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Elizabethan Sonnet Sequences 


Earlier English Verse 




Presented to the Faculty of the Department of Philosophy of 

the University of Pennsylvania in Partial Fulfillment 

of the Requirements for the Degree of 

Doctor of Philosophy 






AM Amoretti, Spenser. 

A and S . . . Astrophel and Stella, Sidney. 

Au Aurora, Alexander. 

C Coelia, Percy. 

CA Caelica, Greville. 

CE Caelia, Browne. 

CL Chloris, Smith. 

CY Cynthia, Barnfield. 

Die Delia, Daniel. 

Di Diana, Constable. 

DL Diella, Linch. 

E Emaricdulfe. 

EKA .... Ekatornpathia, Watson. 
F ...... Fidessa, Griffin. 

ID Idea, Drayton. 

L Laura, Tofte. 

Li Licia, Fletcher. 

PH Phillis, Lodge. 

P. P Parthenophil and Parthenope, Barnes. 

SH Shakespeare. 

W. P Wittes Pilgrimage, Davies. 

Z Zepheria. 





Wyatt's use of the sonnet in English is commonly 
regarded as an innovation. So far as form is concerned, 
this view is, doubtless, correct; but it should be remem- 
bered (a) that Wyatt's experiments do not mark the first 
contact of English with continental literature and () 
that the subject matter of the amatory sonnet was not 
altogether strange to English readers. For French and 
Italian influence we must go back at least to the time ot 
Chaucer, who, indeed, so far anticipated Wyatt as to 
incorporate a translation of one of Petrarch's sonnets 1 
in his Troilus and Criseyde, though he did not give his 
version the sonnet shape. In figure and allusion the 
Elizabethan sonnet bears a resemblance, often striking, to 
the amatory verse current in Middle English. The 
Romaunt of the Rose, the works of Chaucer, Gower's 
Confessio Amantis, certain poems of Lydgate and the 
numerous Middle English "complaints" and lovers' 
dreams abound in, so-called, sonnet conceits. Chaucer's 
Emily 2 fairer than a lily, fresher than May, with her 
rose-like cheeks, yellow hair and voice like that of an 
angel is the prototype of the sonnet mistress. In a certain 
"Compleynt" 5 the forlorn lover describes himself " as 
ashes dead, pale of hue," he suffers "an inward smart," 
his "fire is hot in every vein," the image of his lady is 
printed deep in his heart and he vows to serve her unend- 
ingly, even though " her heart is hard like stone." Every 

1 In Vita, 88. T. and C., I, 400-420. 

2 Knights' Tale, 1036 ff. 

3 Appended to Schick's ed. Temple of Glas, E. E. T. S. 



one of these figures and comparisons may be duplicated in 
the sonnet sequences. 

The general character of the resemblances between the 
sonnets and Middle English verse may be gathered from 
the following list of representative parallelisms and 
analogues. l (I) Descriptions of beauty, in the sonnets, 
bear a general resemblance to those found in the earlier 
poetry, (a) Thus Gower writes: 

He seth hire face of such colour, 
That freisshere is than eny flour. 
He seth hire front is large and plein 
Withoute fronce of eny grein. 
He seth hire yhen lich an hevene, 
He seth hire nase straught and evene, 
He seth hire rode upon the cheke, 
. He seth hire rede lippes eke. 2 

In much the same vein Thomas Watson describes his 
mistress in the Ekatompathia : 

Harke you that list to hear what saint I serve : 
Her yellow locks exceed the beaten gold ; 
Her sparkling eyes in heav'n a place deserve ; 

x- & * * * * * 

Her Eagle's nose is straight of stately frame ; 
On either cheeke a rose and lily lies, 

-X- # * * # * * 

Her lips more red than any coral stone. 3 

() By Lydgate and others, the hair of the mistress is 
frequently compared to gold wire. Line 271 of the Temple 
of G las reads: 

Whos sonnyssh here, brighter than gold were. 

1 The list is illustrative, not exhaustive. 

2 Conf. Amantis VI. 767 ff. 

3 Eka 7. Probably not a direct borrowing, though it looks like one 
See Watson's annotation to this sonnet. 


The same figure occurs in Reson and Sensuallyte 1. 

Whos here as eiiy gold wyre shon. 1 

The comparison is not uncommon in Elizabethan 
poetry ; thus, Diella, 3 : 

Her Hair exceeds gold forced in finest wire, 

and Zepheria, 17: 

Whose siluerie canopie gold wier fringes. 

It is one of t!*e figures satirized by Shakespeare in his 
Sonnet, 130 : 

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. 2 

(c] Similar figures are used in describing the cheeks of 
the mistress. 

Temple of Glas, 276: 

That Rose and lileis togedir were so meint. 3 

Licia, 34: 

Prom those sweet lips, where rose and lilies strive. 4 

Phillis, 37: 

Of rose and lilies too, the colors of thy face. 

II. (a) The decay of beauty is not so hackneyed a 
th ure with the Chaucerian school as with the sonneteers; 
but it comes in for occasional treatment. 

Trailus and Criseyde, II. 393 ff. 

1 So, also, Troy-Book in many places (see Schick's note to T. of G. 
1. 271), Chorl and Bird 59, Roxburghe Ballads 62 st. 5. Used by Henry- 
son, Lyndsay, II awes. 

2 See, also, F 39, P.P. 48, De 35. 

3 Compare Doctor's Tale 32 ff, Knight's Tale 1036 ff. 

4 Compare Di I. 10, A and S 100, E 30. 


' Thenk ek how elde wasteth every houre 

In ech of you a party of beaute ; 

And therfor, or that age thee devoure, 

Go love, for, old, ther wil no wight of thee ! 

Lat this proverbe a lore unto you be : 

Too late y-war ! quod Beaute, whan it paste; 

And Elde daunteth Daunger at the laste ! 

