THE CAROLINE AGE
2.1 General Characteristics of the Age
2.1.2. Civil War
2.1.3 The Rise of Puritanism
2.1.4 Want of Vitality and Concreteness
2.1.5 Want of the Sprit of Unity
2.1.6 Dominance of Critical and Intellectual Spirit
2.1.7 Decay of Drama
2.2 Poetry of the Age
2.2.1 Characteristics of Milton‘s Poetry
2.3 The Metaphysical Poets
2.4 The Cavalier Poets
2.5 Prose of Caroline Age
2.6. Let‘s Sum up
2.0. OBJECTIVES After studying this unit the students will be familiar with the Caroline age, literary production of the age, and the major writers who contributed to develop the different genres of literature. This will also help the students to learn about the Puritan, Metaphysical and Cavalier poetry that were written during this span of time.
2.1 GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AGE
2.1.1 Introduction The Caroline age is named after Charles I (1625-1649). Caroline is an adjective of Carolus, the Latin word for Charles. The age of Caroline is an age of poetry of three kinds or schools: Metaphysical, Cavalier and Puritan schools of poetry. Let‘s see the characteristics of Caroline Age.
2.1.2. Civil War The entire period was marked by civil war, which divided the people into two factions: one loyal to the King and the other opposed to him. The crisis began when James I, who had reclaimed the right of royalty from an Act of Parliament. He gave too much importance to the Divine Right and began to ignore the Parliament. The Puritans, who had become a powerful force in the social life of the age, began the movement for social and constitutional reforms. The Puritans influenced the English middle classes during the reign of James I. It was not till the time of his successor that Puritanism emerged as a great national power. The hostilities which began in 1642, lasted till the banishment of Charles I in 1649. There was little political stability from 1649 to 1660. these turbulent years saw the establishment of the commonwealth under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. There was great confusion over his death. In 1660 the political chaos and instability ended with the restoration of King Charles to the throne of England.
2.1.3 The Rise of Puritanism The Puritan Movement may be regarded as a second and Renaissance, a rebirth of the moral nature of man following the first renaissance, intellectual awakening of Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Puritanism became a political as well as a moral and religious force. Puritanism had two chief objects: the first was personal righteousness; the second was civil liberty. In other words, it aimed to make men honest and to make them free. Hampden, Eliot, Milton, Hooker and Cromwell were some eminent puritans. From religious point of view Puritanism included all shades of belief. In course of time it ―became a great national movement. It included English Churchmen, separatists, Calvinists, Convenanters and Catholic noblemen. Puritanism exercised great influence upon the tone and temper of English life and thought. The spirit which it introduced was fine and noble, but it was hard and stern. During the Puritan role of Cromwell severe laws were passed. Simple pleasures were forbidden, theatres were closed. Puritanism destroyed human culture and sought to confine it within the circumscribed field of its own particular interests. It was fatal both to art and literature. Great literature could not be produced during this period. Milton was an exception. He was the greatest literary genius of this era. In his finest works he combines the moral and religious influences of Paritanism with the generous culture of the Renaissance.
2.1.4 Want of Vitality and Concreteness The literature of this period lacks vitality and concreteness. W.J. Long writes: ―Elizabethan literature generally is inspiring, it throbs with youth and hope and vitality. That which follows speaks of age and sadness; even its brightest hours are followed by gloom, and by the pessimism inseparable from the passing of old standard.‖
2.1.5 Want of the Spirit of Unity Despite diversity, the Elizabethan literature was marked by the spirit of unity, which resulted from intense patriotism and nationalism of all classes, and their devotion and loyalty to the Queen who had a single-minded mission to seek the nation‘s welfare. During this period James I and Charles II were hostile to the interests of the people. The country was divided by the struggle for political and religious liberty, and the literature was divided in spirit as were the struggling parties.
2.1.6 Dominance of Critical and Intellectual Spirit The critical and intellectual spirit dominates the literature of this period. W.J. Long writes: ―In the literature of the Puritan period one looks in vain for romantic ardour. Even in the lyrics and love poems a critical, intellectual spirit takes its place, and whatever romance assets itself is in form rather than in feeling, a fantastic and artificial adornment of speech rather than the natural utterance of a heart in which sentiment is so strong and true that poetry is its own expression.‖
2.1.7 Decay of Drama The influence of Puritanism was detrimental to the growth of drama. The closing of the theaters in 1642 gave a final jolt to the development of drama. The actual dramatic work of this period was small and insignificant.
2.2 POETRY OF THE AGE Milton represents the best of the Renaissance and the Puritanism. Though a Puritan, he was also a classicist and humanist. He delighted in everything that pleased his eyes. He was a passionate lover of beauty. He did not share the Puritan contempt for the stage. Nevertheless, he possessed the moral earnestness and the religious zeal of the Puritan.
