Early Tudor Poetry, 1485-1547

By John M. Berdan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE INFLUENCE OF CONTEMPORARY LITERATURES OF SPAIN, GERMANY, FRANCE, AND ITALY

The influences affecting the English author of the Renaissance in his search for models was by no means limited to those of the English tradition, the Medieval Latin, or humanism. The influences exerted by the contemporary literatures on the Continent remain yet to be considered. For, however insular may have been the position of England, and however difficult may have been the passage of the Channel, the fact is nevertheless that the Channel was crossed repeatedly. In one aspect it may be argued that the long party wars of the fifteenth century tended to isolate the nation from the normal literary development of the sister nations. On the other hand, since at varying times a large number of the nobility was forced into exile on the Continent, many of them were brought into contact with foreign literature and foreign culture to a degree that would have been impossible if they had remained quietly at home. Thus the Yorkists found an asylum always open to them at the court of Mary of Burgundy, and the Lancastrians, more or less spasmodically at the court of France. Under Henry VII there were both the political and matrimonial alliances with Spain. And behind all, was Italy radiating culture from her many courts and typifying the Renaissance in her many princes. To ignore the possibility of the influence of any of these literatures upon English would be an obvious error. But since the influence of any contemporary literature depends to a large extent upon variable factors, such as political alliance, sentimental interest, and national sympathy, and even a literary clique responsive to the appeal of that particular type of literature, the exact literary epoch in England must be clearly distinguished; to estimate the amount of any such influence, to distinguish the influence emanating from one country from that emanating at the same time from others, and finally to analyze the reasons for such a con-

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