* The kinges fool is wont to cryen loude, 

Whan that him think'th a womman ber'th her hye, 

" So longe mote ye live, and alle proude, 

Til crowes feet be growe under your ye, 

And sende you thanne a mirour in to prye, 

In which that ye may see your face amorwe ! " 

I bidde wisshe you no more sorwe ! ' 

The tone of ill-natured protest which marks this speech 
is characteristic of a small class of Elizabethan sonnets of 
which Dray ton's 8th sonnet to Idea may be taken as typical: 

There's nothing grieve me, but that Age should haste, 
That in my days, I may not see thee old ! 
That where those two clear sparkling Eyes are placed, 
Only two loopholes, then I might behold ! 

That lovely arched ivory-polished Brow 
Defaced with wrinkles, that I might but see ! 
Thy dainty Hair, so curled and crisped now, 
Like grizzled moss upon some aged tree ! 

Thy Cheek, now flush with roses, sunk and lean ! 
Thy Lips, with age as any wafer thin ! 
Thy pearly Teeth, out of thy head so clean, 
That when thou feed'st, thy Nose shall touch thy Chin ! 

These lines that now scornest, which should dt light thee ; 

Then would I make thee read, but to desp ; te thee ! 

Similarly in Aurora, 102, the poet declares that he will 
think himself avenged for neglect, 

When as that louely tent of beautie dies. l 

(b) The comparison of beauty to the flower that soo:i 
fades is common to both bodies of verse under discussion. 

1 Compare, Reason and Sensuallyte, 6207 ff. 


Resoji and Sensually te, 6210 ff: 

That beaute, who than kan espye, 

By naturel Incliuacion, 

Lasteth fresh but a sesou, 

No mor' than doth a Rose newe 

Which with a storme chaungeth his hewe, 

For al his soote levys glade 

Ful unwarly yt wil fade. 

Delia, 36 : 

Look, Delia, how w'esteem the half-blown rose, 
The image of thy blush, and summer's honour, 
Whilst yet her tender bud doth undisclose 
That full of beauty time bestows upon her. 
No sooner spreads her glory in the air, 
But straight her wide-blown pomp comes to decline; 
She then is scorned that late adorned the fair ; 
So fade the roses of those cheeks of thine. l 

III. The conflict of heat with cold by which the sonnet 
lover is so often afflicted was experienced by Lydgate's 
Black Knight: 2 

With hote and colde my acces ys so meynt, 
That now I shyuer for defaute of hete, 
And hote so glede now sodenly I suete, 
Now hote as fire, now colde as asshes dede, 
Now hote for colde, now colde for hote ageyn, 
Now colde as ise, now as coles rede. 

So, Phillis, 18: 

I burne in ice and quake amidst the fire. 

IV. The laws of nature shall change and the estab- 
lished order be overturned before the lover will waver in 
his devotion. 

1 Compare De 47, Au 102, Id 10, Cl 26, E 16, P.P. 58, 59, Ph 
Egloga Prima and Ode following sonnet 39, Sh 2, 12. 

2 Complaint of the Black Knight 229 ff. See, also, Temple of Glas, 
356 ff, Falls of Princes, 124 a, L,auncelot, 30, Cuckow and Nightingale, 
38 ff, Confessio Amantis, III., s. 9, Troilus and Criseyde, I., 420. 
Compare sonnets : Au 4, Cl 5, Di VI., 2, Dl i, F 8, n, Ph 35, P.P. 31. 


Troihts and Criseyde, III., 1495 ff: 

That erst shall Phebus fallen fro his spere, 
And everich egle ben the dowves fere, 
And every roche out of his place sterte, 
Or Troilus out of Criseydes herte ! 

So, Aurora, 58: 

First shall each riuer turn vnto the spring, 
The tallest oke stand trembling like a reed, 
Harts in the aire, whales on the mountains feed, 
And foule confusions seaze on euery thing ; 
Before that I begin to change in ought, 
Or on another but bestow one thought. J 

V. The darts of love are shot from the mistress' eyes. 

La Belle Dame Sans Mercy: 2 " 

Your yeen iiathe sette the prynt which that I feele withynne myne 

Temple of Glas, 582: 

For with the stremes of her eyen clere 
I am Iwoundid to the hert. 

Knigkfs Tale, 1567: 

Ye sleen me with youre eyen, Emelye ! 

This figure is so common in the sonnets that quotation 
or reference are scarcely necessary. It is, of course, vari- 
ously manipulated; but the underlying idea is always the 
same . 3 

1 Compare Dl 14, 35, Eka 38, F42, 44, P.P. 29, E 26. 

a Political, Religious and Love Poems from the Archbishop of 
Canterbury's Lambeth Ms. No. 306. Ed. Furnivall, E. E. T. S. 
London, 1866, p. 52, 1. 525. 

3 See, also : Knight's Tale, 1096, Troilus and Criseyde, II., 533 ff, 
III., 1352 ff. Troy-Book, Aa 2b, Temple of Glas, 104 ff, 230, 815. 
Compare sonnets: Am 7, C 2, Di VI., 9, Dl i, 36, F 2, 48, Id 2, 46, 
LI., ii, 3 6 etc. 


VI. The lady scorns the lover's advances; she is dis- 
dainful, obdurate and merciless; her heart is hard. This 
is the conventional attitude of the mistress in amatory 
verse, generally, and calls for no special remark. In 
describing the disposition of the mistress and in comment- 
ing upon it, the Elizabethan sonneteers use the same 
figures as the Middle English writers: 

La Belle Dame Sans Mercy: 

marbil herte, and yet more harde, parde. 1 


Wherfore doth away the stel, 

1 mene the hardnesse of youre herte. 2 

Troilus and Criscydc, I., 524: 

Thy lady is as frost in winter rnoone. 3 

All three of these comparisons occur in Licia 8: 

Hard are the rocks, the marble, and the steel, 
The ancient oak with wind and weather tossed ; 
But you, my Love, far harder do I feel 
Than flint, or these, or is the winter's frost. 4 

VII. The lover was born under an unlucky star. 

KnighCs Talc, 1087: 

Som wikke aspect or disposicioun 

Of Saturne, by sum constellacioun, 

Hath yeven us this, although we hadde it sworn ; 

So stood the hevene whan that we were born. 6 

1 Furnivall op. cit. p. 52, 1. 717. 

2 Appended to Temple of Glas, E. E. T. S. 146 ff, 

3 See, also : Black Knight, 442 ff, Confessio Amantis, III., 1514, ffl 
Troilus and Criseyde, III., no, etc., etc. 

1 Compare sonnets: Am 18, C 17, Cl n, 18, De n, 13, Dl 8, 9. n, 
F 7, Id 45, U 44, W.P. 24, 2 7, L HI.. 5- 
* Compare Petrarch, in Vita. 122, (141). 


