Elizabethan Lyrics and Sonnets

Ans. Elizabethan age was rich in poetry, though its dramatic literature was richer. Shakespeare was not only the greatest dramatist but also the greatest poet of the Elizabethan age. The Elizabethan period, particularly the period from 1580 to 1603, is the golden age of the Renaissance. The period from 1550 to 1580 is the formative and imitative period of Elizabethan poetry. Tottel’s Miscellany is a landmark of lyrical poems, “Songs and Sonnets” was published. It is popularly known as Tottel’s Miscellany after the name of the printer. It Showed a new note of lyricism. There was the urge for expressing personal feelings in innumerable songs and sonnets. Elizabethan Lyrics and Sonnets

Elizabethan Lyrics and Sonnets
 Elizabethan Lyrics and Sonnets

Elizabethan age has been described as the age of songs and lyrics; it was the nest of singing birds. The impulse towards the free expression of personal feelings naturally led to the creation of new lyrical forms that sought to capture the rhythm of the personal emotions These verse-forms tried to express adequately a variety of feelings and emotions that sought expression. It marked the dawn of the humanist poetry with its emphasis on passions, emotions and far-flung imaginative aspirations. In the Elizabethan age. “England, merry England became a nest of singing birds.”

  The first considerable early Elizabethan poets were Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) and Earl of Surrey (1517-47). The contemporary critic Puttenham called them “two chief lanterns of light” They had traveled in Italy and greatly polished ‘our rude and homely manner of vulgar poesie… “Both of them expounded the resources of the language by translating freely from the literary works of Italy and France. Wyatt, who spent some years in France and Italy like Chaucer, imitated literary forms that he found there. He wrote lyrics in the courtly tradition. Elizabethan Lyrics and Sonnets

Though his themes were conventional, they were expressed with a direct simplicity and intensity. Wyatt’s typical poem is a series of lyric cries, artfully repeated and modulated ane clinched by a refrain at the end of the stanza. Wyatt’s poems show that a new world was opening for poetry. Wyatt introduced the sonnet into English poetry. He was the first English poet to use Dante’s stanza rima (aba-bcb-cdc etc.) and ottava rima in English.

Characteristics of Elizabethan literature

The Earl of Surrey, Wyatt first helped to naturalize the Italian sonnet in English poetry. Wyatt adhered to the orthodox Petrarchan form –abba, cdcd. But Surrey created the English form that was more popular with the Elizabethan poet ab cd dd ef gg. This may not strictly be a sonnet, but was used with great power by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. While the Petrarchan type of sonnet was adapted to the expression of subtle and intricate feelings woven into a close-knit texture, the other type could be used more effectively for expressing mounting waves of feeling that rose in a crescendo to a crisis.

Surrey contributed to the development of English poetry by introducing the English form of the sonnet and blank verse. In the work of Wyatt and Surrey, We mark for the first time a more personal note in English poetry, for the great characteristic of the medieval verse is its impersonal character. Wyatt’s sonnets are in the main hard-reading because of ‘not keeping of accent. Elizabethan Lyrics and Sonnets

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                         Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), scholar, courtier, and soldier, was a typical representative of the English Renaissance His dying words to a wounded soldier while handing him over a cup of water-“Thy necessity is greater than mine- have made him immortal. Philip Sydney claims recognition as a poet by his sonnet sequence (series of sonnets), Astrophel and Stella (1591), which contains about a third of Sidney’s extant poetry.

   The sonnets in Astrophil and Stella are superb in form. The sonnets and addressed to Lady Penelope Devereux, sister of the Earl of Essex, and wife of Lord Rich. There does not seem to have been any real attachment between the two, for the lady married another gentleman after his divorce from Lord Rich. The sonnets are, therefore, a celebration of Sidney’s courtly or platonic love for another man’s wife. Elizabethan Lyrics and Sonnets

Elizabethan drama

The sonnets are written in the Petrarchan form. They are more remarkable for their literary skill than for their poetical merit. They make full use of rhyme, alliteration, and conceits, and produce an impression of graceful artificiality. Yet Sidney does sometimes achieve a passionate utterance. Sidney excels in the quality of ‘wit’ which dominated English poetic speech till the age of Wordsworth. Occasionally there are flashes of heartfelt passion.

He demands that the poet should express his feelings. “Fool, said my Muse to me, look in thy heart and write.” The best are those in which he bemoans (laments) his mortality. Sidney’s invocation to sleep may be cited as a specimen of Sidney’s poetry at its best, “Come, Sleep, O Sleep, the certain knot of peace. The baiting place of wit, the balm of woe… “

   Samuel Daniel (1562-1619), like most of the poets of the age, was scholar and Courtice, and a friend of Shakespeare. Writing poetry was considered to be the correct thing for an Elizabethan courtier. He followed Spenser and Sidney in writing a sonnet sequence, Delia (1592), using three quatrains followed by a couplet as the general form. They have a dignity of feelings and natural flow and music like the more contemplative of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In this, as in his other poems, he was influenced by Spenser, both in phrasing and a silvery delicacy of style.

Characteristics of Elizabethan poetry

Michael Drayton (1563-1631) belonged not only but was his boon companion. His poetical carrier resembles Daniel’. His sonnet sequence Idea’s Mirror (1594) is a tribute addressed to the Countess of Bedford-Idea’ suggests of Platonic conception of beauty. The best-known sonnet is the famous “Since there’s no help. Come let us kiss and part. Rossetti pronounced it to be almost, if not quite, the best sonnet in the language.

Since there’s no help. come let us kiss and part’-Despite the Elizabethan form the sonnet has the characteristic ‘turn’ or change of mood at the beginning of the set.

The first truly national poet after Chaucer is Edmund Spenser. Besides composing his masterpiece, The Faerie Queen, Spenser composed a sequence of 88 sonnets under the title ‘Amoretti’ along with Epithalamion in 1595. It shows mastery over the sonnet form that Wyatt and Surrey had not reached. They are addressed to the lady whom Spenser married. In poetic merit, Spencer’s sonnets are second only to Shakespeare’s sonnets. Some of these are original, some are translated from the Italian. They use the artificial poetic conventions of the age. But the verse has all Spenser’s exquisite beauty of language and liquid fluidity. Elizabethan Lyrics and Sonnets

Elizabethan prose notes

William Shakespeare’s non-dramatic verse belongs to his early years. Venus and Adonis is an exotic poem (a love poem) like Marlowe’s Hero and Lender. The Raphoe of Lucrece is another amatory poem by Shakespeare. Shakespeare was the greater of the Elizabethan sonneteers, it not the greeters sonneteer in the whole range of English Literature.

His one hundred and fifty-four ‘singer’s Sonnets seem to express the poet’s infatuation with a dark lady, the unfaithfulness of the lady and the poet’s relationship with a fair youth’ Some say that the sonnets are essentially autobiographical. “With this key Shakespeare unlocked his heart”, said Wordsworth, others hold that they are purely conventional exercises in a manner characteristic of the sonneteers of that age. Shakespearean sonnets, like most Elizabethan sonnets written by Sidney. Daniel, Drayton, and Shakespeare made use of conventional elements but had an autobiographical background.

Shakespeare’s sonnets are all written in the form of three quatrains rhyming alternately and followed by a crowing or clinching couplet. These sonnets deal with the themes of morality and poetic immortality, the mutability of Time and Cruelty of Love. The Elizabethan age ‘Victorian Poetry’. thus the golden age of sonnets sing.

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