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T H E FA C T S O N F I L E
C O M P A N I O N T OBRITISH
BEFORE 1600 C D
MICHELLE M. SAUER
The Facts On File Companion to British Poetry before 1600 Copyright © 2008 Michelle M. Sauer
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JOURNAL ABBREVIATIONS xiv
ENTRIES A TO Z 1
I. Glossary 484
II. Selected Bibliography 487
III. Contributors List 489
The Facts On File Companion to British Poetry before 1600
is part of a four-volume set on British poetry from its beginning to the present. This particular volume cov- ers poetry written during the Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, and early Renaissance (Tudor) literary peri- ods in the area traditionally referred to as the British Isles, which includes England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Today’s Great Britain includes Wales, Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland has been independent since 1921. The issue of what, exactly, makes up “British literature” is a complicated one. Certainly, the first “British” people were Celtic in origin, and the word itself derives from the people who populated a region that is now in northern France (Brittany). After the Germanic invasions (traditional date 449 C . E .), the Angles and Saxons melded into a singular culture that pushed the Celtic Britons into the further reaches of Wales, Cornwall, and Scotland. As they expanded outward, the Anglo-Saxons tended to absorb the native culture; thus, Arthur—originally Welsh in origin—became an Anglo-Saxon hero. Certainly, the Anglo-Saxons, and, later, the English, embarked upon campaigns of military conquest against the various Celtic peoples and over the years subjugated Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. By the time James Stuart took the throne as James I in 1603, he was styled King of England, ity, was not part of the monarchial title). In essence, English culture was one of colonization, starting with the original Germanic invasions.
Recent criticism has striven to present Ireland and Irish literature within the context of postcolonial studies, and these ideas have been extended to Welsh and Scottish literary productions too. Despite being problematic, however, the term British is the one used most often, if just for convenience sake. Part of the dif- ficulty with the discussion also stems from differences in viewing terms from an American standpoint versus an English, Irish, Welsh, or Scottish one. Universities in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland tend to separate English studies from Celtic studies; however, that same separation is rarer in American colleges and universities. In fact, one of the traditional staples of the American curriculum is the “British liter- ature survey,” which generally includes Celtic contexts.
Thus, British literature is a loosely used term in the United States, without any overt politically disruptive intent. This is not an excuse, per se, but rather more of an explanation, and one that certainly warrants fur- ther discussion. In the meantime, however, the reality is that the Celtic literatures are often grouped under the heading “British.” Although not an ideal solution, I suggest that it is preferable to excluding the literature altogether, or to grouping it under the title “English” literature. Even “literature written in English” is exclu- sionary, especially in the medieval and Renaissance
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
and Stella, are discussed generally in overview entries
Mary” Tudor) are not used. The terms Renaissance and
Christian) and disparaging nicknames (e.g., “Bloody
. (Common Era). Derogatory terminology (e.g., pagan instead of pre-Christian or non-
C . E
Where necessary, dates are written as B . C . E . (Before the Common Era) or
Unless otherwise indicated, the standard editions for works are used. The Riverside Chaucer (Houghton- Mifflin, 1987) and The Riverside Shakespeare (Houghton- Mifflin, 1997) can be assumed for all relevant entries. For entries on major sonnet sequences and other longer works, the main editions and critical works used for each entry on a particular sonnet appear at the end of the overview entry. Any further reading lists appearing in individual sonnet entries reflect addi- tional sources.
under the title of the sequence, with individual cover- age of the most commonly read and important sonnets given in subsections just below the overview entry. (Shakespeare’s untitled sequence appears under the editorially given name Shakespeare’s Sonnets.) This same convention holds true for other longer works that are frequently excerpted (e.g., Piers Plowman). There are two major exceptions to this practice. The individual “tales” of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales appear as unique entries, alphabetized under the name of their titles (for example, “The Pardoner’s Tale” appears under P), as do the individual lays (lais) in Marie de France’s collec- tion. These works are often taught as individual pieces rather than as part of a greater whole, and it seemed more useful to categorize them as such in this book. As well, since the prologues and epilogues are usually taught with each individual Canterbury Tale, those discussions are assumed throughout.
