1594
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sonnet I. ["Why should my Pen presume to write his praise."]

Greenes Funeralls. By R. B. Gent.

Richard Barnfield


The sonnets in this volume, each in a different form, defend Robert Greene against his detractors, among them Gabriel Harvey. In Sonnet I, Richard Barnfield (if he is the anonymous author) compares Greene to "Guy" or "Guyon," which may be Guy of Warwick and Spenser's Guyon, or possibly Gawain.

Barnfield's modern editor George Klawitter emends the fourth rhyme to "aimed." He also defends the attribution to Barnfield, first made by Joseph Ritson in Bibliographia Poetica (1802).

John Payne Collier: "We suspect that Barnabe Rich was the R. B. (his initials reversed) who, in 1594, wrote and published Greene's Funerals. They came from Danter's press, who said that he had published the tract 'contrarie to the Author's expectation.' It consists of 14 Sonnets, as the writer calls them, with much license" Bibliographical and Critical Account (1866) 2:89n.

W. J. Courthope: "A man of far finer genius than Breton, Richard Barnfield may be classed with this pastoral group, though he had in him nothing professional, and only wrote as the fancy seized him. The son of Richard Barnfield, a gentleman of Yorkshire, he was born in 1574, and was matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1589, but seems not to have taken his degree. He was a friend of Thomas Watson ... whose death he laments in his Affectionate Shepherd, a poem written in imitation of Virgil's Alexis, and published in 1594. In 1595 he published Cynthia, a series of sonnets, and in 1598 his Encomium of Lady Pecunia; after which he seems to have written no more, though he did not die till 1626. Like all the literary poets of the age, he lacked the inspiration of a great subject, as he lets us see very plainly in his preface to the Encomium of Lady Pecunia.... There is, nevertheless, something uncommon in everything Barnfield did, and his originality of style is chiefly shown in the beauty of pastoral descriptions" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 2:318.



Why should my Pen presume to write his praise,
And hee in perfect mould of Vertue framde?
Why should my Muse sing of his happie daies,
And he the marke, at which Dame Nature framde?
Why rather should I not such vertues show,
That such pure golde from drosse each man may know?
But cease my Muse, why dost thou take in hand so great a Taske:
Which to perform a greater wit, than Mercuries would aske?
For judgement Jove, for Learning deepe, he still Apollo seemde:
For floent Tongue, for eloquence, men Mercury him deemde.
For curtesie suppose him Guy, or Guyons somewhat less:
His life and manners though I would, I cannot half expresse.
Nor Mouth, nor Minde, nor Muse, can halfe declare,
His Life, his Love, his Laude, so excellent they were.

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