A Poem by George Peele (1556-1596)
A Study Guide
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2010
Type of Work and Publication Year
......."A Farewell to Arms" is a lyric poem written for the retirement ceremony in 1590 of Queen Elizabeth I's champion knight. It pledges undying loyalty to the queen (1533-1603). Peele had also written a play, The Arraignment of Paris (1584), that complimented the queen.
.......The time has come for an aging knight to
retire from the field of battle. His once-golden hair is now gray, and the strength of his youth is gone. But his readiness to serve the queen dutifully and lovingly remains strong. So he will leave the queen's court, put away his helmet and, instead of writing love poems, compose prayers that he will say on his knees in his cottage.
.......The theme of the poem is the aging soldier's valediction, which states: Though he is too old now to serve on the field of battle, he will continue to serve his queen (Elizabeth I) as her "beadsman"—that is, he will pray for her.
.......Peele wrote the poem on the occasion of the retirement in 1590 of Sir Henry Lee (1533-1611) as Queen Elizabeth's champion knight, who performed in jousts before the queen each year on the November 17 anniversary of Elizabeth's accession (1558) to the English throne. Lee continued to serve the queen as Master of the Royal Armouries, a position to which he was appointed in 1580. It is said that Peele's poem was sung to the queen during Lee's final jousting tournament on November 17, 1590.
.......In each stanza, the first line rhymes with the third, the second with the fourth, and the fifth with the sixth. All the lines in the poem end with masculine rhyme (consisting of single syllables) except lines 2 and 4 (ceasing, increasing), which end with feminine rhyme.
His golden locks Time hath to silver turn'd;Meter
.......Peele wrote the poem in iambic pentameter. A line of iambic pentameter has five pairs of syllables, or five feet. Each foot consists of an iamb (an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable). Because there are five iambs—or five iambic feet—in each line, the metric format is called iambic
pentameter. (The prefix ''pent'' means ''five.'')
.....1................2...................3.................4...............5Lines 2 and 4 each have an extra syllable, for a total of 11 syllables.
.Text of the Poem
His golden locks Time hath to silver turn'd;
His helmet now shall make a hive for bees;
And when he saddest sits in homely cell,3
1....Age his alms: Alms for his old age.
Figures of Speech
.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem.
Time hath to silver turn'dMetaphor
Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fadingStudy Questions and Writing Topics