, 28: 

What cruel star, or fate, had dominion 
When I was born ? 

Diana, VII. , 2 : 

What influence hath bred my hateful woe ? 

VIII. The conventional lover is lachrymose. It would 
be superfluous to quote passages in proof of this assertion 
to which both Middle English and Elizabethan literature 
bear ample witness. It is interesting, however, to note 
the use by Chaucer, and by the sonneteers after him, 
of the distillation figure derived from alc^gmy. 

Troilus and Criseyde, IV., 519 

This Troilus in teres gan distille, 
As licour out of alambic, ful faste. 

In Phillis, 37, Lodge presents us with this figure in 
more detailed and elaborate form: 

My love doth serve for fire, my heart the furnace is, 
The aperries of my sighs augment the burning flame, 
The limbec is mine eye that doth distil the same; 
And by how much my fire is violent and sly, 
By so much doth it cause the waters mount on high, 
That shower from out mine eyes, for to assuage my miss. 

So, Idea, 7: 

Precious Tears distilling from mine ey'n. 

Diella, 19: 

Salt tears distilling from my dewy eyes. 

Delia, 24 : 

These tears, which heat of sacred flame distils. 

Fidessa, 30 : 

In your own tears, so many years distilled. 


IX. The lover is pale; he is incurably diseased ; he 
wears the hue of death. 

Complaint, 27 : T Q 

Lych as asshes dede, pale of hewe. 

Black Knight, 221 ff: 

The petouse chere pale in compleynyng, 
The dedely face like asshes in shynyng. 

So, Laura, II., 18: 

I bear of Death itself, the lively show, 
* * * * * * 

The fire, close burning in my veins, doth make 
That outward ashes in my face you view. 2 

X. The mistress alone is able to cure the lover's disease. 

Love Poems? p. , 41 : 

My paynes to Rellis may non bute yee. 

Ditto, p. 52 : 

There may none make the peas but only ye 
Which ar the cause and ground of alle this werre. 

Comfessio Amantis, III., 1514. 

And yit is sche noght merciable 

Which mai me yive lif and hele. 

So, Chloris, 11: 

Winged Love's impartial cruel wound, 
Which in my heart is ever permanent, 
Until my CHLORIS makes me whole and sound. 4 

1 Op. cit. 

2 See, also : Confessio Amantis, VIII., 2217, Black Knight, 131 ff, 
Temple of Glas, 616. Compare, sonnets : Au 65, Cl 37, Di 23, 
Li 34, F 7, 16, 25, Ph 6, 29. 

a Furnivall, op. cit. 

4 Compare : De 14, Di V., 3. 


Amoretti, 50: 

Then, my lyfes Leach ! doe your skill reveale; 
And, with one salve, both hart and body heale. 

XL The lover regrets the day when first he saw his 

Love Poems, 1 p. 52, 1. 205: 

Unhappy day 
Whanne I firste hadde a sighte of your visage. 

Coelia, 2 : 

O happy hour, and yet unhappy hour ! 

When first by chance I had my Goddess viewed. 

Diana, VI., 8: 

Unhappy day, unhappy month and season, 
When first proud love, my joys away adjourning, 
Poured into mine eye to her eye turning 
A deadly juice, unto my green thought's reason. 

XII. Praise of the lady's voice. 
Confessio Amantis, VI. , 860 ff: 

the wordes of hire mouth: 

For as the wyndes of the South 

Ben most of alle debonaire, 

So whan her list to speke faire, 

The vertu of hire goodly speche 

Is verraily myn hertes leche. 

And if it so befalle among, 

That sche carole upon a song, ._ ^ 

Whan I it hiere I am so fedd, 

That I am fro miself so ledd, 

As thogh I were in paradis; ' 

For certes, as to myn avis, 

When I here of hir vois the stevene, 

Me thenkth it is a blisse of hevene. 2 

1 Furnivall, op. cit. 

2 Compare : Knight's Tale, 1055, Troilus and Criseyde, II., 826, 
Dethe of Blaunche, 924 ff. 


The sonnet- writers frequently write in praise of their 
mistresses' voices and singing. Watson, for example, in 
his Ekatompathia, has a series of seven sonnets (11-17) in 
which is " couertly set forth, how pleasaunt a passion the 
Author one day enioyed, when by chance he ouerharde his 
mistris, whilst she was singing priuately by her selfe." 
In one of these sonnets Watson follows Gower in compar- 
ing his lady to a bird. 

Ekatompathia, 16: 

My gentle birde, which sung so sweete of late, 
Is not like those, that flie about by kind, 
Her feathers are of golde, shee wantes a mate, 

And knowing wel her worth, is proud of mind; 


And who so mad, as woulde not with his will 
Leese libertie and life to heare her sing, 
Whose voice excels those harmonies that fill 
Ellsian fieldes, where growes eternal spring ?' 

XIII. The mistress scorns her lover's verses. 

La Belle Dame Sans Mercy, 219 ff : 

I suffre peyne, god woot, fulle hoote brennyng, 
to cause my deth, al for my trewe seruyce, 
and I see well ye rechche ther-of no thyng, 
ner take noon hede of itt in uoo kyns wise ; 
But whanne I speke aftir my beste avise, 
ye sett it nought, but make ther-of a game; 
and thow I sewe soo grete an enterprise, 
It peyneth uoughte your worship nor your fame. 2 

Coelia, 3: 

She scorns my dole, and smileth at my pain. 

XIV. The lover is restless at night and dreams of his 

1 Compare Ivi 25, 30, Ph 20, A and S 100. 

2 Poems from Lambeth Ms., 306, ed. Furnivall, p. 52 ff. 

3 Compare, Dethe of Blaunche 1235, Ph 23. 


Unto my Lady, the Flower of Womanhood : ! 

