|Title:||Ralegh's early poetry and its metrical context.|
|Authors:||Bajetta, Carlo M.|
|Source:||Studies in Philology; Fall96, Vol. 93 Issue 4, p390, 22p, 3bw|
|Reviews &:||Commendation of the
Steele Glasse (Poem)
SWEET are the Thoughts Where Hope Persuadeth Hap (Poem)
|People:||RALEIGH, Walter, Sir|
|Abstract:||Discusses the poetry of Ralegh, with specific reference to two poems `Walter Rawley of the middle Temple, in Commendation of the Steele Glasse' and `Sweete are the thoughtes wher Hope persvadeth Happe.' Similarities between `Sweete are the thoughtes' and George Whetstone's `The Rocke of Regard.'|
|Full Text Word Count:||8968|
TWO poems are generally regarded as the first poetical productions of Ralegh: "Walter Rawley of the middle Temple, in Commendation of the Steele Glasse" (in Agnes Latham's edition, 3, no. 1) and "Sweete are the thoughtes wher Hope persvadeth Happe" (4,no. 2). Their first appearances during Ralegh's life are respectively in Gascoigne's Steele Glas (1576,sig. A4r) and in British Library, MS Harley 7392(2), fol. 36r.1 Both poems show affinities and their style seems to indicate early composition. More recently, Steven May has successfully demonstrated that "Sweete are the thoughtes" belongs to Ralegh's period at the Inns of Court, showing its relationship to a companion poem printed in George Whetstone's The Rocke of Regard (1576).2 The aim of this paper is to prove the existence of a strong connection between these two poems and the literary milieu of the Inns of Court. It seems, in fact, very likely that in the late 1570s Ralegh's prosody was deeply influenced by a clearly identifiable circle, which.he might have tried to imitate even in terms of punctuation and mise en page. To demonstrate this, it will be necessary to compare several printed editions and manuscripts of works by Gascoigne and his coterie. This will allow a reconsideration of these and of some other compositions by Ralegh.
A relationship between Ralegh's early style and Gascoigne's "plain style" has already been noted by various scholars? What has been omitted in these studies is a comparison between the page layout of the Steele Glas (and of some other works of Gascoigne's literary circle) and the way in which these two compositions by Ralegh appear on the printed and manuscript leaf. The fact that most studies have ignored this may be due to Miss Latham's "corrections" to the punctuation of the first poem.4 It seems necessary to reprint the original state of the text by Ralegh as it appeared in the printed edition of the Steele Glas.
Walter Rawley of the middle
We find this rather odd punctuation in the book, both to the three commendations and for the rest of the poems by Gascoigne. In the first commendatory piece (by "N.R."), the rhythm doesn't seem to fit the strict metrical pattern which is common to the two pieces that follow it. These are characterized by an iambic pentameter verse marked by a heavy pause after the fourth syllable.
Gascoigne in his Certayne notes of Instructions (1575) recommended placing the caesura "at the ende of the first foure sillables" in a decasyllabic line, and to avoid too much metrical variety within a poem: "euery young scholler can conceiue that he ought to continue in the same measure wherewith he beginneth." 6 In the Steele Glas, this caesura is almost invariably made visible by introducing a comma (or, less often, a colon or another sign of punctuation), thus dividing the line in two parts. Far from being a compositor's tic, this comma disappears-regularly enough throughout the text--when the caesura is clearly not at the fourth syllable? The end of every line is also almost invariably marked by a sign of punctuation. When the verse presents an enjambement (occasional in the text) the final sign is left out and taken up again when the line has its proper ending?
It must be noticed that the Steele Glas seems to have been set by one compositor only9 and to have gone through careful proof-reading? We could then have reason to suppose that the punctuation is not at all casual.
