SPENSER, SIDNEY, AND JONSON stand out, among their Eliza bethan and Jacobean peers, as poets of the English Renaissance. They not only contributed to the body of writings that made English poetry worthy of comparison with the Greek and Latin classics--the ambition common to the modern vernacular literatures that partly constitute the Renaissance as a cultural movement--they consciously cultivated various ancient and modern genres that, once given a local habitation, entitled English poetry to be considered part of European literature. Spenser, regularly compared by contemporaries to Virgil, emulated the Roman poet's career by writing an inaugural book of eclogues ( The Shepheardes Calender), which was the groundwork for a national epic, The Faerie Queene. Sidney, although not the first to write love sonnets in English, deserved to be called the "English Petrarch" as author of the first true sonnet sequence, that is, a collection that continuously represents a single love situation and uses it to evaluate love as emotional experience, social phenomenon, and cosmic reality. Jonson domesticated the verse letters of Horace, claimed to write the first true epigrams in English (in imitation of the Roman poet Martial), and cast one of his greatest lyrics in the form of a Pindaric ode (another "first" in English).
Exact contemporaries and well acquainted, although not social equals, Spenser and Sidney must have regarded each other as collaborators in establishing the authority of English poetry. But Jonson-- whose most famous remark about Spenser is that "in affecting the