Milton‘s early poems – On the Morning of Christ‘s Nativity, L‘Allegra and II Penseroso exhibit all that was best in Elizabethan literature. Comus expresses Puritanic moral zeal in the Renaissance form of mask. Lycidas is a pastoral elegy which is suffused with the moral zeal of the Puritants. Arcades is a mosque. His well known sonnets of this period are On His Deceased Wife, To the Nightingale, The Massacre in Piedmont and On His Blindness. Milton wrote his finest poetry when he became totally blind. Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes were written during this period.
2.2.1 Characteristics of Milton’s Poetry: Milton was the greatest poet after Shakespeare. In his writing he has blended a wonderful union of intellectual power and creative power. He is also a consummate literary artist, whose touch is as sure in delicate detail as in vast general effects. Milton was a superb poetic artist. His poetry is remarkable for the following characteristics:
i) Sublimity: Milton had a noble conception of a poet‘s vocation. To him poetry was not a mere intellectual exercise or diversion. It was something solemn, sacred and sublime. He pursued this ideal of poetry all through his life. Milton‘s poetry is sublime and majestic. It is the expression of a pure mind and noble mind, enriched by knowledge and disciplined by art. His poetry ennobles and elevates the readers.
ii) Love of Beauty: Milton was possessed of a deep sense of beauty. He loved beauty in all its manifestations. His love for the external beauty of nature is exhibited in L‘Allegro, II Penseroso and Lycidas. The beauty of virtue attracted him. It found its earliest artistic expression in Comus. His last three works – Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes express his love for beauty and righteousness in a highly poetic manner.
iii) Puritanism: There is also a powerful undercurrent of Puritanism in Milton‘s poetry. There is a nothing distinctly Puritan in his early poetry. It finds its earliest expression in Comus and Lycidas. In his later poetry the Puritan note is dominant, but it is always mild and subdued. The puritan and religious tendency in his later is seen in the choice of subjects, which are taken from the Bible. The aim of Paradise Lost is ―to justify the ways of God to men.‖ Paradise Regained portrays Christ‘s resistance to Satan‘s temptations and his victory over them. The theme of Samson Agonistes is also Biblical and is imbued with moral earnestness.
iv) Classicism: Milton was also a classicist. He was a keen student of ancient classics. His foundness for classicism is found is his choice for classical and semi-classical forms – epic (Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained‖), the Greek tragedy (Samson Agonistes), the pastoral elegy (Lycidas), and the Ode (Ode on the Nativity of Christ). He designed his style on classical model. It is noble and sublime. He was fond of classical allusions. His diction is abundantly classical and his two epics are full of eloquent descriptions and enormous similes which remind us of ancient epics of Greece and Rome.
v) Flawless Poetic Art: Milton was a flawless poetic artist. Whatever he has written is remarkable for the excellence of artistic workmanship. Edward Albert writes : ―As a poet Milton is not a great innovator; his function is rather to refine and make perfect. Every form he touches acquires a finality of grace and dignity. To Milton the art of poetry is ―a high and grave thing, a thing of the choicest discipline of phrase, the fine craftsmanship of a structure, the most nobly ordered music of sound.‖ As a poetic artist Milton was never careless. There is hardly a line in his poetic work, which is unpoetical – hardly a word which is superfluous.
vi) Milton’s Style: Milton‘s style is the highly distinguished style in English poetry. His mind was ―nourished upon the best thoughts and finest works of all ages.‖ His language, says Pattison, was of one ―who lives in the companionship of the great and the wise of the past time.‖ In his poetic style we inevitably find the imprint of a cultured mind, a lofty soul and an artistic conscience. Matthew Arnold remarked : ―In the sure and flawless perfection of his rhythm and diction, he is as admirable as Virgil or Dante, and in this respect he is unique amongst us. No one else in English literature possesses the like distinction… Shakespeare is divinely strong, rich and attractive. But sureness of perfect style, Shakespeare himself does not possess. Milton from one of end of Paradise Lost to the other, is in his distinction and rhythm constantly a great artist in the great style.‖ Above all, there is certain loftiness about the style of Milton which is found alike in his Ode to Nativity and Paradise Lost.
Milton‘s style, says Raleigh, is not a loose flowing garment but is tightly fitted to the thought. He packs his meaning in the fewest possible words and in the most musical language. His is the grand style. ―Of all the English styles‖, says Raleigh, ―Milton‘s is best entitled to the name of classic.‖ It is noticeable for compactness, force and the unity of emotional impression, which are the distinctive characteristics of true classical style. 38
Milton was a conscientious artist and weighed every word he used for its meaning, weight and sound.