Whan Reste And slepe y shulde haue noxialle, 

As Requereth botlie nature and kynde, 

than trobled are my wittes alle, 

so sodeynly Renyth in my mynde 

your grete bewte ! me thynketh than y fynde 

you as gripyng in myn armes twey; 

Bute whan y wake, ye Are away. 

Astrophel and Stella, 38 : 

This night, while sleepe begins with heauy wings 

To hatch mine eyes, and that vnbitted thought 

Doth fall to stray, and my chiefe powres are brought 

To leaue the scepter of all subiect things; 

The first that straight my fancie's errour brings 

Vnto my mind is Stella's image, wrought 

By Loues owne selfe, but with so curious drought 

That she, methinks, not onely shines but sings. 

I start, looke, hearke; but what in closde-vp sence 

Was held, in opend sense it flies away. 2 

XV. The sonneteers continue the use of mediaeval 
traditions and superstitions, (a) Thus in Chloris, 19, 
occur these lines : 

She like the scorpion, gave to me a wound; 
And, like the scorpion, she must make me sound. 

Barnes uses the same figure in Parthenophil and Par- 
thenope, 39 : 

Then, like the Scorpion, did She deadly sting me; 
And with a pleasing poison pierced me ! 
Which, to these utmost sobs of death, did bring me, 
And, through my soul's faint sinews, searched me. 
Yet might She cure me with the Scorpion's Oil. 

Fletcher writes in Licia, 38 : 

You gave the wound, and can the hurt remove. 

1 Poems from Lambeth Ms.. 306, ed. Furnivall, p. 43. Compare 
Chaucer's Compleynte to his Lady, i, 51. 

2 Compare, Di 24, E 8-u incl., F 14, Aa Song VI. 


The superstition is a very old one and appears in The 
Vision of Piers Ploughman? 

For of alle venymes 
Foulest is the scorpion. 
May no medicyne helpe 
The place ther he styngeth, 
Til he be deed, and do thereto. 
The yvel he destruyeth, 
The firste verymouste 
Thorugh venym of hymselve. 

Lodge in Phillis, 18, gives us an analogue of this citation: 

As when two raging venoms are united, 
Which of themselves dissevered life would sever, 
The sickly wretch of sickness is acquited, 
Which else should die, or pine in torments ever. 

Still another version of the notion that " like cures like M 
is given in Barnfield's Cynthia, 5 : 

It is reported of faire Tlietis 1 Sonne, 
(Achilles famous for his chiualry, 
His noble minde and magnanimity,) 

That when the Troian wars were new begun, 

Whos'euer was deepe-wounded with his speare, 
Could never be recured of his maime, 
Nor euer after be made whole againe; 

Except with that speares rust he holpen were. 

() Daniel resorts to a legend of witchcraft and is imi- 
tated by Constable. The passages in question occurlin the 
second 4 rejected ' sonnet appended to Daniel's Delia and 
in Diana, II., 2: 

1 Vision and Creed of Piers Ploughman, Ed. Wright, p. 378, 11. 
12383, ff. 

So, Euphues, p, 68, "The Scorpion that stung thee shall heal 
thee"; and p. 356, "Those that are stunge with the Scorpion, are 
healed with the Scorpion. " 


Delia : 

The sly enchanter when to work his will 

And secret wrong on some forespoken wight, 
Frames wax in form to represent aright 
The poor unwitting wretch he means to kill, 
And pricks the image framed by magic's skill, 
Whereby to vex the party day and night. 

Diana : 

For witches, which some murder do intend, 
Do make a picture, and do shoot at it; 
And in that part where they the picture hit, 
The party's self doth languish to his end. 

This bit of folk-lore is touched upon by Chaucer in the 
Hous of Fame, III. , 169 ff: 

Ther saw I pleyen jogelours, 
Magiciens, and tregetours, 
And phitonesses, charmeresses, 
Olde wycches, sorceresses, 
That use exorsisaciouns, 
And eek thise fumygaciouns; 
And clerkes eek, which conne wel 
Al this magik naturel, 
That craftely don hir ententes, 
To make, in certeyn ascendentes, 
Images, lo, through swych magik, 
To make a man ben hool or syk. 

(c) Greville's Caelica, 103, contains the interesting line : 
And as hell-fires, not wanting heat, want light. 

The conception of colorless flames plays a part in de- 
scriptions of hell from an indefinitely early period. 
Possibly of Semitic origin, the idea occurs in Anglo-Saxon 
and Middle English and is not uncommon in Elizabethan 
literature. It is found twice in the amatory sonnet 
sequences, once in Caelica, as just noted, and again in 
Diana, VIII., 5, where Constable writes: 


But to my heart alone my heart shall tell 
How unseen flames do burn it day and night, 
Lest flames give light, light bring my love to sight, 

And my love prove my folly to excel. 

Wherefore my love burns like the fire of hell, 
Wherein is fire and yet there is no light. 

Shakespeare's " delighted spirit" which, has given the 
commentators a good deal of unnecessary trouble may be 
readily explained as a punning allusion to this tradition. 

Measure for Measure, III., 1, 118 ff: 

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where; 
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot; 
This sensible warm motion to become 
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit 
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside 
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice. 

It appears again in Milton's description of hell: 
Paradise Lost, I., 61 ff: 

A dungeon horrible, on all sides round, 

As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames 

No light; but rather darkness visible 

Served only to discover sights of woe. 

XVI. Figures based upon angling. 
Complcynte of Mars, 236 ff : 

Hit semeth he hath to lovers enmyte, 
And lyk a fissher, as men alday may se, 
Baiteth his angle-hook with some plesaunce, 
Til mon ya fish is wood, til that he be 
Sesed ther-with; and then at erst hath he 
Al his desire, and ther-with al xnyschaunce; 
And thogh the lyne breke, he hath penaunce, 
For with the hook he wounded is so sore 
That he his wages hath for ever-more. 

Fidessa, 50: 

When I the hooks of pleasure first devoured, 
Which undigested threaten now to choke me. 