Some of the finest poetry of the period is in the form of the sonnet, and many sonnets appeared as part of larger works called sonnet sequences. In this volume, major sonnet sequences, such as Sidney’s Astrophil
Latin, Anglo-Norman, Welsh, Middle Scots, and other languages. I hope, then, that I can be forgiven the term
Calender, not The Shepherd’s Calender).
For the most part, spelling has been regularized to given as Sidney (not Sydney) and Spenser (not Spencer) consistently throughout the volume. However, if the standard medieval or early modern spelling of a work does not interfere with understanding, it has usually been retained (e.g., Spenser’s poem is The Shepheard’s
Many scholars have contributed to this encyclopedia, but I strove to achieve conformity of content and style, if not complete uniformity. All entries feature the contributor’s name at the end of the entry. Unsigned entries were written by the volume editor.
Entries on individual poems provide an overview or summary of the text and a discussion of the style or genre of the work. Difficult terms are glossed, and historical and literary context is provided where appropriate and necessary. The standard or most com- mon interpretation of the work is usually presented, in addition to an overview of critical debates and cur- rent trends. Biographical entries provide information about the author’s life and work in general. Historical entries cover significant events relevant to the creation, distribution, and inspiration of pre-1600 poetry (e.g., the Norman Conquest). Thematic entries provide background discussion on important areas, such as the classical tradition, while entries on poetic terms impor- tant to the period clarify entry content and provide relevant examples drawn from works included in vol- ume. There are a few non-British writers, such as Ovid and Virgil, included if they had a profound impact on British poetry. The appendix includes a bibliography and a brief glossary of general poetic terms.
Entries cover the poems and poets most often taught in high school and college classrooms and the concepts most important to understanding the poetry of the period. The approach throughout is to combine current critical approaches with more traditional meth- ods, providing a balanced framework and presenting works in the context of their time. Entries are self-con- tained and relatively jargon-free. Although primarily aimed at a student audience, this book is also designed to benefit teachers, librarians, and general readers who love poetry.
of the medieval era alongside a fervent desire not to make any political gaffes.
British, especially in regards to the multilingual fluidity
work. Scholars continue to debate the correctness of each term, and both are commonly employed. In order to clarify some of the issues, I have included an entry on the idea of “early modern v. Renaissance.”
POEMS AND POETS INCLUDED
In choosing works and writers to include in this book, I consulted with all the major anthologies of literature of the period, including the Norton, Longman, Broadview, and Blackwell. I also consulted several high school texts. Space constraints prevented the inclusion of everything one would wish; nonetheless, all the works and poets that students are likely to encounter are included here. The inclusion of Irish, Scottish, and Welsh literature has become standard classroom practice, and most anthologies today include so-called companion pieces or Celtic contexts, which are also often available as supplemental reading in electronic form, on sites dedi- cated to a specific classroom anthology.
It was particularly difficult to decide which Tudor works to include, as the sheer volume of poetry of that period is staggering. Medieval choices proved only slightly less tricky, and these were further complicated by the availability of translations. Most instructors teach Chaucer in the original Middle English, as well as some of the later authors, such as Lydgate and Hoccleve, the Scottish Chaucerian works, and medieval lyrics. However, earlier works—especially the Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, and Irish texts—are almost wholly dependent on modern English versions being available for student consumption, and, therefore, some readily available texts displaced others that are less accessible. At the same time, however, some early Middle English pieces that were crucial to the development of the vernacular tradition (such as Handlyng Synne) warranted inclu- sion. Overall, I believe all of the included texts provide essential insight into this period of literature.
Finally, personal inclination and modern politics dictate that women poets and woman-centered texts be fairly represented. I have striven, therefore, to rep- resent women authors fairly. Among the complications of studying the medieval period is the lack of identifi- able authors. As a medievalist, I have long lamented the tendency for anthologies to prioritize those works that can be attributed to a named author, thus poten- tially excluding a great deal of female-oriented texts. Moreover, many named female medieval authors wrote in prose, not poetry, and thus lie beyond the boundar- ies of this volume.
