ELIZABETHAN LONG NARRATIVE POETRY (SPECIAL REFERENCE WITH EROTIC POETRY)
The spirit of Renaissance is distinctly noticeable in the long narrative poetry of Elizabethan Poetry. It is also interesting to note that Italian erotic poetry exercised a great influence on literature and, therefore, side by side high moral poetry, licentious poems were written to satisfy the taste of the readers. Among the long narrative poetry mention may be made of-
a) A Mirror for Magistrates:
* It is a collection of verse narratives written by different pets on the various tales of misfortune and wickedness from the very remote past of Albanact (B.C. 1085) to the time of Queen Elizabeth.
* The work is probably inspired by Boccaccio’s ‘De Casibus Virorum’ and it is thought that the work is a continuation of Lydgate’s ‘Falls of the Princes’.
* The work was published in various editions between 1555 and 1610. In 1555 it was published with seven verse stories and later in 1559 it published the instability of fortune and punishment of Vice in nineteen historical tales from the century between Richard II’s reign and Edward IV’s (1377-1483). In the next edition in 1563 eight other tales were included and the most remarkable name in this edition was Thomas Sackville. His ‘complaint of Henry, Duke of Buckingham’ and ‘Induction’ were included. The other poets are – Baldwin, George Ferres, and Thomas Phaer etc.
* It is a didactic work with an ethical and cautionary purpose. It provides a mirror for the rulers and suggests the moral how the kings and governors would rule.
Hero and Leander (EROTIC POEM):
* Marlowe takes the material from the poem of Musaeus, a Greek Grammarian of the 5th century. Marlowe leaves the poem in unfinished condition, later finished by George Chapman.
* It deals with a romantic love between Hero, a young beautiful priestess of the Goddesses of love (Aphrodite) and Leander. Hero lives on the Northern shore of the Hellespont (the Sea) whereas Leander on the Southern shore. Leander used to swim across the sea to meet with Hero as she signals him with a light on the top of the tower. One stormy night the light extinguishes and Hero while crossing the sea is drowned. Hero also commits suicide by drowning herself.
* By virtue of his poetic quality Marlowe presents this love story to appear not as a mere translation but a poem beautifully fused with the wealth of imagination and vigorous energy of Language.
To Legouis- “He respected neither the purity of the legend nor the character of the young lovers ennobled by courage, trial and death in Musaeus the consummation of the love Hero and Leander is simple and natural. Although there is no nuptial rite, there is no sin. But in Marlowe, the atheist and libertine, the idea of sin does not spring from piety, but is present because he uses his poem to run counter to the beliefs of his time and because it amuses him to defy the moral sense of those about him.”
Venus and Adonis (EROTIC POEM):
* Shakespeare dedicates this poem to his young patron Earl of Southampton.
* The story is taken from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’.
* It tells the story of Venus who tries to woo a beautiful Greek youth Adonis who disdains her love. Venus warns him not to go to hunt but Adonis goes to the hunt and is slain by a boar and finally is turned into a violet.
* The poem is remarkable for the amorousness of Venus and for her lustful gestures and words.
* To quote Legouis- “Shakespeare eliminates nearly all the mythology. A powerful instinct impels him towards reality. His goddess is a woman skilled at love-making and ravaged by passion, and in Adonis we already have the young sport-loving Englishman, annoyed and fretted by the enticements of a beautiful amorous courtesan whose sensuality is unbounded and who retains no prestige of divinity.”
The Rape of Lucrece (EROTIC POEM):
* Shakespeare dedicated this poem, written in royal-rhyme to his young patron Earl of Southampton.
* The poem is based upon the story of Lucretia, told by Livy and Ovid in Latin and by Chaucer.
* The poem tells the rape of a chaste wife (Lucrece) by Tarquin, the younger, the son of Tarquin the Proud, the king of Rome in the 6th century B.C. At first he wants to seduce her but when he fails one night he stealthily enters into her bed chamber and rapes her. Lucrece laments over the loss of her chastity and finally kills herself.
* The poem has some defects – the longer boring speeches, the endless plaints that make the reader irritating. But the poem shows the gradual maturity of Shakespeare as an artist.
* Regarding its erotic character Legouis puts- “In the portrait of Lucrece, asleep upon her bed as Tarquin draws her curtains, poetry and bad taste are inextricably mixed.”