Caelica, 84: 

I swallow down the bait, which carries down my death. J 

XVII. Miscellaneous figures and comparisons. 
(a) In the curious poem, Bewte will Shewe, thow Horny s 
be Away? women are compared to tigers. 

Line 37: 

But archwyfes, eger in ther violence, 
Ferse as a tigre for to make affray. 

The figure is used by Petrarch (in Vita 101 and else- 
where) and is common in the Elizabethan sonnets. 

Licia, 8 : 

Too tiger-like, you swear you cannot love. 

Cidessa, 59: 

Do I unto a cruel tiger play ? 

Diella, 16: 

But I must love her, Tigress ! s 

(Jj) A Compleynte to his Lady, Chaucer, 55 : 
/ My hertes lady, and hool my lyves quene! 4 

Emaricdulfe, 2: 

Deare mistris of my thoughts, Queene of my ioy. 

Licia, 3 : 

The heavens beheld the beauty of my queen. 

(c) Troilus and Criseyde, I. 384: 

Remembering him, that love too wide y blowe 
Yelt bittre fruit, though swete seed be sowe. 

1 Compare, Au 14, 103, Di V., 2, L III., 6. 

2 Poems from Lambeth Ms., 306, ed. Furnivall, E. E. T. S. 1866, p. 45 
8 Compare, A and S 65, Am 20, 56, Cl 16, Dl 21. 

4 Compare, Complaint, 136. 


Delia, 26: 

Yet since the sweetest root yields fruit so sour, 1 
Her praise from my complaint I may not part. 

(// ) A Comphynte to his Lady, Chaucer, 37 : 
I can but love hir best, my swete fo. 

Again, line 59: 

My dere herte and best beloved fo. 2 

Amoretti, 57: 

Sweet warriour ! when shall I have peace? 3 

(e) La Belle Dame San- Mercy, 257: 

Your plesaunte loke, my verray loodsterre. 4 

Amoretti, 34 : 

Yet hope I well that, when this storme is past, 
My Helice, the lodestar of my life, 
Will shine again. 

(/) Confcssio Amantis, II. 20, ff : 

Ethna, which brenneth yer be yere. 

Was thanne noght so hot as I, 

Of thilke Sor which prively 

Min hertes thoght withinne brenneth. 

So, Chloris, 13. 

Augmenting fuel to my Etna's fire. 

Phillis, 2: 

To quench the flames from my heart's ^tna streaming. 

1 Compare, Am 26, Au 79, Sh 35. 

2 So, also, T. and C. V., 228. 

3 The comparison of love to warfare and figures based upon the 
conception are frequent in the Elizabethan sonnets ; for example, 
Am 11,12, 14, A and S 36, C 10, Dl 7, Di IV., 2, Id 63. Compare, 
Lord Yaux, Tottels Miscellany, ed. Arber, p. 172, " When Cupide 
scaled first the fort. " See, also, Arber's English Garner I., 128, 460, 
651, V., 370. 

4 So, Troilus and Criseyde V., 232. 


Love Poems, p. 45 1. 65 : l 

Moder of ihesu, myrrour of chastitie. 
Common appellation of the Virgin in Middle English. 

Coelia, 4 : 

O heavenly Coelia, as fair as virtuous ! 
The only Mirror of true Chastity. 

(h) The resemblance between Sidney's famous sonnet 
on sleep (Astrophel and Stella, 39) and Chaucer's Dethe of 
Blaunche the Duchesse, 11. 231 ff., is worthy of remark 
though Sidney's immediate source was not Chaucer. 2 

(i) Another interesting and suggestive comparison 
may be made between Donne's greeting to the sun, 

Busy old fool, unruly sun, 
Why dost thou thus, 
Through windows and through curtains call on us ? 

and the language of Troilus in Troilus and Criseyde III, 
1450 ff., 

O cruel day, accusour of the joye, etc. 

To infer from resemblances in substance that the son- 
neteers drew chiefly, or even largely, from earlier native 
writers would be illogical. Passages similar to those quoted 
occur in Petrarch and the poets of his school. A large 
proportion of the parallelisms, moreover, may be explained 
on the theory of common sources. In the glosses to his 
Ekatompathia, Thomas Watson, the first sequence writer, 
has left a rather complete list of the authors upon whom 
he drew for ideas. In subject-matter, Watson's work is 
typical and it is fair to assume that his sources are repre- 
sentative. Comparing the authors mentioned in Watson's 
annotations with those known to have been used by 
Chaucer, we find many names in common. Chaucer's 

1 Furnivall, op, cit. 

a For other sonnets on this theme see Cl 34, De 51, F 15, and 
A and S 32. 


favorite author was Ovid : Ovid was, likewise, a main 
recourse of Watson. Other sources utilized by both poets 
are Vergil, Horace, Seneca, L,ucan, Perottus and Petrarch. 
In addition to the ancient classics, Watson derived much 
from French and Italian writers and in this he was followed 
by the entire group of Elizabethan versifiers. The con- 
tinental sonneteers, however, were, in turn, indebted to 
the classics, so that their imitation is, often, merely a 
borrowing, at second-hand, from the sources employed by 
Chaucer. 1 

The resemblances between the Elizabethan lyric and 
the Middle English amatory verse are capable of easy ex- 
planation, but the reader of the literature of the two per- 
iods will hardly consent to be put off with such generalities 
as those just adduced. The similarities are too well marked 
and too numerous to be so summarily despatched. Granted 
that the sonneteers are chiefly indebted to the classics 
and to continental models, it may still be true that the 
mass of earlier native verse exerted an influence, obscure, 
even sub-conscious, but nevertheless sufficient to tinge 
Elizabethan composition. Sufficient evidence exists to 
render the theory tenable. Aside from parallelisms and 
analogues of the kind already quoted, there are to be found 
in Elizabethan literature abundant survivals from the ear- 
lier age. The Middle English u Complaint," for example, 
was continued quite through the Elizabethan period and 
received its meed of attention from Shakespeare himself. 
The serious tone, approaching theological tenor, character- 
istic of the first miscellanies may, possibly, be traced to the 
religious verse of the Middle Ages. Now and then, there 
turns up in Elizabethan poetry a piece written in obser- 
vance of some long-established custom, such as the sending 

1 A certain percentage of the similarities are, doubtless, to be 
ascribed to identity of theme. 


of New Year's verses. 1 The development of the drama 
affords ample evidence to the continuity which we seek to 
establish. Not only is the history of the English drama, 
as a form, the story of an evolution from mediaeval liter- 
ature, but also an analysis of the sources of the dramatists 
from John Hey wood on, reveals a direct and unmistakable 
influence of Chaucer. Most of the dramatists were also 
lyrists. Finally, there are to be found, in the sonnets 
themselves, motives characteristically mediaeval. Such 
are the device of a visit to the temple of Venus, 2 allegory, 3 
and the dream motive. 4 Constable in Diana, 6, attributes 
to his eyes the seven deadly sins treated at length in 
Gower's Confessio Amantis. 

