Spenser assumes a stately and formal tone throughout The Faerie Queene. This tone was appropriate for a poem dedicated to no less a figure than Queen Elizabeth I, who granted the poet an annual pension of £50 (then a considerable amount of money) in acknowledgement of his tribute to her. Spenser employs a wide array of stylistic elements in order to establish this formal and courtly tone. Some of these elements can be seen in a stanza in Canto I, in which the Redcross Knight and his companions seek shelter under a canopy of trees:
The Laurell, meed of mightie Conquerours
And Poets sage, the Firre that weepeth still,
The Willow worne of forlorne Paramours,
The Eugh obedient to the benders will,
The Birch for shaftes, the Sallow for the mill,
The Mirrhe sweete bleeding in the bitter wound,
The warlike Beech, the Ash for nothing ill,
The fruitfull Oliue, and the Platane round,
The caruer Holme, the Maple seeldom inward sound.
In this stanza, Spenser wields a demanding parallel structure, in which each line introduces a species of tree and a matching poetic epithet—a brief description carrying the weight of a title (for example, “The Laurell, meed of mightie Conquerours,” or “The warlike Beech”). Similarly grand epithets were often used in Elizabethan England for nobles and monarchs, contributing to the courtly tone of the poem. The various trees that Spenser lists in this stanza held longstanding associations in poetry and mythology, demonstrating the vast sweep of Spenser’s learning. Weaving together a complex formal structure, antiquated syntax, lofty rhetoric, and dense allusions, Spenser highlights his own skills and establishes a stately tone that stands in marked contrast to casual speech.