1781 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Barnfield

Thomas Warton, in History of English Poetry (1774-81; 1840) 3:328-29.



In the reign of queen Elizabeth, I could point out whole sets of sonnets written with this sort of attachment, for which perhaps it will be but an inadequate apology, that they are free from direct impurity of expression and open immodesty of sentiment. Such at least is our observance of external propriety, and so strong the principles of a general decorum, that a writer of the present age who was to print love-verses in this style, would be severely reproached, and universally proscribed. I will instance only in the AFFECTIONATE SHEPHERD of Richard Barnfielde, printed in 1595. Here, through the course of twenty sonnets, not inelegant, and which were exceedingly popular, the poet bewails his unsuccessful love for a beautiful youth, by the name of Ganymede, in a strain of the most tender passion, yet with the profession of the chastest affection. Many descriptions and incidents which have a like complexion may be found in the futile novels of Lodge and Lilly.