1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir John Harington

Nathan Drake, in Shakespeare and his Times (1817; 1838) 305-06.



Among the numerous translators of the Elizabethan period, this gentleman merits peculiar notice, as having, through the medium of his Ariosto, "enriched our poetry by a communication of new stores of fiction and imagination, both of the romantic and comic species, of Gothic machinery and familiar manners" [Thomas Warton]. His version of the Orlando Furioso, of which the first edition was published in 1591, procured him a large share of celebrity. Stowe, in his Annals, has classed him among those excellent poets which worthily flourish in their own works, and lived together in Queen Elizabeth's reign; and Fuller, Philips, Dryden, and others, to the middle of the eighteenth century, have spoken of him in terms of similar commendation. In point of poetical execution, however, his translation, whatever might be its incidental operation on our poetic literature, must now be considered as vulgar, tame, and inaccurate. Sir John was born at Kelston near Bath, in 1561, and died there in 1612, aged fifty-one. His Epigrams, in four Books, were published after his death; first in 1615, when the fourth book alone was printed; again in 1618, including the whole collection; and a third time in 1625, small 8vo. The poetical merit of these pieces is very trifling, but they throw light upon contemporary character and manners.