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that it was the age of the discovery of new countries, as well as of the discovery of the joy of old books; the age of great voyagers as well as of great poets. The strange new continent of America had been discovered, and it was natural for a Renaissance thinker, weary of old abuses, and longing for a more rational and more kindly society, to imagine this existence of a far-away island, a Utopia, where men should live together in happiness and content. More followed Erasmus in writing his Utopia in Latin. It was first published in 1516 at Louvain. A second edition was issued in Paris in 1517, and a third edition at Basel in 1518. The first English translation, by Ralph Robinson, was published in 1551. Mark Pattison says that in the Utopia More “not only denounced the ordinary vices of power, but evinced an enlightenment of sentiment which went far beyond the most statesmanlike ideas to be found among his contemporaries, pronouncing not merely for toleration, but rising even to the philosophic conception of the indifference of religious creed.”

In Utopia, More described an imaginary island republic, the home of a people living an ideal life.

Among the other important prose writings of Renaissance England were Richard Hakluyt’s Voyages, the literary result of the age of Drake and his fellow-adventurers, and John Lyly's Euphues, an example of over-coloured and highly artificial writing, fashionable at a time when men were just beginning to realise the full beauty of their own language.

§ 6


The spirit of adventure, the joy of beauty, the new knowledge of ancient Greek and Renaissance Italian poetry were the influences to which Elizabethan poetry owed its character. The Elizabethan poet was a courtier. The Virgin Queen, herself no mean scholar, was the patron of letters, and the almost idolatrous regard that poets like Edmund Spenser and Philip Sidney had for her is clearly indicated in Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho! The history of modern English poetry begins years before the accession of Elizabeth with Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey, both of whom lost their lives on the scaffold during the tyranny of Henry VIII. Wyatt was the first poet to write a sonnet in the English language. In addition to sonnets, Wyatt wrote songs, madrigals, and elegies, and his pretty talent may be gathered from his “The Lover's Appeal”:

And wilt thou leave me thus,
That hath given thee my

Never for to depart
Neither for pain nor smart:
And wilt thou leave me thus?

Say nay! say nay!

And wilt thou leave me thus,
And have no more pity
Of him that loveth thee?
Alas! thy cruelty!
And wilt thou leave me thus?

Say nay! say nay!

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Wyatt and his contemporary, Surrey, were the forerunners of Sidney and Spenser. Sir Philip Sidney is one of the most fascinating figures in English literary history-poet, scholar, traveller, and soldier. His Arcadia is a prose romance something in the manner of William Morris. His Apology for Poetry is an interesting apology of a poet for his art. His Astrophel and Stella is a series of sonnets relating the poet's own sad love story, over-coloured at times, but always sincere. Here is the first sonnet of the series:

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain,-

Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,-
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,-
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,
Studying inventions fine her wits to entertain;
Oft turning others' leaves to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful flower upon my sunburned brain.
But words came halting forth. . .
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite.
“Fool,” said my muse to me, “look in thy heart and write.”

“The Faerie Queene”

Edmund Spenser, the author of “The Faery Queene,' was born in London in 1552.

Merry London, my most kindly nurse,
That to me gave this life's first native source.

He was educated at Merchant Taylor's School and Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, and while he was quite a boy he translated Petrarch into English verse. His first volume of poetry, “The Shepherd's Calendar,” was published in 1579 and dedicated to Philip Sidney. •In 1580 Spenser was appointed Secretary to the Lord Deputy of Ireland, and most of the rest of his life was spent in that country. He was concerned in the Elizabethan repressions, and in his View of the State of Ireland he elaborated a vigorous policy for bringing the Irish to heel that in after years commended itself to Cromwell. Spenser was meanly treated by the Queen, and Ben Jonson declares that he died of starvation in 1599. He was buried near Chaucer in Westminster Abbey. His great work, “The Faerie Queene,” was written in Ireland. It is an elaborate series of allegories extremely difficult to understand, in which the poet set out to describe the character and training of an Englishman. The poem abounds in the manner of Ariosto with brave knights and fearsome dragons. Its value as literature depends on the charm of the verse, the variety of the imagery, and the abounding sense of beauty. Charles Lamb describes Spenser as “the poets' poet,” and Milton, Dryden, Pope, and Keats have acclaimed him their master.

Although Spenser's touch is sometimes indecisive he has often vivid pictures in “The Faerie Queene”—as that of the knight peering into the den of the monster by the light of his own gleaming mail; of Fury, chained in iron, with eyes that flashed sparkles, gnawing his ruddy beard; of Mammon in his armour of rusted iron and dull gold, counting his hoard of coins; or of the little fountain in the Bower of Bliss where the goldenhaired girls were bathing. Some of the most attractive writing is found in the “Epithalamion":

The merry

Wake now, my love, awake! for it is time;
The Rosy Morn long since left Tithones bed,
All ready to her silver coche to clyme;
And Phæbus gins to shew his glorious hed.
Hark! how the cheerefull birds do chaunt theyr laies
And carroll of Loves praise.

merry Larke hir mattins sings aloft;
The Thrush replyes; the Mavis descant playes :
The Ouzell shrills; the Ruddock warbles soft;
So goodly all agree, with sweet consent,
To this dayes merriment.
Ah! my deere love, why doe ye sleepe thus long,
When meeter were that ye should now awake,
Tawayt the comming of your joyous make,
And hearken to the birds love-learned song,
The deawy leaves among !
Nor they of joy and pleasance to you sing,
That all the woods them answer, and theyr eccho ring


Harke! how the Minstrils gin to shrill aloud
Their merry Musick that resounds from far,
The pipe, the tabor, and the trembling Croud.
That well agree withouten breach or jar.
But, most of all, the Damzels doe delite
When they their tymbrels smyte,

And thereunto doe daunce and carrol sweet,
That all the sences they doe ravish quite;
The whyles the boyes run up and downe the street,
Crying aloud with strong confused noyce,
As if it were one voyce,
Hymen, io Hymen, Hymen, they do shout;
That even to the heavens theyr shouting shrill
Doth reach, and all the firmament doth fill;
To which the people standing all about,
As in approvance, doe thereto applaud,
And loud advaunce her laud;
And evermore they Hymen, Heymen sing,
That al the woods them answer, and theyr eccho ring.


Space forbids more than a passing reference to other notable Elizabethan writers. Sir Walter Raleigh, a friend of Spenser, was both man of action and man of letters, perhaps the most chivalrous figure of a chivalrous age. When Elizabeth died and James of Scotland ruled, this “tall, handsome, and bold man” was imprisoned in the Tower for thirteen years, during which time he wrote his History of the World. Michael Drayton—“goldenmouthed Drayton”—the friend of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, born in 1563 and living till 1631, wrote sonnets which bear comparison with those of Shakespeare himself. Drayton was a voluminous writer and some of his most charming writing is to be found in his early work, “The Shepherd's Garland.” The following are the last lines from a roundelay called “Crowning the Shepherd's Queen":

From whence come all these shepherd swains,

And love nymphs attired in green?
From gathering garlands on the plains,

To crown our fair, the shepherd's queen.

The sun that lights the world below,

Flocks, flowers, and brooks will witness bear;
These nymphs and shepherds all do know

That it is she is only fair.

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