Elizabethan Lyric Poetry and Sonnets

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      Renaissance broke the insularity of England and English scholars drank deep in the fountain of the Creek and Latin and continental literature. It was humanism which provoked the revival of English poetry with his invention of new vocabulary, new stanzaic forms, humanistic themes and sensuous imagery. New forms of poetry like sonnet, elegies, pastorals, marriage songs, madrigols enriched English poetry. There was a sudden flowering of lyric poetry. England, merry England was a nest of singing birds. The poetry of the Elizabethan era opens with the publication of a volume known as Tottel's Miscellany (1557). Songs and Sonnets had been the composite title of the first edition of Tottel's Miscellamy. Apart from the sonnets, Elizabethan era was unique in the production of lyrics and songs.

The poetry of the Elizabethan age opens with the publication of a volume known as Tottel's Miscellany (1557). Songs and Sonnets had been the composite title of the first edition of Tottel's Miscellamy. Apart from the sonnets, Elizabethan age was unique in the production of lyrics and songs.
Lyric poetry

      Wyatt and Surrey contributed to Tottel's Miscellany. Wyatt gave the sonnet to English poetry and Surrey made another precious gift blank verse which he used for his translation of the second and fourth books of Virgil's Aeneid. There were many other collections like Tottel's Miscellany The Paradise of Dainty Devices, English Helicon, England's Parnassus. There were a number of minor poets who were represented in the different miscellanies.

      George Gascoigne was a true poet. His poems like Good Morrow and The Lover's Lullaby combine great sweetness of utterance with complete technical mastery. Gascoigne uses many metres and in all of them shows skilful craftsmanship. His Don Bartholomew of. Bath describes his early love adventures. Gascoigne was however not a great poet, but in view of the numerous literary kinds in which he worked he may perhaps be ranked with Drayton, a typical Elizabethan man of letters.

      A greater poet than Gascoigne is Thomas Sackville who contributed an Induction and the Complaint of the Duke of Buckingham to the Mirror for Magistrates, a large huge collection of tragic tales in verse, written by various hands and published in several editions between 1555 and 1610. This work consists entirely of stories from English History, legendary or real. The only poetry of first rate quality which it contains is that of Sackville. His metre was rime-royal, the great measure which has been used by Chaucer. Sackville's stanza has a rhythm and a majesty which none except the great poets achieved. In induction, his mighty vision and rhythm are evident in the opening description of winter and are sustained throughout the scenes where he is shown walking with sorrow.

      Lyric poetry flourished in the hands of Daniel and Drayton besides the works of Sidney and Spenser. Daniel and Drayton extend into the seventeenth century, yet they were true Elizabethans. Samuel Daniel fills an exceptional place in his generation. Round his chief work, The Civil Wars may be grouped a fair number of poems in various forms: sonnets in praise of Delia, letters, dedications, panegyrics, elegies, pastorals. He shows deep tenderness in The Complaint of Rosamond. His verse is calm and sober in the age of tumult.

      In temperament, Daniel was a classicist: Drayton was as romantic in practice as in theory. His work includes pastorals, such as Idea, The Shepherd's Garland, sonnets, such as ideas Mirror, the historical poem Mortimeriados, satires, odes, etc. His works as a whole shows fancy, fluency, liveliness, but it is nowhere refined. He was a facile versifier. Some of his works, such as his ode on the battle of Agincourt, his verses on the "Virginian voyage, or the childish fairy tale carry one away by their rhythm in spite of their lack of substance.

      In the Elizabethan era, song was copious, diverse and winged. In song shown the fusion of popular genius and the artistic sense awakened by humanism. A series or spell collections heralded the Books of Airs, published from 1601 to 1613, of Thomas Campion. His songs are by turns simple and strange, ance and modern, sensuous and passionate, worldly and rustic, and all are distinguished by excellence of rhythm and pleasant language. Campion's songs "I care not for these ladies, "Shall I come sweet love to thee" are simple, sensuous and passionate.

      It is however in the plays that best lyrics are found. Many of those written by Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker, Beaumont and Fletcher and Webster are beautiful. But those of Shakespeare are at once the most original, the most spontaneous, the most varied in rhythm and the richest in impressions of Nature.

      Edmund Spenser has left work sufficient in volume and quality to give him place as the greatest poet since Chaucer. His earliest considerable work "The Shepherd's Calendar consisted of twelve eclogues. Spenser owes much to the pastoral poet of antiquity. Among Spenser's shorter poems, mention may be made of The Ruins of Rome, Mother Hubeard's Tale, The Tears of Muses and the sonnet sequence Amoretti, The Epithalamion. It is The Faerie Queene which is his masterpiece. Here he paints a large number of characters and pictorial details of the poem are vivid. The poem reveals a sober, chaste and sensitive spirit, one keenly alive to sensuous beauty.

      Ben Jonson, the great dramatist wrote a number of poems. His best known poem is "drink to me only with thine eyes." Its conciseness, ease and formal perfection are typical of his lyrics. The cavalier poets modelled their verses on his poetry and they gloried in the name of the "tribe of Ben."

      The lyrical fervour of the age finds best expression in the sonnets. Sidney's Astrophel and Stella, Spenser's Amoretti, Shakespeare's hundred and fifty seven sonnets are the glory and pride of English poetry. They however show the blending of convention and originality. They express their intimate feelings through these Sonnets. Imitation predominates in the sonnets of Thomas Watson, Henry Constable and Thomas Lodge. The sonneteers drew their inspiration, imagery and style from Petrarch and Ronsard. Grace and liveliness are principal attractions of these Sonnets. In the hands of Sidney, Spenser and Shakespeare, sonnet acquired a new distinction by their originality in themes and forms. They expressed profound and Sincere passions. Platonic idealism coloured, many of their sonnets. They are distinguished by the splendour of imagery and expressions. Sidney followed the Petrarchan pattern, but Spenser and Shakespeare introduced new forms, Their three quatrains followed by a couplet make a harmonious whole. The majority of Shakespeare's sonnets are addressed to a young friend.

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