Monday, March 20, 2006

Edmund freaking Spenser

Day 204
20 March 2006

Around six months ago, the phrase "go little book" came into my head in connection with something that I've completely forgotten now. And I said to myself, "Where did that phrase come from?" So I did what any person of education and sense would do: I Googled it. And came up with nothing conclusive. I suspected that there might be a spelling variation involved, but wasn't ambitious enough to try possible variations until I found one that clicked. Fast forward to this evening, when I'm reading Frank McGuinness's play Mutabilitie. Since Edmund Spenser is one of the main characters, I bust out my old Norton Anthology to read Spenser's bio. (OK, I actually went to wikipedia first, but their entry was a little thin. In fact, I ended up adding something to it.) I also suspect that some of McGuinness's script might be taken from Spenser's writing, and have made a mental note to look up The Shepheardes Calender. As I finish reading the Norton bio, I notice that The Shepheardes Calender is on the facing page, so I start reading. The opening line? "Goe little booke: thy selfe present." Not only that, it's got a footnote indicating that this is an homage to Chaucer's line from Troilus and Criseyde, "Go, litel bok, go litel myn tragedye." I was in the right ballpark, timewise, as I had connected it vaguely in my mind with Sidney. But Edmund Spenser, of all things. I would never have remembered that on my own.

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