The most outstanding evidence, however, for attributing this kind of page layout to the author himself is the text of two poems given to Queen Elizabeth I as a present on New Year's Day. Even. if it is not an autograph manuscript, British Library, Royal MS 18.A.LXI is a scribal copy of Gascoigne's The Griefe of Joye, which was presented to her Majesty by the author on 1 January 1576/7. We can have no doubt that the poet had great interest in having his verses copied as he intended them to be received by his most important reader.11 The occasion, and the consequent carefulness of the copy, are quite evident. Let us consider, as an example, a transcription of the first stanza (fol. 5r).
THE greeues or discommodities
The rhythm continues like this, with minor variations, for forty-three stanzas and in the other three "songs" that follow. The visual aspect of this piece is very similar to that of the Steele Glas. Even the strange simultaneous occurrence of the comma before the parenthesis, which we sometimes find in the printed book, is present in the manuscript.13
British Library, Royal MS 18.A.XLVIII, another scribal presentation copy, from about 1 January 1575/6, contains "The Tale of Hemetes the Heremyte pronownced before the Q. Maiesty att Woodstocke, 1575." The anonymous English text is accompanied by a dedicatory letter and the following sonnet by Gascoigne (fol. 2r; see fig. 1):
Beholde (good Quene) A poett with a Speare
Tam Marti quam Mercurio. /
The final "Epilogismus" (fol. 37r) is very similar in its mise en page, presenting the same caesura and the same use of commas observed here. As with many marks of punctuation in The Griefe of Joye, in the sonnet transcribed above the full stops after "this" and "so" (11. 10 and 11) seem to be an addition; they were placed a little below the line, as if someone (it would be tempting to think the author himself) revised the manuscript's layout. However, we cannot be absolutely sure whether the repetition of the parenthesis at line 2 and the omission of a comma in the final line were deliberate: for this manuscript, possible authorial revision must remain just a hypothesis?
Before carrying on the analysis of the page layout in some poets related to Gascoigne, we must take into consideration two possible objections to what has been hitherto said.
Certainly, this particular way of dividing a line in two halves was common in the poetry of the period as a result of the influence exercised by Wyatt. Some distinctions must, however, be made. Consider the texts of Wyatt's and Surrey's poems (in iambic pentameter) as they appear in Tottel's Miscellany and in the Arundel Harington Manuscript, the two principal means of circulation of Wyatt's and Surrey's poems in the Elizabethan age and the vehicles whereby these poems were known-and, to a certain extent, "visually" known--by a whole generation of poets and literate men. Only three of Surrey's poems out of thirty-six in Tottel (numbers 8, 12, and a part of 11 in Rollins's edition) could be read with a rhythm quite similar to that of the Steele Glas.15 The more epigrammatic and "plain" Wyatt is closer to the kind of prosody observed for Gascoigne, but only some bits of his poems can be scanned similarly. After some lines the rhythm usually shifts, as in numbers 39, 40, and 44: a good example is number 49, with its famous incipit, "I find no peace, and all my warre is done."
Notwithstanding Harington's and Tottel's efforts in bringing the line more into accord with the iambic pattern,16 in Wyatt the caesura varies widely. The comma that sometimes marks it, seems, moreover, more related to an attempt to establish parallels in the text than to indicate a proper metrical pattern?
Punctuation in the Arundel Manuscript is rather scarce. In none of the poems considered above has any relevant evidence of a possible influence as regards a regular division of the verse like the one quoted been observed?
The second objection to the analysis above might start with maintaining that the particular kind of prosody found in the Steele Glas was in fact widespread and generally accepted in the 1570s,19 but what seems strange is that this link between punctuation and caesura is related only to the iambic pentameter used by a certain group of writers who knew one another well.20
So influential a poet in his period as Thomas Sackville presents no sign of this, either in the printed edition of the Myrroure for Magistrates 21 or in his holograph manuscript of the Induction? The same is true for the text of a later Sackville (non-holograph) manuscript quite recently discovered, and datable to between 1566 and 1574-The only mark of punctuation in the text is here a punctus in one line only? On this point the editors have observed:
The absence of punctuation probably reflects authorial practice transmitted through the exemplar, since the reliance on coincidence of sense and metre to indicate how a poem should be read resembles that in the Sackville holograph MS, Cambridge, St. John's College MS L. 7. (364).24
That a similar practice was adopted by Gascoigne in his previous compositions need not concern us here: it may well be that in A Hundred Sundry flowres such an attempt had been made and some parts of it seem to confirm this. Though the first part was produced by the printer of the Steele Glas, the visual aspect of the punctuation on the page is rather different? Nothing like the regularity of the Steele Glas can be observed: the caesuras, even if audible, are not marked by punctuation.
