Edmund Spenser's Epithalamion is a certain divergence from the well established themes of grief and mourning over unrequited love so commonly embraced by Renaissance sonneteers. The departure from the expected brooding and pining voice is vividly divulged in a refreshingly sincere poetic celebration in this poem. Epithalamion relishes in the emotive fluttering of the speaker's passion, and his eager rejoicing in the arrival of his wedding day. The twenty-four stanza poem is truly a celebration of love; the very structure of the sound reverberates with a high energy and songlike fluidity that achieves an audible equivalent of the speaker's euphoria. In a close reading, the distinct audible effect of the poem can be attributed to more than perhaps an overflowing heart on Spenser's part; as in most cases of literary mastery, many deliberate linguistic functions work to manipulate the continuous sum of each line of verse, as each line plays into its stanza. A true linguistic master, Spenser subtly employs layers of detail to penetrate beyond the initial audible or visual effect of the poem, weaving threads of continuity, cohesion, and rhythm into the subconscious of the interpreter.
Beyond the surface content, the image construed by delicate diction and metaphorical cohesion, there is the re-occurring impression of sounds that are most imperative to the poetic effect.
[...] The stops per stanza add to the fluctuating pattern in the intensity of the rhythm: it seems to progress uninhibited, and then is more restrained. The seven stops in stanza nine correspond with the contemplative nature of one preparing to describe their love, deliberating over the most flattering choice of words. The nature of stanza nine is in actuality a prelude of sort, building anticipation to the blazon in stanza ten, where the speaker expounds in two run-on sentences a very fluid and passionate catalogue appraising his love's physical beauty. [...]
[...] Couplets generally have the same number of stresses in both lines, and so there is a sense of incompleteness. They are only further emphasized by actual punctuated stops in the instance of the eleventh lines. Here it can be seen how the effects of the linguistic functions employed by Spenser manipulate the sound of the poem by manipulating its form; the rhythm rises visually from the form without need for even considering the specific language that contrives the content. The stanzas themselves are a visual representation of the audible progression in the first nine stanzas; one that can be seen to reflect the nature of the content. [...]
[...] Spenser also employs the rhythmic distortion of hyperbatons in the eight line unit, inverting the expected order of parts of speech so that the verbs “uncrudded”, and in past tense, take on the function of adjectives (173,175,176). This gives the object of each subordinate clause a sense of action, which halts at the end of each line by effect of the double stressed sound of a spondee that each word invokes. Stanza ten is therefore, a concentration of the patterns displayed in the previous nine stanzas; it rushes forth with same spontaneous and erratic stop-and-go rhythm, though with greater tempo due to lack of final punctuation and a more intricate network of internal rhymes and repetition. [...]
[...] Spenser's stanza adheres mostly to pentameter, though he does not rely on the consistent and lyrical quality of iambs or any one kind of measure; furthermore, there are random hypermetrical lines throughout. As an even further interruption from a ‘set' rhythm, the meter deviates dramatically in each stanza at every sixth, eleventh, and third to last line, which occur in either trimeter and tetrameter (with the first stanza as an anomaly with nine syllables). The final measure of each line also provides a variety of unpredictable sounds, through a variety of stresses. [...]
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