JACOBEAN AND CAROLINE POETRY The Poetry of the Commonwealth Period Dates • Jacobean Period: reign of King James I (1603-25) • Caroline Period: reign of Charles I (162549) • Commonwealth Period (Interregnum): 1649-60) • Restoration of Charles II in 1660 Cultural background • Transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy • Continuance of courtly literature in the Jacobean and Caroline periods • Puritan Revolution: 1642-1660 Movements in literature • Metaphysical Poets: John Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvell • Cavalier Poets: Ben Jonson and his followers (Richard Herrick, Richard Lovelace, Edmund Waller, Sir John Denham). The Sons of Ben. • Puritans: Andrew Marvell, John Milton Forms of Literature • Theatre: – imitators of Shakespeare (Webster, Ford, Middleton, etc.) – Variety of comedies and masques by Ben Jonson – Theatres closed during the Puritan Revolution • Sonnet: – gradually goes out of fashion in the Jacobean period; Donne used it for religious purposes, and Milton for political purposes • New forms and genres: – Heroic couplets, verse satires, essays, biographies John Donne (1572-1631) ‘Jack Donne’ John Donne ‘Dr. Donne’ • ‘The proportion of the world disfigured is.’ Donne’s poetics • Radical break from Petrarchan tradition: ‘Donne has purged English poetry of pedantic weeds’, he has replaced ‘servile imitation’ with ‘fresh invention’’ (Carew) • Displays his own ingenuity and presents a world in which everything is held together by secret analogies: ‘John Donne is the first poet in the world, in some things.’ (Jonson) • Distorts traditional rhythmic and stanza patterns: ‘Donne, for not keeping accents, deserved hanging.’ (Jonson) The Metaphysical school • Not a ‘school’: no organised group but strong influence of Donne’s style on a generation of poets before 1660 • Not ‘metaphysical’: ‘it is not philosophical poetry in any real sense, although it uses the concepts and vocabulary of philosophy’ (Bewley) • Main features: colloquial language; the poem takes the form of a philosophical argument with another person; brings in a range of discordant images (Gray) Related terms • Conceit (concetto): ‘a figure of speech that establishes an elaborate parallel between two seemingly dissimilar or remote objects or ideas’ (Gray) – Petrarchan: emotional; the subject is compared extensively to an object (love is war) – Metaphysical: intellectual; striking analogies between two dissimilar things (a flea is a marriage bed) • Wit: ‘intellect’, ‘intelligence’, ‘creative intelligence’; describes Donne’s poetic style, which combines ideas in an ‘unexpected, paradoxical, and intellectually challenging and pleasing manner’ (Gray) Songs and Sonnets (1593-1602) • Sonnet: here: a synonym for ‘love lyric’ • Addressed to flesh and bone women; consummated love as opposed to Platonic love: ‘Donne holds Platonic love to be a lure... With what insidious arguments would he persuade his love to give herself to him entirely!’ (Legouis) • Using and subverting Elizabethan clichés: ‘It seemed to me as if...the world was filled with broken fragments of systems and...Donne merely picked up, like a magpie, various shining fragments.’ (T.S. Eliot) Holy Sonnets (1633-35) • 19 religious sonnets, written in the last years of his life • English sonnet form • Same combination of passion and intellectual argument as in the love poems but the passion is more complex: hope and anguish, fear and repentance George Herbert (1593-1633) Herbert’s poetics • The Temple: a collection of religious poems • Contest between secular wit and religious devotion • Spiritual struggle rather than auto-biographical sincerity, as in Donne • Emblematic objects: the human body is a church building • Remarkable variety of stanza forms, including pattern poems: ‘Easter Wings’ MS page of ‘Easter Wings’ Richard Crashaw (1612-1649) Crashaw’s poetics • Steps to the Temple (1646): a homage to Herbert • Sensuous images describe religious passion • Catholicism: Baroque mannerism; Secentismo, Gongorism Henry Vaughan (1622-1695) Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) Marvell’s poetics • Metaphysical wit and Classical proportion • Milton’s influence: Christian Humanism, Puritanism • Wit is bound up with strong moral sense • Love of nature put to moral purpose Ben Jonson (1572-1637) Jonson’s poetics • Shakespeare’s friend, rival playwright and fellow actor • Poet Laureate; literary dictator; professional writer • Classicist and Renaissance Humanist: ‘a perfect playwright’ Genres • Comedies of humours: eccentricities of our ruling passions ridiculed; Every Man in His Humour (1598) • Classical tragedies: derived from Tacitus, Juvenal, Seneca; Sejanus (1610), Catiline (1611) • Satiric comedies: based on Terence and Plautus; Volpone (1606), The Alchemist (1610) • Masques: for courtly entertainment, symbolic plays with visual variety and rich costumes; Masque of Blackness (1605), Masque of Queens (1609) • Poetry: occasional poems, elegies, compliments, dedications, songs, epigrams • The Work of Benjamin Jonson (1616) John Milton (1608-1674) Milton’s poetics • Christian Humanism: eloquence, fluency in languages, visiting famous literary figures abroad, conscious preparation for poetry • Puritanism: Latin Secretary for Cromwell’s Council of State; defence of the Commonwealth; imprisonment • Renaissance: rich and decorated language, references to Classical literature, ambition of epic poetry • Reformation: christian morality, puritan religion, justifying the case of the Commonwealth Periods • -1640: education and potic apprenticeship, pastoral elegies, L’Allegro and Il Penseroso (1631), Lycidas (1637) • 1640-1660: public involvement, sonnets and occasional poems; political, philosophical and religious prose: Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643) Aeropagitica (1644), A Treatise of Civil Power (1659), etc. • 1660-: mature period, epic poems; Paradise Lost (1667), Paradise Regained (1671), Samson Agonistes (1671) Sonnets • 24 sonnets between 1630-58: five in Italian, the rest in English • A variety of occasions: public and private, but no love sonnets; not a sequence • Form: Petrarchan structure but avoiding end-stopped lines and ignoring the volta. Paradise Lost (1667) • A religiuos poem: the Fall, Original Sin, and the adventures of Satan • A heroic poem: heroic energy of Satan, an epic battle; spiritual heroism; refusal of obedience to God’s authority • A political poem: an allegory for the case of the Puritan Revolution, a rebellion against the monarchy • Aim: ‘justifying the ways of God to men’, but also: the dignity of the human condition • A great synthesis of contemporary western culture . . .