1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Barnfield

Philip Bliss, Athenae Oxonienses (1815) 1:683-84.



Richard Barnfield or Bernfielde was descended from genteel parents in the county of Stafford, and born in 1574. At the age of fifteen he entered at Brasenose college, where he took the degree of batchellor of arts, Feb. 5, 1591-92, and in the following Lent performed the exercise for his master's gown, to which, however, I cannot find that he was ever admitted. Certain it is, that he did not take this degree previous to the year 1600, as his name does not occur in the register of congregation, which is very perfect and regular about that period.

I am not able to offer any other particulars of the life of Barnfield, and can now only mention him as a writer, in which capacity he seems to have been much esteemed by his contemporaries, for Meres notices him as one of the best for pastoral in his time. Phillips ranks him with Lodge, Greene, and Breton.

He wrote,

1. The Affectionate Shepheard. Containing the complaint of Daphnis for the Love of Ganymede. Lond. 1594, 1595, 1596, 12mo.

2. Cynthia, with certaine Sonnets, and the Legend of Cassandra, Lond. 1595, 12mo. and appended to the third edition Of the Affectionate Shepheard, 1596.

3. The Encomium of lady Pecunia; or the praise of Money; The Complaint of Poetrie for the death of Liberalitie: i.e. The combat betweene Conscience and Covetuousness in the minde of man: with Poems in divers humors, Lond. 1598. 4to.

Ritson supposes him to have been the publisher of Green's Funerals in XIV Sonnets, 1594, 1604, 4to. under the signature R. B. which initials are likewise prefixed to An Epitaph upon the death of Benedict Spinola, merchant of Genoa and free denizen of England, a broadside. Lond. 1580.

And The Plowman's complaint of sundry wicked livers, and especially of the the bad bringing-up of children. Lond. 1580, 8vo.

Beloe gives an extract from The Affectionate Shepheard, and remarks that much cannot be said in favour of Barnfield's poetry; but Warton was of a very different opinion, who characterises the performance as a collection of sonnets, not inelegant, and exceedingly popular, in which the poet bewails his unsuccessful love for a beautiful youth, in a strain of the most tender passion, yet with professions of the chastest affection.

The following lines ["An Ode"] have been attributed to Shakspeare, but they undoubtedly belong to our author, as they are found among his Poems, 1598....