Thus, while Gascoigne, at least in the Steele Glas, relies on punctuation for marking his peculiar prosody, Sackville demonstrates an opposite attitude and practice. Neither of the two seems indifferent as to whether pauses in the text should be marked or not. It has not escaped modern critics that a more exact and conscious use of punctuation seems to have arisen in the course of the sixteenth century?
Obviously, the absence of punctuation in Sackville alone is not a sufficient argument. A Gorgious Gallery of Gallant Inuentions (1578) presents a page layout which is rather different from the one observed above. In some of the poems of this book, commas seem to be used to establish parallels in the text, and their occurrences increase in the more rhetorical passages. The rhythm is, however, not so obsessive as that of the Steele Glas. Even if some verses do present a medial caesura, this is not marked by a visual splitting of the line with the same regularity as in Gascoigne's verses.27
The prosody of Edwards' collection, The Paradyse of Dayntie Deuises,28 and the rhythm we find in Googe's and Turberville's verses is quite similar to that observed in the Steele Glas. Two elements must be taken into consideration to understand their metrical habits. Their imitation of (Tottel's) Wyatt, led to a certain regularity in their lines, and to a particular rhythmical emphasis. Certainly, from lines like Wyatt's "the longe loue, that in my thought doth harber" 29 or "I find no peace, and all my war is done,"30 they could have learned how to use a medial pause.31 In the Paradyse the lines have often a caesura either after the second iambic foot or after the fifth syllable? Turberville's verses in his Epitaphs, Epigrams, Songs and Sonets, denote that sometimes he used a similar kind of pattern, but in neither case does the punctuation regularly mark it.33 A more interesting case is that of Googe. In his Eglogs, Epitaphes and Sonnets (1567), the iambs are broken at the fourth syllable, and the compositor began a new line with the second half of the verse, even if he had to split a word in the middle? We do not know if this was merely a printer's convention? The evidence of the page layout of some parts of the Paradyse (whose verses date from around the same period), and of Brooke's Romeus and Iuliet (1562), however, suggest that it must have some relation with the kind of prosody the author chose for his verses.
Gascoigne was in contact with Googe, Edwards, and Turberville during the 1560s.36 Thomas Twyne and Arthur Brooke were linked to the Inns of Court, and very probably with the same circle in the same period? Twyne's The Thirteen bookes of Aeneidos was not in iambic pentameters.38 The same is true for Brooke's more famous The Tragicall Historie of Romeus and Iuliet. But in its verse epistle to the reader we find thirty iambic lines; in nineteen of these, we find a comma or another sign of punctuation to mark a caesura after the fourth or fifth syllable?
An examination of this group of texts indicates that the kind of prosody which we find in the Steele Glas has some links with that of a group of people related to the Inns of Court. We have seen that it is likely that Gascoigne knew them quite well. Moreover, we have to note that even if the rhythm used by those people was similar to the one Gascoigne adopted, their practice as regards punctuation and page layout was either noticeably different or at best had not the same regularity as his.
