1837 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Puttenham

Henry Hallam, in Introduction to the Literature of Europe of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries (1837-39; 1882) 2:302.



A superior writer to Webbe was George Puttenham, whose Art of English Poesie, published in 1589, is a small quarto of 258 pages in three books. It is in many parts very well written, in a measured prose, rather elaborate and diffuse. He quotes occasionally a little Greek. Among the contemporary English poets, Puttenham extols, "for eclogue and pastoral poetry, Sir Philip Sidney and Master Chaloner, and that other gentleman who wrote the late Shepherd's Kalendar. For ditty and amorous ode, I find Sir Walter Rawleigh's vein most lofty, insolent [uncommon], and passionate.... But last in recital, and first in degree, is the queen, our sovereign lady, whose learned, delicate, noble muse easily surmounteth all the rest that have written before her time or since, for sense, sweetness, and subtilty, be it in ode, elegy, epigram, or any other kind of poem, heroic or lyric, wherein it shall please her majesty to employ her pen, even by so much odds as her own excellent estate and degree exceedeth all the rest of her most humble vassals." On this it may be remarked, that the only specimen of Elizabeth's poetry, which, as far as I know, remains, is prodigiously bad. In some passages of Puttenham, we find an approach to the higher province of philosophical criticism.