Elizabethan Literature .
. THE study of literature, it has been said, is a form of travel; it enables us to move about freely among the minds of other races. But it enables us also to move about freely in time, so that we may become familiar not only with the minds of other races, but with the minds of other epochs in the history of our own, as well as of the other races. "The literature of a nation," says Professor Hudson, "is not a miscellaneous collection of. books which happen to have been written in the same tongue or within a certain geographical area. It is the progressive revelation, age by age, of that nation's mind and character." Th.\! history of any nation's literature is, then, the record of the unfolding of the peculiar genius or spirit of that nation, and is supplementary to its history and a commentary upon it. And so in order to understand and appreciate the literature of a people or of an epoch, we need to know something of the life behind it, by which it is fed. How else can we understand the growth and decay of literary tastes and fashions, the formation of new schools, the changes in critical tastes and standards, the decay of some forms of literary expression, such as the old chronicles or medireval romances, and the appearance of new forms, as seen in the growth of the novel? For an explanation of all this we must try to see the motive forces at work, outside its literature, in the life of the society which produced that literature. LITERATURE AND, ITS OWN AGE.
The same society produced "The Fairy Queen," "Paradise Lost," "The Rape of the Lock," "The Deserted Village," "In Memoriam," " The Absent-Minded Beggar," and Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier." But the epoch which produced "The Fairy Queen" could obviously not have produced" In Memoriam," and the spirit of the hour, as well as the personality of the writer, differentiates the poetry of Rupert Brooke froi:n that of Kipling. . Within an epoch, for example in the Elizabethan age or in the Victorian, there may be a rich variety of modes of .expression, poets, playwrights, philosophers, story-tellers all crowding the stage at the same time. But within each epoch, the writers, despite their individual differences, stand together as a group, in contrast with the groups of writers of any other epoch, 21
The Baptist Quarterly
and show distinctive qualities of theme, manner, spirit and treatment, so that the literature of -one epoch is marked' off from that of any other by certain distinct and distinguishing characteristics. The writer, like every other man, is the citizen of his age, and as Renan said, belongs to his century and race. We have to remember, also, in studying the literature of any given epoch, that the age in question grew out of that which preceded it; and that its own spirit and ideals were never fixed or settled, but were in a continuous state of transformation. THE BIRTH
The period of English literature loosely called" Elizabethan," related as it is to the medirevalism which preceded it, and leading to the classic or Augustan age which followed it, has as real a unity as the age of Pericles or' that of Petrarch and Boccaccio; and it stands out clearly from every other period in English literature, richly productive of works of every kind; like a garden in a favourable season, producing many flowers of such outstanding growth and beauty that they attract every eye, but in which there are also many smaller blossoms, with a charm and beauty of their own, but which, for the very reason of their profusion, tend to pass unnoticed. And this rich flowering grew quite naturally out of the life of England, and was an expression of the soul and spirit of the age in which it appeared. At no period of English history has the national feeling been more deeply roused, the national spirit more bUoyant and confident than during the second half of the reign of Elizabeth; and this elation and enthusiasm...
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