1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christopher Marlowe

Nathan Drake, in Shakespeare and his Times (1817; 1838) 308.



As the fame of this poet, though once in high repute as a dramatic writer, is now supported merely by one of his miscellaneous pieces, which is, indeed, of exquisite beauty, it has been thought necessary briefly to introduce him here, a more extended notice being deferred to a subsequent page. His earliest attempt appeared in 1587, when he was about twenty-five years of age, in a Translation of Coluthus's Rape of Helen into English rhyme. This was followed by Certaine of Ovid's Elegies, licensed in 1593, but not printed until 1596. His next and happiest version was given to the public in 1598, under the title of The Loves of Hero and Leander, being, like the preceding, a posthumous publication: for the author died prematurely in 1593, leaving this translation, of which the original is commonly but erroneously ascribed to Musaeus, unfinished. Phillips, in his character of Marlow, comparing him with Shakspeare, says, that he resembled him not only in his dramatic circumstances, "but also because in his begun poem of Hero and Leander, he seems to have a resemblance of that clean and unsophisticated wit, which is natural to that incomparable poet." Marlow translated also Lucans first booke, line for line, in blank verse, which was licensed in 1593, and printed in 1600; but the production which has given him a claim to immortality, and which has retained its popularity even to the present day, first made its appearance in England's Helicon, under the appellation of "The Passionate Shepheard to his Love." Of an age distinguished for the excellence of its rural poetry, this is, without doubt, the most admirable and finished pastoral.