PRE-1600 POETRY OF THE BRITISH AND CELTIC WORLD: A BRIEF OVERVIEW
This book covers the medieval and early Renaissance periods of British and Celtic poetry. For purposes of this volume, the Celtic texts are grouped within the appropriate “medieval” or “Renaissance” category, with- out further division. In English literature, however, the medieval time period can be further broken down into the Old English period and the Middle English period, the Anglo-Norman period. The Old English period runs roughly from 700 C . E . to 1066 C . E ., the date of the Norman Conquest. The Anglo-Norman period, then, covers the immediate post-conquest time, or 1066– 1154, when English went “underground,” ending with King Stephen’s death. The Middle English period traditionally ends with the death of King Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485.
The early Renaissance is technically the Tudor era, named after the period’s ruling dynasty. After Richard
III’s death, Henry Tudor ascended the throne as King Henry VII. He was followed by his second son, who became King Henry VIII (1509–1547), who in turn was followed by each of his three children: Edward
VI (1547–1553), Mary I (1553–1558), and Elizabeth I (1558–1603). When Elizabeth died, the son of her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, James Stuart, ascended the throne as the first monarch of the new Stuart dynasty.
OLD ENGLISH POETRY AT A GLANCE
The 30,000 lines of surviving Old English poetry are collected, for the most part, in four manuscripts: The Exeter Book, the Vercelli manuscript, the Junius manuscript, and the Nowell Codex (also known as Cotton Vittelius A.xv). These are all anthologies of texts collected after they were written, not assembled for a specific purpose. No texts describing the art of poetry survive from the Old English period. Scholars,
however, have been able to piece together a general view of Old English meter. The basic rhyme scheme was alliteration (repeated initial consonant sounds), a system that relies upon the quantity of vowels, syllabic alteration, and prosody (rhythm). In 1885, Eduard Sievers outlined five distinct alliterative patterns within Old English verse. His research continues to be accept- ed today, particularly because each of his permutations can be found in all of the older Germanic languages. Old English verse lines are divided into half-lines by a caesura, or pause. Each half-line has two stressed syl- lables. The first stressed syllable of the second half-line alliterates with one or both of the stressed syllables of the first half-line; the second stressed syllable of the second half-line need not alliterate.
English and Celtic literature had its beginnings in ful positions at court and were considered the memory keepers of the people: Anglo-Saxon scops, Irish filis, Welsh bards, and Scottish makars. Some, such as Taliesin, a sixth-century Welsh poet, are identified in their work. Four Old English poets are named specifi- cally within the works they produced: Cædmon, Bede, Alfred, and Cynewulf. Some remain a mystery outside of what has been discovered from their work. For example, there was obviously a scop named Deor about whom the poem of the same name was composed, but nothing is known of him aside from the information in the poem itself. Of course the vast majority of Old English and Celtic poets remain anonymous.
This rich tradition of oral-formulaic literature left its mark on written poetry. It is likely, for instance, that a poet was accompanied by a harp, perhaps being plucked during the caesuras. Old English poems are marked by mnemonic devices such as repeated key phrases and descriptors (e.g., in Beowulf, the phrase “Beowulf maþelode, bearn Ecgþeow,” “Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke”), as well as digressions—stories that enhance the central tale but also impart the history of a people. Because of this oral tradition, many of the sur- viving poems were likely composed before they were finally written down. The Celtic works derived from a long history, and many were not written down until the 12th century. A similar oral tradition is found within the Anglo-Saxon world, though a few more examples remain. Beowulf is the only surviving full-length Old English epic that survives, but several examples of heroic poetry—battle poetry—survive, including The
Battle of Maldon, The Battle of Brunanburh, The Fight at Finnsburh, Widsith, and Waldere. Though epic and
martial poetry present serious subject matter, there are occasional bouts of lightheartedness. A poetic device commonly used within Old English poetry is the lito-
tes, or dramatic understatement employed for comic
or ironic effect. These understatements appear with regularity in Beowulf and battle poems and occasion- ally in other types of poems, especially elegies and religious verse.
The elegy was the other major form of pre-Christian poetry written in Old English. An elegy, or poetic lament for the passing of someone dear, can be extend- and The Seafarer, for instance, relate the tale of the passing of the Anglo-Saxon warrior culture as well as an individual’s story. “The Ruin” is an elegy about see- ing a destroyed city, possibly Bath. Sometimes these poems are referred to as “epic songs,” especially when the lament becomes all-encompassing, shifting the focus outward toward society.
