The Columbia History of British Poetry

By Carl Woodring; James Shapiro | Go to book overview

Spenser, Sidney, Jonson

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

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The Columbia History of British Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Old English Poetry 1
  • Middle English Poetry 23
  • Chaucer 55
  • Poetry in Scots: Barbour to Burns 81
  • From Ballads to Betjeman 110
  • Printing and Distribution of Poetry 132
  • Varieties of Sixteenth-Century Narrative Poetry 156
  • Sixteenth-Century Lyric Poetry 179
  • Spenser, Sidney, Jonson 203
  • Lyric Poetry from Donne to Philips 229
  • Milton 254
  • Dryden and Pope 274
  • Poetry in the Eighteenth Century 301
  • Blake 327
  • Coleridge 341
  • Poetry, 1785-1832 353
  • Byron, Shelley, and Keats 381
  • Wordsworth and Tennyson 405
  • The Victorian Era 425
  • Victorian Religious Poetry 452
  • Pre-Raphaelite Poetry 478
  • The 1890s 505
  • 1898-1945: Hardy to Auden 532
  • Yeats, Lawrence, Eliot 554
  • Poetry in England, 1945-1990 577
  • Problems and Cleavages 605
  • Brief Biographies of the Poets 643
  • Editions 671
  • Notes on Contributors 678
  • Index 683
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