The way in which Gascoigne's iambic pentameter in the Steele Glas was printed is not unique: another example is the layout of his The Glasse of Government, which was set in a different printing house.40
There might be some reason to suppose, then, that some other works by members of Gascoigne's circle, which present the same features of page layout as the Steele Glas, do not owe their punctuation only to their compositors. Thomas Churchyard's The first Parte of Churchyardes Chippes41 was published in 1575, the same year as Gascoigne's Glasse of Government. Starting from sig. A1r, Churchyard's pentameter runs regularly throughout the book with end-stopped lines and a caesura placed after the second iambic foot, thus following the 4/6 syllables division observed above? After many pages of fourteeners, on sig. Msr the iambic rhythm starts again and the compositor started again placing a comma to mark the medial pause? It is significant to note that the printer, Thomas Marsh, produced also the 1563 edition of A Myrroure for Magistrates, where, as has been observed before, no such punctuation is present. Churchyard's The Worthiness of Wales, printed in 1587, continues the same practice44 marking the end of the line with another sign of punctuation. Even after a long section of fourteeners (sigs. D1r-D3v), English prose (D3v-E3r) and Latin prose (E3r-F1r), on sig. F1v we find again the same pattern for the iambic verse?
British Library, Royal MS 17.B.VII, containing a poem by Churchyard entitled "A rebuke to Rebellion," proves that this is, to some extent, an authorial habit. The manuscript appears to be, like Gascoigne's The Griefe of Joye, a presentation copy. It still bears a prose dedication which shows that it was meant to be a New Year's gift for Queen Elizabeth.46 Since the first stanza contains some repetitions and could be misleading for our analysis of its prosody, the transcription of the second stanza will be given here (fol. 2r; see fig. 2):
The rotten seames, that in fayre garments are
The poem goes on regularly with this inflexible "half"-line division from folios 2r to 10r, with two stanzas on each page. As in the last line above, throughout the text a superfluous comma is sometimes placed after the second iambic foot. This practice, as we have already noticed, is common also in Gascoigne. A comparison of the manuscripts of the Griefe of Joye and of the Rebuke to Rebellion shows that the hand is visibly different? The possibility of the same scribe's idiosyncratic use is therefore out of the question.
George Whetstone's The Rocke of Regard was published in 2576, the same year as the Steele Glas.48 In this book too, the medial pause after the second iambic foot is very frequently marked by a comma, and the lines have a punctuation mark at the end.49 To quote an example, on sig. A2r (11. 3-4) we read: "But raisde aloft, I quight forgot what quills. / What feathers first, to honor made me flee." In the book, the iambic rhythm is sometimes interrupted by fourteeners or prose, but starts again with the same structure after these?
Promos and Cassandra is usually remembered for its relationship to Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and is therefore perhaps the best known work by Whetstone. Its text was not revised by the author, who, "resolved to accompanye the adventurous Captaine, Sir Humfrey Gylbert, in his honorable voiadge," declares, "I found my leysure too littel, to correct the errors in the sayd workes." 51 On the following page we find Richard Jones apologizing for the same reason. This insistence on the fact that this book has not gone through authorial proof-reading (both by the author and by the printer) may give us reason to think that the reverse had been true for The Rocke of Regard. In any case, the regularity of the occurrence of caesuras and commas in the book leaves no doubt regarding its style. The monologues of this piece, in particular, present the thumping regularity and the visual splitting of the iambic lines of Churchyard and Gascoigne.52 Whetstone's commendatory verses (beginning "Rare is the worke, that liketh euery mynde") to Timothy Kendall's Flowers of Epigrammes, present the same features. The poem goes on with the same rhythm, and commas disappear quite regularly in presence of a parenthesis? The fact that punctuation here is not only due to the compositor is clear from a comparison with Promos and Cassandra and The Rocke of Regard, set by two different printing houses ?
