English Poetry in the Sixteenth Century

By Maurice Evans | Go to book overview
Save to active project



i. Introduction

THE poetry of Skelton or Wyatt has an unmistakably individual flavour which is, for the most part, lacking among the Elizabethans. One always wonders whether a Wyatt love lyric is a record of a personal experience, but the average Elizabethan sonnet or lyric provokes no such conjecture and might be written by any one of a dozen different authors. One thinks of Elizabethan verse in terms of sonnets or pastorals rather than in terms of the writers who produced them, for the similarities between poems in the same category are greater than the differences; much of it has a curiously objective quality, as if it were written according to a recognized formula. This is not to say that Elizabethan poetry is shallow and insincere. The poet could write well without the spur of a personal love or grief. Peele's beautiful lyric, "His golden locks time hath to silver turned", was written as a purely formal compliment to Sir Henry Lee, on the occasion of his retirement in 1590 from the post of Queen's Champion, the Entertainment for which occasion Peele had been commissioned to write.

The source of this impersonal excellence lies partly in the glamour of the new verse forms which fired the imagination of the poets and aroused them to a fever of emulation which was itself sufficient to provoke good verse. It lies even more in the Elizabethan capacity for sharing in generalized emotions and responding to traditional situations, by means of which they found deep satisfaction in the conventional poses of the love poem or elegy. This response to the great commonplaces is a sign of innocence, and is comparable, perhaps, to the Elizabethan taste for the wise saws and modern instances which, however obvious they may seem, are nevertheless true. The Elizabethan sensibility was unspoiled, and the conventional themes could


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.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

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

Cited page

Bookmark this page
English Poetry in the Sixteenth Century


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?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 184

matching results for page

Cited passage

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

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.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?