The likelihood of a native influence on the sonnets gains 
a further increment of plausibility when the popularity of 
Chaucer in the Elizabethan age is considered. 5 It may 
safely be said that at no time in the history of English lit- 
erature have the merits of the Chaucerian School been 
more genuinely appreciated than during the 16th century. 
Editions of Chaucer's works appeared in 1526, 1532, 1542, 
circ. 1550, 1561, 1598 and 1602, an average of one every ten 
years. Francis Thynne's text of the Canterbury Tales 
(1532) remained the standard for two hundred and fifty 
years. Speght's Chaucer (1598) called forth Thynne's 
Animaduersions* an essay of textual criticism which sur- 

1 See, Ancient Critical Essays upon English Poets and Poesy, 
ed. Haslewood, London, 1815, II., p. 266. "A New Yeeres Gift to 
111 y old friend, " etc. Compare, FurnivalPs Poems from Lambeth 
Ms., 306, E. E. T. S., 1866, p. 38, and Herrick's Hesperides, 319 
(Pollard's Ed). 

2 C 13. 

3 A and S 18, C 10, Eka 2, Dl 28, Z 4, 5. 

4 Au 51, Cl 13, Dl 24, F 14, P. P., El. 10, Ode 2, Can*. 2. 

5 Lounsbury, Chap. VII. 

6 Animaduersions uppon the Annotacions aijd corrections of 
some imperfections of impressiones of Chaucer's workes [sett downe 
before tyme, and nowe] reprinted in the yere of oure lorde 1598. 
Sett downe by Francis Thynne. E. E. T. S. 


prises by its modern tone and is full of evidences of minute 
and patient study. The avidity of the Elizabethan appet- 
ite is further illustrated by the fact that it demanded two 
editions of Gower, one in 1532 and the second in 1554. 1 
Thus four editions of Chaucer and two editions of Gower 
appeared prior to the publication of Totters Miscellany. 
The works of these authors, therefore, were accessible to 
the sonneteers. Lydgate's Complaint of the Black Knight, 
published in Edinburgh as early as 1508, appeared with 
Chaucer's works in Thynne's edition of 1532. The Story 
of Thebes was printed repeatedly between 1561 and 1587, 
the Troy-Book in 1555, the Falls of Princes in 1554 and 
again in 1558. 2 

The esteem in which Chaucer was held by the Eliza- 
bethans is attested by the frequent mention of his name, 
coupled with expressions of appreciation and respect, by the 
critical writers of the day. Puttenham 3 calls him u the 
father of our English Poets "; to Gascoigne 4 he is u our 
father Chaucer " ; by Webbe 5 and Meres 6 he is deified and 
made " the god of English poets." Sidney 7 laments that 
( the age walks so stumblingly after him.' Churchyard, in 
his doggerel Praise of Poetrie* refers to him three times. 
Daniel in Musophihis mentions Chaucer as one 

Unto the sacred relics of whose rime, 
We yet are bound in zeal to offer praise. 

Spenser eulogizes Chaucer in the Shepherd } s Calendar 9 

1 Gower was not printed again until 1857. 

2 Lydgate's Complaint of the Black Knight, Inaugural-Disserta- 
tion von Emil Krausser, Halle, 1896. 

3 Arte of English Poesie, ed. Arber, p. 32. 

4 Certayne Notes of Instruction, ed. Arber, p. 34. 

* Discourse of English Poetrie, ed. Arber, p. 32. 
6 Palladis Tamia. 

I Apologie for Poetrie, ed. Arber, p. 62. 

* Reprinted in Censura Iviteraria, vols. III. and IV. 


under the name of Tityrus and declares that the fame of 
his skill in verse "doth dayly greater grow." Finally, not 
to prolong the list, Drayton extols Chaucer in his account 
of the English poets contained in an Epistle to Henry 

So much praise, by men most of whom were actively en- 
gaged in the composition of poetry, at once establishes a 
presumption in favor of Chaucerian influence on the 
Elizabethan lyric. It is a law of human nature that 
admiration begets imitation and the Elizabethan age was 
nothing if not innocently plagiaristic. In the case of 
Chaucer, however, we must expect to find it difficult to 
establish an influence by the cataloguing of parallel excerpts 
for two reasons, (a) Even in the 16th century, Chaucer's 
language was archaic and, therefore, not susceptible of 
direct quotation. Spenser, to be sure, borrowed largely 
from Chaucer's vocabulary, but even his powerful example 
failed to make the practice popular. Ben Jonson doubtless 
reflected current opinion when he observed that "Spenser, 
in affecting the ancients, writ no language." 1 Daniel, at 
least, was no friend to obsolete diction, for in sonnet 52 
of Delia he exclaims : 

Let others sing of knights and paladins, 

In aged accents and untimely words, 

Paint shadows in imaginary lines 

Which well the reach of their high wits records. 