Lyrics present personal and emotional poetry— laments, complaints, and even love poetry. Several of them, including “The Wife’s Lament,” “The Husband’s Message,” and “Wulf and Eadwacer,” straddle the line between elegy and lyric, as they are about loss and exile but not specifically about death and changing fortune. There is no set stanzaic form for the lyrics, which use an alliterative scheme.
Riddles, in which the subject is described in ambiguous terms, reveal the Anglo-Saxon fascination with word play. Indeed, true Anglo-Saxon heroes were expected to be almost as good with words as they were with weapons. In Old English poetry, “boasting” is used to establish the identity and battle record of the hero, as well as serving as a promise of deeds yet to come. There are two main types of boast: the gilph (about past deeds) and the beot (tall tales; uncertain outcome). Other poetic elements that demonstrate this intrigue with manipulating words include the epithet (renaming) and the kenning (metaphorical rephras- ing). All of these, however, reveal something entirely viii INTRODUCTION
different about Old English itself—the lexicon (word bank) was limited, and although it expanded through various means (loanwords, compounds, affixes, etc.), that expansion was slow. Related to the riddles are a number of charms found scattered throughout various Old English texts. These are generally pre-Christian in nature and serve a mystical purpose.
Chronicle, which continued into the 12th century,
kings of Britain descend from Brutus, Aeneas’s grand- son, and thus trace their lineage back to Troy. The country, Britain, is named after Brutus, and no distinc- tion is made between the Celtic Britons (the “British”) and the Germanic Anglo-Saxons (the “English”); thus, Arthur, once a Welsh prince and enemy of the Saxons, becomes one of the English people’s greatest heroes.
Kings of Britain; ca. 1130–36). In each of these, the
was written in Anglo-Norman. Both were composed in England and based on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Latin prose work Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the
Brut, based on Wace’s Roman de Brut (1155), which
Thematically, the shift is away from epic and elegy and toward romance and lyric. Still, the earliest romances often relied on vestiges of the Old English martial style. For example, one of the first is Layamon’s
show the linguistic adjustments brought on by the spread of Norman French.
Literature survived in three languages: Anglo- Norman, the emerging Middle English, and Latin. The earliest poems in Middle English tended to be awkward and rough but ably demonstrate linguistic shifts. For example, The Ormulum, a vernacular work of the middle-to-late 12th century, while poetically lacking, is of tremendous importance to orthographers and grammarians. This massive work—20,000 lines of exegetical homilies on Christ—contains numerous authorial attempts to regularize spelling and grammar. Works such as this, in addition to the Anglo-Saxon
As the society shifted towards Christianity, a new type of poet, the monastic writer, emerged, though these, too, were generally unknown. Some of these religious poems include poetic paraphrases of Old Testament texts (Genesis, Exodus, and Daniel), Guthlac A and B (two versions), Judith, Christ and Satan, and The Fates of the Apostles, among several others. An assortment of Psalms, creeds, prayers, and hymns also survives. Cynewulf, author of the Old English poems
With the Norman Conquest in 1066, English lit- erature was irrevocably changed, as was the English language. William the Conqueror and his followers spoke Norman French, and as they replaced the exist- of court and commerce. English was driven under- ground. A mournful poem found in the Worcester Cathedral Library, MS 174, records this passing: “many of the teachers are being destroyed and the people forthwith.” As the language changed, the Old English verse forms died out too.
MIDDLE ENGLISH POETRY AT A GLANCE
Finally, some poetry was composed in Latin or was composed in imitation of a classical form. Of particu- lar relevance are the physiologius poems, which are adaptations from the Latin bestiary tradition, includ- ing “The Phoenix,” “The Partridge,” “The Whale,” and “The Panther.” As well, there is a surviving transla- tion/adaptation of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, generally attributed to Alfred the Great.
Germanic heroism in a successful manner. A similar occurrence can be found in “Resignation,” an elegy about sin and forgiveness.
