Renaissance Poetry

By Alexsandria, Colleen, Max, and Stephen


Some of the greatest poetry of all time was written during the Renaissance. The Renaissance was between the 14th and 17th centuries. Many Renaissance poets based their work off of love which was the main topic in most poems from the Renaissance. These poems were some of the first to introduce styles and rhythm that are still used in poetry to this day.

Sir Thomas Wyatt

Sir Thomas Wyatt was a well known poet and diplomat. Born in Kent, he received an education in St. John’s College in Cambridge and later worked for the King Henry VIII, assigned to work with numerous diplomatic posts. He was knighted in 1537 (The Editors…). He first experienced the Italian Renaissance in 1527 during his first trip to Italy and learned about sonnets. He began writing sonnets after returning to England, where sonnets were currently spreading in popularity. Sir Thomas Wyatt never published his works though, due to the fact he preferred hand written copies. They weren’t printed until after his death (Literature Book). Sir Thomas Wyatt also had a strained relationship with the kind due to his popularity as a poet and his rumored affair with Anne Boleyn. He was arrested 2 times and due to be executed each time but King Henry VIII spared him each time (The Editors…). Scholars have numerous reasons to believe Wyatt had feelings for Anne Boleyn and even believe his poem Whoso List To Hunt was addressed to her (“Thomas Wyatt”). Ironically Anne Boleyn was imprisoned and beheaded in 1536. She was charged with being unfaithful. Wyatt still worked for King Henry VIII as his diplomat though. Unfortunately Sir Thomas Wyatt got a fever and died shortly after in 1542. Shortly after his death numerous of his poems were published. His anthology Songs and Sonnets, now called Tottel’s Miscellany, was also published (Literature Book). Sir Thomas Wyatt was obviously a revolutionary man who led a difficult life. He managed to set himself a place in British history and will be immortalized.

Whoso List to Hunt - Sir Thomas Wyatt

Sir Philip Sidney

Sir Philip Sidney was an English poet during a time when English literature was at its highest. Sidney was known as the father of English literary criticism. He was born in 1554 to a wealthy family. Because of this he was able to attend very exclusive schools that helped him in his literary work. As a young man he was an ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I. After facing some tuff time in England Sidney went to live with his sister Mary and it’s in that time that he began to begin his writing. Sidney wrote his three most famous pieces of poetry while with his sister; Defence of Poesy, Astrophil and Stella, and Arcadia. Defence of Poesy a graceful and brilliant adaption of modern Continental concepts of literature to English conditions. (Sir Philip Sidney: 1554-1586) His most famous was Astrophil and Stella; it includes 108 sonnets and 11 songs, the first in a long line of Elizabethan sonnet cycles. (Luminarium: Anthology of Literature) they were written about Sidney’s love for a woman named Penelope Devereux. The name Astrophil and Stella means “Starlover and Star”. It’s a sonnet sequence or a series of sonnets interrelated by content or theme (Literature Book) The last of his works written during his time with his sister was Arcadia. They were written specifically for his sister and they are also an adaption of continental concepts. These sonnets were about two princes and their adventures in combat and love with two princesses. (Sir Philip Sidney: 1554-1586) There are two known versions of these sonnets; the first was known as Old Arcadia and New Arcadia, a revision of the sonnets but was never finished. After he finished writing he was appointed the governor of Flushing until he died of a fatal gun wound in 1586.

Love Poem ~ My True Love hath my heart, by Sir Philip Sidney

John Donne - Max

John Donne was a poet born somewhere between January 24th and June 19th of the year 1572, and he died at the age of fifty-nine on march 31st in 1631(Jokinen, Anniina). John Donne was one of the main figures identified with Metaphysical poetry. This was a form of poetry that focused on the use of wit, and unusual or far-fetched metaphors and similes. In 1591 Donne was accepted as a student at the Thavies Inn legal school in London. On May 6th 1592 he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court ("The Life of John Donne"). Donne began writing poetry in the early 1600’s and quickly became a master of the craft, Donne’s early poetry was rather thought provoking, as it showed sharp criticism of the world around him, some of his poems criticized corrupt government or the issue of “true religion” ("The Life of John Donne"). Donne used poetry to express his opinions on these topics quite often, utilizing the quintessential ability of poetry to express ones feelings. John Donne may not be Shakespeare but he is nonetheless an important and unique poet who perfected the metaphysical form of poetry and throughout his extensive number of works voiced his beliefs and opinions on (at the time) current events. So if you want to find relevancy to poetry look no further than the veteran poet of the early 17th century that is John Donne. Oh and incase you’ve ever wondered where the quote “ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” came from, the answer would be none other than John Donne.

The Sun Rising by John Donne - Poetry Reading

Edmund Spencer

Edmund Spenser was an English poet best know for his work The Faerie Queen. He is known as one of the greatest poets in the English language and is also recognized as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy (Spenser).
Spenser's The Faerie Queen is published in six different books ranging from 1590 to 1596 (Spenser). This epic poem deals with knights adventures, dragons, and damsels in distress. As it is telling these stories it also deals with allegories about the moral life and what makes for a life of virtue. Spenser originally planned for the poem to be twelve books long so there are arguments saying that he never finished the poem.
Spenser wrote in a distinctive verse known as Spenserian. It is used in many of his works including The Faerie Queen. The sonnet form known as the Spenserian sonnet is based on a combination of elements from both the Petrarchan sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet. The praise of the mistress is used a lot in Spenser's works. It is a way of looking at a woman through the appraisal of her features in comparison to other things (Spenser). This type of description describes the mistresses body part by part. It was a much more scientific way of viewing a person. In The Faerie Queen counter-blason, the opposite of appraisal, is used to describe Duessa. Rather than speaking about her good qualities he talks about all of her flaws.

Edmund Spenser: A Life
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