Sidney, another sonneteer, says of the Shepherds Calen- 
dar: "The Sheapheards Kalendar, hath much Poetrie in his 
Eglogues; indeede worthy the reading if I be not deceiued. 
That same framing of his stile, in an old rustick language, 
I dare not alowe, sith neyther Theocritus in Greek, Virgill 
in Latin, nor Sanazar in Italian, did affect it." 2 

() The Elizabethans doubtless were put to less trouble 
to understand Chaucer's style and versification than the 

1 Jonson 's Discoveries, under Praedpiendi Modi. 

2 Apologie for Poetrie, ed. Arber, p. 62. 


readers of any subsequent period ; but in the critical essays 
of the day may be observed a tendency to patronize 
Chaucer and to treat his poetry as rude and unpolished. 
This attitude is an additional obstacle in the path of our 
inquiry since it means that borrowings from Chaucer, if 
any, already " modernized " in diction, would be so manip- 
ulated in phraseology and construction as to become un- 
recognizable. Beyond question the difficulty exists, though 
it would be unfair to assume that all Elizabethans were 
ignorant of the principles on which Chaucer's poetry is to 
be judged. Ascham's criticism of Chaucer's "barbarous 
and rude Ryming" 1 is not to be regarded as typical since 
Ascham wrote from the point of view of the extreme clas- 
sical school, the members of which, never anything more 
than a mere handful of misguided enthusiasts, wished to 
foist upon English a system of quantitative verse. Sidney 
says of Chaucer that " he had great wants," but he adds 
that "they are fitte to be forgiven in so reuerent an- 
tiquity." 2 Puttenham writes : ' * The Canterbury Tales were 
Chaucer s owne invention as I suppose, and where he 
sheweth more the naturall of his pleasant wit, then in any 
other of his workes, his similtudes, comparisons and all 
other descriptions are such as can not be amended. His 
meetre Heroicall of Troilus and Cresseid is very graue and 
stately, keeping the stafFe of seuen, and the verse of ten, 
his other verses of the Canterbury tales be but riding ryme, 
neuertheless very well becomming the matter of that 
pleasaunt pilgrimage in which euery mans part is playd 
with much decency." 3 Webbe: " Though the manner 
of hys stile may seem blunte and course to many fine 
English eares at these dayes, yet in truth, if it be equally 
pondered, and with good iudgement aduised, and con- 
firmed with the time wherein he wrote, a man shall per- 

1 Ascham's Scholemaster, ed. Arber, p. 145. 

2 Apologie for Poetrie, ed. Arber, p. 62. 

3 Arte of English Poesie, ed. Arber, p. 75. 


ceiue thereby euen a true picture or perfect shape of a 
right Poet." 1 Gascoigne : "Who so euer do peruse and 
well consider his workes, he shall finde that although his 
lines are not always of one selfe same number of Syllables, 
yet beyng redde by one that hath vnderstanding, the long- 
est verse and that which hath most Syllables in it, will fall 
(to the eare) correspondent vnto that whiche hath fewest 
sillablesinit." 2 

From these passages it appears that the merits of 
Chaucer's verse had to be explained in Elizabethan days 
much as they are now and that the difficulties experienced 
by a sonnet writer in utilizing Chaucerian sources would 
be [much the same as would be encountered by a more 
modern author. 

We need not expect, then, to find in the sonnets many 
passages that may be positively identified as borrowings 
from Chaucer though we may often be reminded of him by 
the coloring of the verse; but when Lodge in sonnet 
30 of Phillis writes as follows, we feel certain that he 
had in mind the opening lines of the Prologue to the Can- 
terbury Tales: 

I do compare unto thy youthly clear, 
Which always bides within thy flow'ring prime, 
The month of April, that bedews our clime 
With pleasant flowers, when as his showers appear. 

Before thy face shall fly false cruelty, 
Before his face the doly season fleets; 
Mild been his looks, thine eyes are full of sweets; 
Firm is his course, firm is thy loyalty, 

He paints the fields through liquid crystal showers, 
Thou paint'st my verse with Pallas' learned flowers; 
With Zephirus* sweet breath he Jills the plains, 
And thou my heart with weeping sighs that wring; 

His brows are dewed with morning's crystal spring, 

Thou mak'st my eyes with tears bemoan my pains. 

1 Discourse of English Poetrie, ed. Arber, p. 32. 

2 Certayne Notes of Instruction in English Verse, ed. Arber, p. 34. 


Again, in Troilus and Criseyde V. 638 ff. we read : 

sterre, of which I lost have al the light, 
With herte soor wel oughte I to bewaile 
That evere derk in torment night by night, 
Toward my deth with wind in stere I saile. 

The figure is adapted by Spenser in Amorctti, 87 : 

Since I have lackt the comfort of that light, 
The which was wont to lead my thoughts astray; 

1 wander as in darkenesse of the night, 
Affrayd of every dangers least dismay. x 

Phillis appeared in 1593 and the Amoretti in 1595. Both 
were composed when foreign influence had fully developed 
and when standards of style had been modified by imit- 
ation of continental forms. Naturally, Chaucerian influ- 
ence is more readily to be detected in the work of the poets 
who wrote during the experimental period which marked 
the emergence of the new literature from the old. The 
early school of " courtly makers n were much indebted to 
their English predecessors from Chaucer on. The extent 
of the obligation in the case of Wyatt and Surrey was made 
known long ago by Nott, in his monumental edition of the 
two poets. It is needless to repeat in detail the results of 
that careful study, but it will not be out of place to quote 
a single sonnet by Wyatt as an illustration in point : 

Ye that in loue fiude luck and swete abundance, 

And lyue in lust of ioyfull iolitie, 

Aryse for shame, do way your sluggardy: 

Arise I say, do May some obseruance: 

Let me in bed lye, dreamyng of mischance. 

Let me remember my missehappes vnhappy, 

That me betide in May most commonly: 

As one whom loue list little to aduance. 

Stephan said true, that my natiuitie 

Mischanced was with the ruler of May. 

He gest (I proue) of that the veritie. 

In May my wealth, and eke my wittes, I say, 

Haue stand so oft in such perplexitie. 

loye: let me dreame of your felicitie. 2 

1 Compare, Am 34, A and S 89. 

2 Tottel's Miscellany, ed. Arber, p. 36. See, also, Sir Thomas 
Wyatt and his Poems, W. K. Simonds, Boston 1889, pp. 133-134. 


The parallelisms are as follows : 
Troihis and Criseyde II. Ill : 

Do wey your book; ris up, and let us daunce, 
And let us don to May som observaunce. 

Troilus and Criseyde I. 517 ; 

Now, thanked God, he may go in the daunce 
Of hem that Love list feblely t'avaunce ! 