Rood, for instance, blends Christian mysticism with
signed his poems using a runic signature—his name spelled in Futhark—hidden in the manner of an acrostic. Other than his name, however, very little is actually known about Cynewulf. The poems were composed in the 8th or 9th century and signal a shift in Old English poetry from heroic or martial verse to meditative devotional pieces. Still, the biblical themes are presented in manners similar to the Anglo-Saxon heroic poems. The dream vision poem Dream of the
Juliana, Elene, Fates of the Apostles, and Ascension,
Romances recorded knightly adventures (“quests”) and honorable deeds, occasionally with a subordi- nate element of love. Their main focus was chivalry, although later romances show the impact of the idea of courtly love. These poems recorded the idealized ver- sion of the upper-class life: hunting, battles, defending ladies, feasting, reading, playing chess, and other such leisure activities. A more traditional division includes
encompassed such poems as Sir Gawain and the Green
Satiric poems, such as the Land of Cokaygne (late 13th century) were rare but usually well written. However, a form of social satire, the fabliau (bawdy tale), grew quite popular in the 14th century and later. Another form of satire is found in the beast fable, found in adaptations of Aesop’s fables but also in other forms, such as Chaucer’s “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.”
Debate poems, such as The Owl and the Nightingale (early 13th century) gained some popularity but were soon eclipsed by the rise of the lyric. Lyrics grew from ballads, servant songs, hymns, Christmas carols, and the like. They can be divided into two categories— secular and sacred. Secular ones tended to be bawdy, rowdy, and lively. Religious lyrics focused on the mysteries of religion, especially the Virgin Mary and Christ’s life. The vast majority of these lyrics are anony- mous. Spiritual verse, aside from lyrics, include mystic poems by hermits such as Richard Rolle (ca. 1300–49) and various anonymous hagiographies, especially of virgin martyr-saints. Most shared the common goals of educating the unlearned to become closer to God, though a few are more explicitly didactic.
produced in English. This frame narrative examines the social and religious milieu of the 14th century in a lively poetic manner and served to firmly (re)establish the vernacular as a language worthy of great poetic achievement. Chaucer’s friend and contemporary John Gower wrote in all three major languages of the day—Latin, French, and Middle English, and while his achievement was perhaps not as great as Chaucer’s, he, too, amply demonstrated the flexibility of English verse and the ability of the English imagination.
Tales, perhaps the greatest collection of stories ever
The best-known poet of the late 14th century is by far Geoffrey Chaucer, often called the “father of English poetry.” Chaucer wrote in numerous genres, including the ballade, lyric, dream vision, fable, fabliau, hagi- ography, romance, and others. His career culminated with the composition of the unfinished Canterbury
tual and chivalric values into a complex poem about redemption. The Gawain-poet also wrote several other this alliterative style. Another well-known work from this era is William Langland’s Piers Plowman, a long, alliterative dream vision about the dangers of the world and concern with salvation.
Knight, an Arthurian romance that combines spiri-
Arthur, the so-called 14th-century alliterative revival
knights); the Matter of England (English and Germanic heroes); the Matter of France (Charlemagne); the Matter of Greece and Rome (Alexander the Great and the Trojan War). Each of these provided subject mat- ter for numerous tales of adventure and delight and, occasionally, for moral instruction.
The newly emergent Middle English language was not as adaptable to alliterative verse, although the 14th century witnessed a revival thereof in an adapted form. Aside from the alliterative Morte d’
d’Arthur and the alliterative Morte d’Arthur.
English writing revived fully in English after 1360 and flowered during the reign of Richard II (1372–99). Ricardian poetry often focused on confession and redemption, a theme aided, no doubt, by the ravages of the Black Death (1348–50), during which more than one-third of Europe’s population died. Lyrics and religious verse dominated, although a few Arthurian verse romances surfaced, including the stanzaic Morte
1330), showed development and depth. These early Middle English works, however, served to reestablish the vernacular as a language worthy of reading and writing. As romances grew more popular, the conven- tions of courtly love, outlined in the 12th century by the French writer Andreas Capellanus, permeated the culture alongside the ideals of chivalry.
