Fletcher (1610) One of the best of the 17th-century religious poets, Giles Fletcher produced poetry mostly free of didacticism, despite his membership in the Spenserian school. With nondramatic verse modeled after that of Edmund Spenser of The Fairie Queene (1590, 1596) fame, the Spenserians proved serious writers intent on wise subjects, which often caused their work to dissolve into a stilted preachiness. Fletch er's approach to the topic of religion helped him avoid, for the most part, the deep moralizing that often swallowed the creative aspects of work by his fellow religious poets. His innate enthusiasm for his topic, plus his chosen themes, aided his avoidance.
Fascinated by the various stages of Christ's existence, Fletcher applied his abundant powers of imagination and intelligent grasp of language to produce elegant verse that captivated his readers. His most often anthologized (in excerpts) poem, "Christ's Victory in Heaven" presents a dispute between Justice and Mercy, as Fletcher adopts the figure of speech of personification to bring those figures to life. It represents the first of four cantos, followed by "Christ's Victory on Earth," "Christ's Triumph over Death," and "Christ's Triumph after Death." Fletcher adopts a rhyme scheme of abab-bccc with meter of iambic pentameter in 265 eight-line verses to complete his four cantos, producing a work of epic proportion.
"Christ's Victory in Heaven" resounds with the rich imagery for which Fletcher is best remembered. Although some critics note a tension between his desire to make an imaginative presentation and his compulsion to adopt some traditional rhetoric, the poem proves both lyric and narrative, as Mercy intercedes to prevent Justice's indictment of humankind. An excerpt well illustrates his capable talent. Mercy has convinced God to extend grace to humans, despite their state of sin, when Justice intervenes:
But Justice had no sooner Mercy seen
Smoothing the wrinkles of her Father's brow,
But up she starts, and throws her self between.
The reader can clearly picture this dispute and its dramatic combatants.
Fletcher next adopts a simile to aid his reader's imagination, selecting something to which they can relate. He compares Justice's move to that of "a vapour" rising "from a moory slough." That vapor "Doth heav'n's bright face of his rays disarray, / And sads the smiling Orient of the springing day." Fletcher's use of personification in describing the sun in the sky as "heav'n's bright face" may seem cloying to some readers. However, his use of catachresis in applying the adjective
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