Hous of Fame II. 131 : 

Although thou maist go in the daunce 
With hem that him list not avaunce. 

Black Knight, 353 : 

And for al, that was he sete behynde 

With hem that Love liste fiebly to avauuce. 

Court of Love, 176 : 

For ye that reigne in yovth and lustynesse. 
Complaint imto Pitie, 39 : 

And fresshe Beautee, Lust and Jolitee. 

In a preceding paragraph we have quoted a passage from 
WakSQ^sEkatompathta which bears a marked resemblance 
to certain lines in Gower's Confessio A mantis. A like 
similarity exists between sonnet 29 of the Ekatom- 
pathia and the opening lines of the Doctors Tale. 

Doctor's Tale, 7 ff : 

Fair was this mayde in excellent beautee 
Aboven every wight that man may see; 
For Nature hath with sovereyn diligence 
Y-formed hire in so greet excellence, 
As though she wolde seyn, ' Lo, I, Nature, 
Thus kan I forme, and peynte a creature, 
Whan that me list, who kan me countrefete ? 
Pigmalion ? Noght, though he ay forge and bete 
Or grave, or peynte; for I dar wel seyn 
Apelles, Zanzis, sholde werche in veyn, 
Outher to grave, or peynte, or forge, or bete, 
If they presumed me to conntrefete.' 


Watson : 

Such is the Saint, whom I on earth adore, 

As neuer age shall know when this is past, 

Nor euer yet hath like byn scene before : 

Apelles yf he liu'd would stand agast 

With coulours to set downe her comely fare, 
Who farre excells though Venus were in place 

Praxiteles might likewise stand in doute 

In metall to expresse her forme arighte, 

Whose praise for shape is blowne the world throughout. 

In his gloss on this sonnet Watson mentions no author- 
ities. Whether or not he is indebted to Chaucer for the 
idea cannot be determined; but that he knew "the English 
Homer" is indicated by the annotation \x> Ekatoinpathia 5. 
This sonnet is a translation of Petrarch's in Vitv 88 already 
rendered into English by Chaucer and by Wyatt. Com- 
menting on his own version Watson says: u And it may 
be noted, that the Author in his first halfe verse of this 
translation varieth from that sense, which Chaucer vseth 
in translating the selfe same: which he doth vpon no other 
warrant then his owne simple priuate opinion, which yet 
he will not greatly stand vpon." This brief note in which 
the authority of Chaucer is so deferentially called in ques- 
tion is the only evidence of contact that the sequence 
affords, aside from inferences based upon such analogues 
as those quoted. 

In summary, we find that the Elizabethan amatory son- 
net sequences resemble Middle English verse, especially 
that of Chaucer and his school, in many details of treat, 
ment and content. The similarity may be explained on 
various theories; but in view of the popularity of Chaucer 
in the Elizabethan age and the admiration for his powers 
expressed by the Elizabethan critical writers, we are inclined 
to believe that the resemblances are due, in part at least, 
to imitation of his work. We find unmistakable evidence 
of Chaucerian influence in the sonnets of Wyatt, Surrey, 
Lodge and Spenser, and strong indications in that of Watson, 


That we do not find more is not remarkable, since Chaucer's 
diction was obsolete even in Elizabethan days and his style 
often regarded rude and unpolished. In conclusion, it is 
to be noted that the influence of Chaucer upon early Eliza- 
bethan verse was well recognized by contemporary critics. 
Ascham speaks of "some that make Chaucer in English and 
Petrarch in Italian, their Gods in verses." 1 In a dedicatory 
epistle to The preceptes of Warre set forth by James the 
Erie of Purhlia, and translated into English by Peter 
Buthamffaz. author writes : " I take them best English men 
which follow Chaucer, and other old writers in which study 
the nobles and gentlemen of England are worthy to be 
praised." Francis Thynne, 3 commenting on the spurious 
Plowman's Tale, remarks that it had been " supposed, but 
untrulye, to be made by olde Sir Thomas Wyat, father to 
hym which was executed in the firste yere of Queue Marye, 
and not by Chaucer. n Such a confusion in authorship is 
significant of the relations between the two poets. 




1 Scholi- 1 master ed. Arber p. 146. 

2 1544, Reprinted in Censura Iviteraria VII, 69 ff . 

3 Animaduersions, p. 7. 




From Solomon to Bartholomew Griffin is a far call, yet 
Griffin in his sonnet 37 of Fidessa employs the language 
of the Song of Songs. At the beginning of Chapter VI. of 
the Biblical idyll, the Hebrew maiden in answer to the 
question, u Whither is thy beloved gone ? " replies : "My 
beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, 
to feed in the gardens and to gather lilies. I am my be- 
loved's and my beloved is mine; he feedeth among the 
lilies." Thus the Hebrew; now the Elizabethan: 

Fair is my love that feeds among the lilies, 
The lilies growing in that pleasant garden 
Where Cupid's mount, that well beloved hill is, 
And where the little god himself is warden. 
See where my love sits in the beds of spices, 
Beset all round with camphor, myrrh and roses, 
And interlaced with curious devices 
Which her from all the world apart incloses. 



In Euphues 1 we read that "the Dog hauing surfetted to 
1 Euphues, ed. Arber, p. 61. 



procure his vomit te, eateth grasse and findeth remedy: 
the Hart being perced with the dart, runneth out of hand to 
the hearb Dictanum and is healed." The passage appears 
somewhat inelegant for sonnet purposes, yet Chloris 19 is, 
in part, a paraphrase of it : 

The Hound by eating grass doth find relief ; 
For, being sick it is his choicest meat, 
The wounded Hart doth ease his pain and grief ; 
If he, the herb Dictamion may eat. 

Watson mentions this magic herb in Ekatompathia 68 ; 

If't were like those, wherewith in Ida plaine 
The Crcelan hunter woundes the chased deere, 
I could with Dictame drawe it out again, 
And cure me so, that skarre should scarce appeare. 

In his gloss on the sonnet, Watson states his authority 
for these lines to be Stephanus Forcatidus and quotes the 
Latin verses containing the above figure. 

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