We are just about to wrap up discussions of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene.
I must mention here that whenever an epic poem appears on the horizon in my little homeschooling world, I start to feel a bit itchy and hope it gets sort of magically “covered” without too much suffering on my part. And when it was The Odyssey , and I had to read it aloud to my pups, they all surprised the stuffing out of me by being all involved and explaining it back to me in such a way that I was able to fully comprehend what I had just read. Whew!
Then it turned out they had been listening to Derek Jacobi reading The Odyssey since they were toddlers. David would turn the cassette on when they all crawled into bed back in California when we had five kids sharing the one bedroom, and they would listen until they fell asleep.
Last year, I read the Aeneid, and it was almost like that, only not quite as satisfying as it was the first go-round for Virgil at our house. I was thinking at the time…”should have listened to this one on tape when they were younger….”
So now as we’re winding up The Faerie Queene, I am completely persuaded that listening to these epic poems on audio-tape is the way to go. The FQ is available free at Librivox, and I have been turning this on for a little while some mornings so I can hear somebody who knows what they are doing reading it better than I can. And I can tell you that washing the breakfast dishes is just way more satisfying if you’ve got a man with a perfect English accent reading Edmund Spenser, loudly in order to drown out the dish clatter.
If I had played this as background noise in the car or the playroom a few years ago, I could have saved myself a pile of work today.
The kids would be teaching the poem to me now.
As it is though, all three boys heard the name of this poem and they recoiled a bit because they expected herds of feminine fairies.
Actually, Audrey and Helen also expected fairies. And only Helen thought fairies might be a good idea.
But as they have discovered knights and monsters and evil shape changing villains, and lots of sneaky allusions to the Catholic church, my guys joined in with a bit more gusto.
They would have LOVED the story when they were smaller,
And if they were, today, completely familiar with the story, we could just slap on some good explanations about meter, pastoral mode, characteristics of allegorical Renaissance poetry, and the Spenserian stanza….and we’d have this one nailed.
So, if you are reading this and you have small children, I am just saying: Fine Literature on Audio is the way to go. And it seems to be everywhere.