renaissance poets


Sir Philip Sidney – Sir Philip Sidney, a poet, a critic, a soldier, and a statesmen, was born in Kent in 1554. and educated at Oxford. At the early age of 22 he was sent as ambassador to the emperor of Germany; in his “Grand Tour”, he also visited Italy where he met Tintoretto and Veronese. . On his return from the “Gran Tour” he began to take an interest in overseas voyage, becoming adventurer in Martin Frobisher’s espeditions. In 1585 he was in the Low Countries as governor and supported Raleigh and Drake expedition to the New World which, despite his endeavours, he was never able to visit. During a battle near Zutphen on the Dutch side against the Spaniards, he received a wound that caused his death (1586).

He embodied the ideals of the perfect Renaissance gentleman modelled on Castione’s Cortegiano. His works include:

  • Astrophel and Stella, more than one hundred beautiful songs and sonnets mainly written on imitation of Petrarcha, addressed to a lady he called Stella,;

  • Arcadia, a pastoral romance in poetic prose, after the fashion of the Spanish romances and imitated from Sannazzaro’s work bearing the same title;

  • Apologia fpr Poetrue, or Defense of Poesy, in which he defended “the nobler uses of poetry”, the art superior to history and philosophy.

Edmund Spenser – Edmund Spenser, born in London in 1552, was educated in Cambridge where he studied the classics and .read Tasso and Ariosto. He became friend of Sidney who introduced him to courtly life and to the subject of America.In 1579 he published his first poetical work, The Shepherd’s Calendar, a set of twelve eclogues one for each month of the year, modelled on the ancient pastoral poems of Virgil and Theocritus; the work was dedicated to Sidney.In 1580 he went to Ireland as secretary to the Viceroy of that country, and remained there for many years.Here he wrote A Amoretti (1595), a cycle of 88 petrarchan love sonnets on his courtship of Elisabeth Boyle, his future wife and View of the Present State of Ireland (1596), his only prose work in which he suggests violent measures to” pacify” the rebel country.In 1598 a rebellion broke out; Kilcolman Castle, where Spenser lived, was sacked and burned, and Spenser’ s new-born child perished in the flames . Spenser escaped with difficulty. Broken both in fortune and in spirit, he crossed over to England, and reached in London, where he died on the 16th of January 1559.
The Faerie Queen, Spenser’s masterpiece, is an allegorical poem. Spenser undertook to represent in it «all the moral virtues , assigning to every virtue a knight to be patron and defender of the same». Since the purpose of the poem was “to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtue and gentle discipline». Only 6 books were completed, and these relate the adventures of the knights who stand for Holiness., Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, Justice, and Courtesy. The Faerie Queen is called Gloraina, and represents Glory in general, and Queen Elisabeth in particular. Spenser borrowed the Ariosto’s ottava rima which he modified and transformed into what is now called Spenserian stanza.

John Donne – During the Jacobean period, the tensions and the uncertainties increased. The poets that best represent this sense of uneasiness and anxiety belonged to a group known as Metaphysical Poets. (the term was first used by Samuel Johnson). These poets were men of learning and their poetry was full of metaphors, paradoxes and conceits, i.e. conception or allusions containing complex, astonishing analogies, where syntax was condensed, the thought subtly disguised, and versification often irregular, uneven and obscure.

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