned above is not about Spenser's epic poem, but about the slightly more comprehensible, much shorter, and certainly more well known Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. And though midsummer's eve was technically back in June, we are definitely now more in the middle of the summer, weather-wise.

Early Baroque music is, much like Shakespeare and Spenser, often more inaccessible to the modern person, but at least these clips are short. So enjoy this fairy tale and summer inspired music and, if it's not really your thing, at least you've been cultured a little.


  1. Wonderful Post.
    I thought you might enjoy machinima film about the folk song Scarborough Fair
    along with my speculative conjecture that this may have arisen from Spencer's Faerie Queene
    Best Wishes.

  2. Wow, I think it's safe to say I shall not in the near future attempt to read this particular epic. Like the music though.