Ralegh's "Sweete are the thoughtes" presents a similar display of heavy mid-line pauses visually marked by punctuation. As has been suggested by Steven May, its origins must be looked for in the Inns of Court period and in Ralegh's acquaintance with George Whetstone. The Rocke of Regard presents in fact, on sig. M3r, a companion poem to Ralegh's verses which was very probably composed at the same time as these? May believes that "Sweete are the thoughtes" was composed before Gilbert's voyage of 1578 and "possibly as the result of a poetic contest or challenge e.g. 'What kind of poem can you devise from this opening stanza?' "56
Gascoigne, Churchyard, and Whetstone were serving in the English army in the Low Countries in 1572, as well as Ralegh's kinsman, Humphrey Gilbert? Even if we have no evidence for Gilbert having known all of them there, Gascoigne's commendatory preface appears on Gilbert's Discourse of a new Passage to Cataia (1576)? The relationship between Gascoigne and Whetstone is well known. The younger poet appeared in print in 1575, with some verses "in praise of George Gascoigne and his Posies." 59 Gascoigne was with him on a journey in Lincolshire when he died on 5 October 1577. Churchyard seems to have been in contact with them since the Dutch wars? Both Churchyard and Whetstone, after Gascoigne's death, participated in Gilbert's voyage of 1578.61
Ralegh appears in the Registers of the Middle Temple as having enrolled on 27 February 1574/5. The document shows that he had been previously a member of Lyon's Inn, one of the Inns of Chancery in London? Even if it is impossible to know whether he was introduced to Gascoigne by Gilbert or (somewhat earlier) by Whetstone, his first two poems seem to owe much to the style that Gascoigne, Whetstone, and Churchyard were consistently using at this time?
The poems contained in Harley MS 7392(2) were collected by someone connected with the Inns of Court.64 On fol. 36r we find the text of "Sweete are the thoughtes" (see fig. 3):
Sweete ar the thoughtes, wher Hope persuadeth Happe,
It is impossible to establish whether Ralegh actually wrote this poem exactly as we find it in the Harleian MS. It is, anyway, true that the text of "Farewell false love" in the same manuscript (fol. 37r-v) presents the same features, and that the visual aspect of "Callinge to minde" (fols. 36v-37r), surely a later composition, appears visibly different.66 The text layout of both "Sweete ar the thoughtes" and "Farewell false love" bears a clear resemblance to the one we have observed in the works by Gascoigne, Churchyard, and Whetstone quoted above. This resemblance in style and punctuation between the two Ralegh poems suggest a possible authorial source.
Both the title of the poem in Gascoigne's book ("Walter Rawley of the middle Temple, in Commendation of the Steele Glasse") and the provenance of the Harley MS point toward the Inns environment. These elements and the stylistic characteristics (even down to the imitation of a particular kind of punctuation) of the "Commendation" and "Sweete are the thoughtes," suggest a poetical apprenticeship which could have been longer than has been hitherto thought.
In addition, it seems unlikely that Gascoigne, a well-known poet by this time, could have his verses commended by a stranger of whose poetic value he knew nothing, and this, notwithstanding his acquaintance with Ralegh's half-brother? But if Ralegh's verses had been noticed by somone like Whetstone, even as a single good specimen (or, maybe, the product of a "competition" like the one suggested by May), or had been circulated at least in the Inns of Court circles, then there was some chance of getting a place on the introductory pages of Gascoigne's last book. "Sweete are the thoughtes," therefore, might have been written at some stage before the "Commendation."
As Lefranc has observed, Ralegh followed this style in the beginning of his poetic career and then began to look for a more personal style?
"A Farewell to false love" and "The Excuse" present the same kind of iambic sixains as the two poems above. The style here is sensibly different, but some elements of the former prosody are still retained? "A Farewell to false love," in particular, seems to be constructed in opposition to the traditional "blazon." Instead of eulogizing the various qualities of the mistress, here every line contains a denigration of Love. The blazon stereotype, however, does not seem alone to account fully for the rhythm of this piece.
If a smoother rhythm, as noted above, is achieved in "The Excuse" or in the poem "put in Lady Layton's Pocket," the movement of "A Farewell to false love" is still declamatory. The caesura after the second foot is still present (in particular in the first sixain), and all the lines have a stop at the end. In this piece, Ralegh seems to pose as a censor. This was not at all uncommon for the poets of the Inns of Court, but the contemptus mundi these poets displayed in their compositions was, in fact, a fashionable despising of the very world they would like to reach. Sometimes this was also a disillusioned reaction to being outcast from that "golden" world. As Arthur Marotti has pointed out, "[F]rom the time of Henry the VIII and that of the midcentury authors represented in the miscellany The Paradyse of Daynty Deuises up through the later Elizabethan period, writers used philosophical and religious stances to cope with political and social defeat." 70 Gascoigne was not an idealist about the Court. His satire of it had some of the bitter attitude of Juvenal and the poignancy of Horace? In the light of these stylistic and thematic features, "A Farewell to false love" might be considered a kind of intermediate step between the prosody of the two early poems and Ralegh's more mature--and "courtly"--style.
