Thematic Guide to British Poetry

By Ruth Glancy | Go to book overview

The Golden Mean

The “golden mean” signifies the middle course between extremes, or moderation. As a principle to live by it was made popular by the Roman poet Horace in Ode, II. x, in which Horace advises us to make the golden mean (aurea mediocritas) our guide: do not seek great wealth because it is as prone to disaster as the tall pine and the high mountain (which suffer the severest weather). The Renaissance playwright Philip Massinger in The Great Duke of Florence (1627) urges us to avoid greatness. His duke, bemoaning his apparently favored state, declares, “Happy the golden mean!” In English poetry it was a favorite theme of the Renaissance and seventeenth century, where it was described as an educated, civilized way of life. Like the poems that favored the contemplative rather than the active life, these poems praise a life of seclusion in the country, surrounded by good books, fine wine, and congenial friends. John Pomfret's poem “The Choice” (1700) is the longest expression of the theme. Samuel Johnson in his Lives of the English Poets (1779−1781) praised Pomfret's portrait of the golden mean as “such a state as affords plenty and tranquillity, without exclusion of intellectual pleasures.” The poems included in this section deal exclusively with describing such a moderate life, whereas poems in the Active and Contemplative Lives section contrast different ways of living that are often complemented by mood or personality.

The Renaissance poet Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, describes the golden mean in “My Friend, the Things That Do Attain” (1548), a translation of an epigram by the Latin poet Martial. The poem, four stanzas of four lines each, is arranged formally with a statement of intent, a colon, and a list of the requirements for a happy life, each item separated by semicolons so that the whole poem is actually one sentence. Surrey neatly dramatizes the balance required by the theme in the arrangement

-93-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Thematic Guide to British Poetry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 306

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.