Lecture 13:Renaissance Poetry

Poetry: Renaissance to Metaphysical
– Most playwrights of the Elizabethan and Jacobean age wrote poetry.
– Poetry was mainly a private form because it was not published.
– The poetry was shown to small circles of friends and admirers.

1. Rules of Decorum
– The rules of Decorum were adopted from ancient Greece and Roman Literatures.
1- They dictate that a poem has to use a regular form
2- Highly sophisticated language
3- Important subject matters
4- The aim of poetry was to teach and delight
– That meant poetry was written by elite and for the elite.
– The rules were strictly followed during the Elizabethan age, 17th and 18th centuries.
– Poetry was composed to please/entertain and educate/teach.
1. The Sonnet
1. Sir Philip Sidney
– Like Hamlet, Sidney was the ideal Renaissance figure: a soldier, a man of learning, and a romantic lover.
– Sidney died young at 32. That created a romantic image of him.
– His “Astrophel and Stella” is full of idealised love aka courtly love.
– But the poet can never have her, so themes of love and loss are linked together.
Leave me, O love, which reachest but dust;
And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things;
Grow rich in that which never taketh trust;
Whatever fades, but fading pleasure brings.

– These lines reflect much of Sidney’s Renaissance philosophy, aiming for perfection and fame.

2. Edmund Spenser
– Spenser was known as the Prince of Poets in the Elizabethan Age.
– He was a controversial figure: someone with new ideas or a writer who tried to please/flatter his superiors.
– He wanted to take his place in English tradition of poetry like Chaucer.
– “The Faerie Queen” (fairy) (1590s) is his great national epic to celebrate Queen Elizabeth.
– He used a new verse form of stanzas on 9 lines rhyming ababbcbcc.
– “The Faerie Queen” is the most important poem in English since Chaucer.
– It celebrates Queen Elizabeth as Gloriana, the national heroine who brings peace and wealth to the nation

Sweet Thames! Run softly, till I end my song.

– This line, from “Prothalamion” (1596), is one of Spenser’s best-known lines.

3. Christopher Marlowe and courtly love

Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasures prove
– From “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” is a pastoral poem

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
Come live with me and be my love, 
And we will all the pleasures prove, 
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields, 
Woods, or steepy mountain yields. 

And we will sit upon the Rocks, 
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks, 
By shallow Rivers to whose falls 
Melodious birds sing Madrigals. 

And I will make thee beds of Roses 
And a thousand fragrant posies, 
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle 
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle; 

A gown made of the finest wool 
Which from our pretty Lambs we pull; 
Fair lined slippers for the cold, 
With buckles of the purest gold; 

A belt of straw and Ivy buds, 
With Coral clasps and Amber studs: 
And if these pleasures may thee move, 
Come live with me, and be my love. 

The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing 
For thy delight each May-morning: 
If these delights thy mind may move, 
Then live with me, and be my love.

Printing press to London in the 1470’s by William Caxton
The most important poem since Canterbury tales