Havelok the Dane (ca. 1300), were not as complex as the French ones, although some, such as Sir Orfeo (ca.
both changed the “Matter of Britain” from legend into literature, and also spread the popularity of the Arthur story. Early English romances, such as King Horn (ca. 1225), Floris and Blancheflour (early 13th century),
Lancelot, and Perceval (the first Grail quest story),
Marie de France, a late 12th-century woman liv- ing in England who wrote in Norman French, com- posed a series of lais (minstrels’ tales) as well as a number of fables and a life of St. Brendan. At around the same time, translations of Chrétien de Troyes’s French Arthurian romances, Erec et Enide, Cligès, Yvain,
The 15th century witnessed a distinct falling off x INTRODUCTION
English Chaucerians, such as Thomas Hoccleve and John Lydgate. Both wrote in Middle English and in a variety of genres, including the complaint, lyric, and narrative. Similarly, the French noble Charles d’Orléans could almost be dubbed a French Chaucerian for his reliance upon the English poet for inspiration for verses that he composed in both French and English while a captive in the Tower of London.
Celtic poetry from this era tends to be nationalistic. For instance, John Barbour’s Bruce (ca. 1375) is a long (14,000 lines) heroic poem that combines chronicle and romance to celebrate the life, reign, and victories of Robert I the Bruce. Other Scottish poets from the 15th century, including Robert Henryson, Gavin Douglas, William Dunbar, and even James I of Scotland, are often grouped together under the heading “Scottish These Celts did not strive to imitate Chaucer so much as to embody his spirit in a non-English manner.
The Book of Leinster (ca. 1100) contains many early
Irish poems, legends, and geographical details. It also records battles fought, and, perhaps most significantly, it preserves some of the great Ulster cycle (tales of the hero Cú Chulainn), including the Táin Bó Cúalnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley). As well, the only copy of Togail
Troi, an Irish adaptation of tales of the destruction of
Troy, is found here too. Later Irish poetry, like that of its companion lands, collapsed toward chronicle, romance, and lyric.
One of the greatest Welsh poets, Dafydd ap Gwilym, dates to this era, as he flourished in the 14th century. Dafydd drew his inspiration from Continental and tra- ditional Welsh sources but avoided, for the most part, English ones. Although he lived in a time of relative peace, Welsh nationalism was strong; indeed, by 1400, Owen Glyn Dwr had fomented an uprising that was quickly demolished. In addition to Dafydd, a number of lesser poets were also active, demonstrating that the great Welsh poetic tradition continued unabated, if altered.
The Middle English era ends with the close of the 15th century, not so much because Henry VII ascended the throne, but rather because of the advent of the print- ing press and the first stirrings of the Reformation.
When the first printed English book appeared in 1476, English had been transformed into a form not too dif- ferent than present-day English, except orthographi- cally. Printing helped to spread a literary standard under the Tudors. The “King’s [Queen’s] English” was eventually disseminated by such centrally issued works as the Book of Common Prayer (1549, 1552, 1559) and the Authorized Version of the Bible (1611).
Lyric poetry dominated the Tudor era. The most significant development was the refinement of the sonnet, a 14-line lyric poem that had been perfected in 14th-century Italy by Petrarch. Courtier-poets Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, and Sir Thomas Wyatt adapted the form to English, and its popularity exploded. Sonnet sequences, series of sonnets linked together by theme and content, quickly became the fashion. Sonnets depended upon a number of conven- tions, including a redefinition of courtly love, conceits (unique metaphorical comparisons), paradox, and other such linguistic tensions, which reflected the ten- sion found at the heart of most sonnets—disdain for the poet by the beloved. Sonnets became so important as a mark of true poetic skill that it became essen- tial that every aspiring author write them. William Shakespeare, for instance, best known as the “play- wright of the people,” established himself by compos- ing a sonnet sequence and solidified his patronage by writing long narrative poems such as The Rape of
Lucrece (ca. 1590).
Though arguably the most popular poetry, sonnets were not the only development found in the Tudor age. Poets experimented with a variety of forms, including the strambotto, epanodes, sapphics, quantitative vers- es, and quatorzains. Musical poetry grew in distinction during the Tudor era, encouraged by the thriving uni- versity culture as well as court culture. Henry VIII was known to compose songs and ballads, and, according to traditional folklore, wrote the still-popular tune “Greensleeves.” John Dowland and Thomas Campion were masters of the ayre (lute song) and madrigal, but numerous others tried their hand at them. Poets such as Sir Philip Sidney also adapted traditionally musical poetry (e.g., the villanelle and canzone) to nonmusical settings.