In his early Court years Ralegh was to soften this kind of criticism. Between 1585 and 1587, in particular, the prevailing voice is that of the fashionable courtier which we find in the poem put in Lady Layton's pocket,72 or (as in "Fortune has taken thee away my love" and perhaps, in "The Excuse"), that of the queen's lover. This was not uncommon for the Inns of Court men who finally reached their real goal. Their censorship of folly and their scorn of the courtly parvenus underwent a radical smoothing of tone on joining the previous object of their criticism. Even if we take into consideration Ralegh's well-known pride, for a fresh-new favorite in the queen's attention (an upstart par excellence) the pose of a censor would obviously not fit.
The change in literary fashion that had started in the early 1580s had its turning points, later in the same decade, with the circulation of the Certain Sonnets manuscripts and, after Sidney's death, with that of Astrophil and Stella.73 Ralegh found himself competing with new models to remain in the queen's special favor, an attempt that guided much of his poetry. But he occasionally went back to this more epigrammatic and plain style. Like his first master (no matter how direct or indirect), Gascoigne, in his moments of alienation from the Court Ralegh would have accents of bitter disillusionment. And with this, the old tone and prosody would come out again. In "Farewell to the Court" the first and second stanzas are clearly similar to the earlier rhythm:
LIKE truthles dreames, so are my ioyes expired,
The autograph manuscript of the "22th Boock" of "the Oceans love to Scinthia" has a similar incipit:
My dayes delights, my springetyme ioies fordvnn,
It seems improbable that this is just a coincidence. By this time, as Malcolm Parkes has noticed, Ralegh had become fully aware of the potentialities of punctuation.76
What has been suggested here for "Sweete are the thoughtes" and the "Commendation" is that their rhythm and punctuation (and, to a certain extent, their visual aspect in the Harley MS and in The Steele Glas) is probably not very different from how they were meant to be. In fact, if many of the characteristics typical of the verse of the 1570s can be found in Ralegh's poetry, then the environment of the Inns of Court and of Gascoigne's coterie was the medium through which the young poet received his early training, as the prosody he adopted in this period and somewhat later seems to demonstrate. The order in which these two poems were written is surely less important. If Ralegh had a kind of poetic apprenticeship at the Inns, he probably had opportunities to demonstrate his poetic ability on various occasions: Gascoigne describes a similar situation in his Sundry Flowres.77 Many of the "doubtful poems" in the Ralegh canon, then, could be the earliest fruits of the would-be favorite of Elizabeth.
Universita Cattolica S.C., Milan
Kennedy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), 10; George Gascoigne the Green Knight: Selected Poetry and Prose, ed. Roger Pooley (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1982), 9. See also Gascoigne's remembrance of "Sergeant Lovelace" in "Dulce Bellum Inexpertis," stanza 201 (Cunliffe, 181), and the epistle dedicatory to "the whorshipful M. William Louelace," in Eglogs, Epytaphes and Sonnets, sig. Asr. The first lines of some poems by Googe appear in Turberville's Epitaphs, Epigrams, Songs and Sonets on sigs. B7v and C2r. In Googe's book, many of these poems, for which Turberville wrote anwers, can be found. An example can be Googe's famous "Out of sight of mind," to which Turberville answers on sig. R3r (see Fieler's introduction to Turberville's Epitaphs, xi).
PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE): Figure 1. MS Royal 18. A.XLVIII, fol. 2r. By permission of The British Library.
PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE): Figure 2. MS Royal 17.B.VII, fol. 2r. By permission of The British Library.
PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE): Figure 3. Harley MS 7392(2), fol. 36r. By permission of The British Library.
by Carlo M. Bajetta