January

by Pat Aske

Spenser matriculated at Pembroke in 1569 and took his BA in 1572/3. The Shepheardes Calender  was published in 1579,Shepheardes Calendar and its physical presentation must have struck its readers as highly unusual.  There were twelve poems, one for each month, accompanied by introductory notes and annotations from a mysterious scholarly figure (‘E.K.’), as well as a series of emblematic woodcuts indicating the poems’ allegorical significance.  In the woodcut for Spenser’s ‘Januarye’ poem, the reader is introduced to the shepherd Colin, who is standing with his back to his sheep and a rustic shack; the broken bagpipe at his feet depicts the subject of poetry, reminding us of the wider significance of pastoral writing in the literary canon.  Just as Virgil moved from pastoral to epic,
and from the Eclogues to the Aeneid, Spenser would eventually leave behind his ‘lowly Shepards weeds’ and dedicate himself to his massive epic poem, The Faerie Queene (1590). (Dr Katrin Ettenhuber)