TUDOR ERA POETRY
Classical literature provided a great deal of inspi- ration during the Tudor age, providing models for the reinvention of traditional forms such the pas- toral and the eclogue. Pastoral poetry was wide- spread and became adapted to fit other literary genres as well, resulting in pastoral drama, and pastoral sonnet sequences, although superb pieces, such as Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” (before 1592) and the various responses to it, were also popular. Long narrative poetry made a comeback, especially in the form of the epyllion (minor epic), such as Marlowe’s Hero and Leander. Eclogues, pastorals, and their accompanying themes were adapted by the sonneteers too. Some of the fin- est versions of this can be found in Richard Barnfield’s works, including The Affectionate Shepherd (1594), as Edmund Spenser’s series of eclogues, The Shepheard’s
Calender (1579). Poetic translations of Ovid and Virgil
allowed easier access to Latin works, as well as result- ing in unique poetry. The prevalence of classical forms also inspired new versions of quantitative verse and the return of the epic in the form of Spenser’s The Faerie
Irish literature became less influential in England as Ireland was firmly subsumed under the English Crown. Writers like Spenser, who were born in England but spent their adult life in Ireland, became the dominant voices. Scotland, however, retained its own distinct voice. A great deal of Scottish poetry from this time survives in the form of the popular ballad. As well, the Scottish monarchs Mary, Queen of Scots, and her son, James VI (later James I of England), were both accomplished writers in a number of genres, including poetry.
Finally, devotional poetry in the Tudor era is com- plicated. The Reformation irrevocably changed the world—politically, socially, intellectually, and literarily, as well as spiritually. Poetry became the medium for celebrating the Protestant cause and for showing sup- port for other Protestant powers in Europe. Poetry also became the language of the court, especially dur- ing the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who demanded that her courtiers speak using the language of courtly love. Poetry also became a way of upholding one’s beliefs: Anne Askew, the Protestant martyr, and Robert Southwell, the Jesuit martyr, for instance, both wrote poetry about their faith during their incarceration. The Protestant emphasis on personal devotional reading, especially of the Bible, merged with the political dimen- sions and the growing interest in translation, resulted in numerous adaptations of the biblical psalms. In particular, The Whole Book of Psalms Collected Into
English Meter (Sternhold and Hopkins, 1562) became
the most popular book of poetry printed in English, going through almost 500 editions within 150 years. However, this was not the only version of the psalms. Another well-known version is the Sidneian Psalms (1599), a poetic adaptation/translation begun by Sir Philip Sidney and completed by his sister, Mary Sidney Herbert, countess of Pembroke. As well, the first son- (1560), written by Anne Lock, consists of 26 sonnets considering Psalm 51.
While these verse forms—the sonnet, the son- net sequence, and the lyric—would continue in popularity throughout the 17th century, the onset of the English Civil War and the establishment of the Commonwealth (1642–1660) saw a distinct shift in religious sentiments, to be sure, but also in political and social expectations. Literature and poetry changed with the government, and the lighthearted courtly love of the Tudor era became exchanged for heavier lyric poetry or frenzied carpe diem motif poems from the Cavalier poets. The increasing emphases on empire and the New World also irrevocably altered the view of English identity, a change also reflected in the literature.
THE FUTURE OF PRE-1600 POETRY
It might sound odd to discuss the future of pre-1600 poetry some 400 years after its end; however, there remains a great deal of work to be done in this area. Many manuscripts in which vernacular writing sur- vived have been overlooked, neglected, or ignored. During the Reformation and after, some manuscripts were burned, shredded, or otherwise destroyed. Still others have been hidden away and lost—even today, manuscripts are being found. For instance, Sir Gawain
and the Green Knight was not printed until 1839, 300 xii INTRODUCTION
years after its composition, and the Book of Margery
Kempe (ca. late 14th–early 15th century), a prose spiri- tual autobiography, was not discovered until 1934.
