I too find Spenser's language difficult to remember, but I often
remember structures at the level of the stanza. (I can't recite 1.1.1
fluidly, but I can tell you that there's that decisive turn at line 5 in
"Yet arms till that time did he never wield.")
Maybe it's because William Empson's lyrical description of the varieties
of the Spenserian stanza in Seven Types of Ambiguity has stuck with me
more than it should, but I think that the stanzas and their structures
are less transparent or instrumental than the language is (at least, in
Heninger's account, and in the experience of those of us whose faulty
memories support it).
One weird exception: a student in my remedial composition course, one
who had never read any Spenser, knew the line "And all for love, and
nothing for reward" (2.8.2, of the angel who watches over Guyon when he
swoons after leaving Mammon's cave). He didn't know what it referred to,
but he knew it was Spenser. Shamed by my inability to place the line on
the spot, I did a google search, which revealed 60 hits-- sites with
names like "1-2-3 dating.com," "Angels by Your Side Daily Meditations,"
and "LLoovvee TTeesstt." So that line was apparently memorable for
And a slightly tangential response to Jon's remarks on Spenserian
The episodic structures of FQ start to look increasingly like the
skeletal remains of romance's entrelacement when we read Spenser's
adaptations of Ariosto as structural, rather than local or linguistic.
Alpers's chapter on Spenser and Ariosto has lots to say about Spenser's
"psychologization" of a particular dramatic episode in Ariosto, but
doesn't address structural influences. Peter DeSa Wiggins tackles both,
suggesting that Spenser's local "allusions" to Ariosto are dismissive
and announce his "overgoing" of the Italian poet, while his "imitations"
reveal admiration and respect. For what it's worth.