Epithalamion is an ode written by Edmund Spenser as a gift to his bride, Elizabeth Boyle, on their wedding day. The poem moves through the couples' wedding day, from the groom's impatient hours before dawn to the late hours of night after the husband and wife have consummated their marriage. Spenser is very methodical in his depiction of time as it passes, both in the accurate chronological sense and in the subjective sense of time as felt by those waiting in anticipation or fear.
As with most classically-inspired works, this ode begins with an invocation to the Muses to help the groom; however, in this case they are to help him awaken his bride, not create his poetic work. Then follows a growing procession of figures who attempt to bestir the bride from her bed. Once the sun has risen, the bride finally awakens and begins her procession to the bridal bower. She comes to the "temple" (the sanctuary of the church wherein she is to be formally married to the groom) and is wed, then a celebration ensues. Almost immediately, the groom wants everyone to leave and the day to shorten so that he may enjoy the bliss of his wedding night. Once the night arrives, however, the groom turns his thoughts toward the product of their union, praying to various gods that his new wife's womb might be fertile and give him multiple children.
The groom calls upon the muses to inspire him to properly sing the praises of his beloved bride. He claims he will sing to himself, "as Orpheus did for his own bride." As with most of the following stanzas, this stanza ends with the refrain "The woods shall to me answer and my Eccho ring."
Before the break of day, the groom urges the muses to head to his beloved's bower, there to awaken her. Hymen, god of marriage, is already awake, and so too should the bride arise. The groom urges the muses to remind his bride that this is her wedding day, an occasion that will return her great delight for all the "paynes