Printed texts do not necessarily fare much better. For example, there are a number of sonnet sequences that exist but have not been edited, updated, or critically analyzed (e.g., Richard Linche’s Diella, 1596; William
Percy’s Sonnets to the Fairest Coelia, 1593; William Smith’s Chloris, 1596). All in all, a great deal of litera- ture from the pre-1600 era remains to be discovered and explored. Perhaps this book will provide a glimpse of the adventure that awaits.
This project was infinitely rewarding, and I have seen positive effects on my teaching already. First, my thanks must go to the contributors who lent time, energy, and expertise to this volume. It was gratifying to work with so many scholars across the world.
I would also like to extend my appreciation to my editor, Jeff Soloway, for his forbearance and insight. As well, I appreciate the technical assistance provided by my student, Deborah Ringham, who particularly aided me with organization and tracking down entries. I should also thank the Minot State University grant pro- gram for the award that provided student assistance.
There are two individuals without whom this proj- ect could not have been completed. The first is my former student, Melissa Harris, who served as my “editorial assistant” and plied the computer keyboard on my behalf, patiently formatting and reformatting. It was rewarding to work with another perfectionist! Finally, I owe a sincere debt of gratitude to my spouse, Adam Bures, for his love and support—as well as for his editorial assistance. He is the only person I trusted in that regard, and that trust was well placed.
Michelle M. Sauer
D CJournal abbreviations
ANQ American Notes & Queries ELH English Literary History ELR English Literary Renaissance ES English Studies JEGP Journal of English and Germanic Philology MLQ Modern Language Quarterly MLN Modern Language Notes N&Q Notes & Queries
PMLA Publications of the Modern Language Association PQ Philological Quarterly RES Review of English Studies SEL Studies in English Literature SQ Shakespeare Quarterly
D CACCENTUAL VERSE
Rhythm deriving from stress falling or not falling on a syllable, rather than on the length (quantity) of a syllable, is said to be accen- tual. Old English poetry, as in B EOWULF or The D REAM
OF THE R OOD , is rigorously accentual. Its line has four
stresses, bound by
, admitting a variable, although not unlimited, number of unstressed sylla- bles. Accentual syllabic verse, which emerged in the later Middle Ages under French infl uence, uses a strictly controlled pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables to defi ne the line.
The terminology of Greco-Roman quantitative verse has been adapted to describe accentual syllabic verse’s metrical pattern or “feet” of stressed and unstressed syl- lables. A line will be composed of a given number of the same foot. For example, a great deal of 16th-century English poetry is written in pentameter (fi ve feet) or hexameter (six feet) lines. The most common metrical feet are trochee (two syllables with the stress on the fi rst [happy]), iamb (two syllables with the stress on the sec- ond [delight]), dactyl (three syllables with the stress on the fi rst [merrily]), anapest (three syllables with the stress on the last [cavalier]). The spondee (two stressed syllables [heartbreak]) and Pyrrhic (two unstressed syl- lables [in the]) may be introduced for variation.
Helen Conrad-O’Briain ACROSTIC
An acrostic is a poem more con- rhythm. In an acrostic poem, certain letters—usually the fi rst in the line—form a name, word, or message that relates to the subject of the poem. Acrostics have a venerable history; at least two appear in the Bible. They were also popular among early Christians and monks, as well as with later poets. C YNEWULF signed his poems using runes that formed an acrostic.
See also D AVIES , S IR J OHN .
“ADAM LAY BOUND” A NONYMOUS (15th cen- tury) This eight-line lyric, extant in a single 15th-cen-
tury manuscript, testifi es to the cult of the Virgin Mary in the late Middle Ages. The anonymous author tells a story through the lyric: Adam and all humanity were once damned to hell because of Adam’s disobedience, but the Virgin Mary gave birth to Christ, who offers the opportunity for salvation. The poet’s true focus con- cerns not Adam and his act of disobedience but, rather, Mary’s crucial role in the process of salvation. The poem ultimately celebrates Mary’s appearance in his- tory, proclaiming it a good thing that Adam took the forbidden fruit.
The poem begins on a seemingly grim note, refer- ring to Adam’s confi nement in hell for 4,000 years or more: “Adam lay ybounden, bounden in a bond” (l. 1). The “bond” points to the new contract with God that Adam initiated when he ate the forbidden fruit. The verse form, however, with its trochaic and anapestic elements (see ACCENTUAL