1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Philip Sidney

William Goodhugh, in The English Gentleman's Library Manual (1827) 161-62.



In the reign of Elizabeth the English mind put forth its energies in every direction, exalted by a purer religion, and enlarged by new views of truth. This was an age of loyalty, adventure, and generous emulation. The chivalrous character was softened by intellectual pursuits, while the genius of chivalry itself still lingered, as if unwilling to depart, and paid his last homage to a warlike and female reign.

A degree of romantic fancy remained in the manners and superstitions of the people; and allegory might be said to parade the streets in their public pageants and festivals. Quaint and pedantic as these allegorical processions might often be, they were nevertheless more expressive of erudition, ingenuity, and moral meaning, than they had been in former times. The philosophy of the highest minds still partook of a visionary character. A poetical spirit infused itself into the practical heroism of the age; and some of the worthies of that period seem less like ordinary men, than like beings called forth out of fiction and arrayed in the brightness of her dreams. They had "high thoughts seated in a heart of courtesy." The life of Sir Philip Sidney was poetry put into action.