vii) Milton’s Versification: Tennyson called Milton ―God – gifted organ voice of England‖ and ―mighty – mouthed inventor of harmonies.‖ His entire poetry is marked by a unique musical quality. As a versifier, Milton reformed the loose dramatic blank verse of Elizabethan dramatists and made it a worthy epic metre. W.H. Hudson writes: ―His bank verse in particular deserves the closest study. Though this form, as we now know, had long been used in the drama, it had not thus far been adopted for any non-dramatic poem. Milton was therefore making an experiment when he took as the measure of Paradise Lost ―English heroic verse without rime.‖ Of this measure he remains our greatest master.‖
2.3 THE METAPHYSICAL POETS Taking a hint from Dryden‘s phrase about Donne, ―He affects the Metaphysics‖, Dr Johnson called him and his followers the Metaphysical poets. For both in their thought and expression they are startlingly different from their predecessors, being fond rather of the subtle than the plain, of what lay beneath than on the surface. A new kind of poetry, known as the metaphysical poetry, began with John Donne. It is characterized by much genuine poetic feeling, harsh metres, and those strained and whimsical images and turns of speech, which are called conceits. Let‘s see the major poets of Metaphysical School in a nutshell: Donne‘s works include Satires, Songs and Sonnets and Elegies. His poetry is classified into three categories – amorous, religious and satirical. His poetry reveals ―a depth of philosophy, a subtlety of reasoning, a blend of thought and devotion, a mingling of the homely and the sublime, the light and the serious, which make it full of variety and surprise.‖ Donne‘s poetry bears the stamp of his scholarship. His images are far-fetched, obscure, unusual and striking. George Herbert is the most widely read of all the metaphysical poets. His poems were published posthumously. His poetry is distinguished by clearness of expression, concrete imagery and intelligible conceits. He preferred simple, homely, racy language and naturalness of expression. His poetry is sensitive to the most delicate changes of feeling.
Richard Crawshaw was both secular and religious in his poetry. His best work is Steps to the Temple (1646). His poetry is
noticeable for striking but fantastic conceits, for its religious fire and fervour. It is emotional rather than thoughtful. Henry Vaughan was at heart a mystic. His books include Poems, Olor Iscanus, Silex Scintillans and Thalia Rediviva. He had a considerable gift for fantasy. Edward Albert writes : ―His regard for nature, moreover, has a closeness and penetration that sometimes suggest Wordsworth.‖ Abraham Cowley distinguished himself as a classical scholar. His well-known poems are The Mistress, The Davideis and the Pindaric Odes. He is important as a transitional poet of this period. He was the last of the metaphysical poets and in many respects he foreshadows the English classicists. With all his priety, his fantasy, his conceits and his Pindarism, Cowley is, first of all, an intellectual. His lyrics are often sweet and graceful. The following are their chief characteristics of Metaphysical Poetry:
I. Fantastic Conceits: Their poetry is seldom and an expression of what has been expressed by earlier poets. It abounds rather in thoughts brought from ―afar‖, from the innermost recesses of their own mind. Donne, thus, speaks of the wreath of his mistress‘s hair capable of holding his decaying body together in the grave as his soul did in life, calling it therefore his soul in death.
II. Treatment of the Inwards: The Metaphysicals deal not so much with the outward world—man, nature, and human life— as with what passed in their own mind. The Elizabethan, even when personal, dealt with what was but common experience. But the Metaphysicals lived in the world of their own fancy and speak of that only. This makes their thought novel and startling. As a child, Vaughan says in The Retreat, he had glimpses of his prenatal existence to which he longs to go:
Some men a forward motion love, But I by backward steps would move.
III. Far-Fetched Images: The images suggested by Metaphysical poetry are often strange. They are usually the product of unnatural combinations of dissimilar objects and ideas. There is no obvious connection between love and geographical zone. But Carew compares the warmth of love
to the Torrid Zone, its lack to the Frigid Zone, and its normal proportion to the temperature zone.
IV. Monstrous Hyperboles: Metaphysical poetry abounds in hyperboles that not only could not be credited but could not be imagined. In Sweetest Love, I Do not Go, Donne‘s mistress sighs, she exhales not breath but soul; and when she weeps, she sheds not tears but his blood.
V. Obscurity: For all foregoing reasons metaphysical poetry is not easily intelligible, comprehensible and understandable. T. S. Eliot says that in trying to find words for their subtle thoughts and feelings, the Metaphysicals fail to carry the readers along with them.
VI. Learning: Dr Johnson says that Metaphysicals were men of learning that is an advantage to any poet but sometimes the reader is completely mystified in search of meaning.
These are the major characteristic features of Metaphysical poetry.
2.4 THE CAVALIER POETS Cavalier poets, a group of English poets associated with Charles I and his exiled son. Most of their work was done between 1637 and 1660. Their poetry embodied the life and culture of upper-class, pre-Commonwealth England. They mixed sophistication with naïveté, elegance with raciness. Writing on the courtly themes of beauty, love, and loyalty, they produced finely finished verses and expressed with wit and directness. The poetry reveals their indebtedness to both Ben Jonson and John Donne. The leading Cavalier poets were Robert Herrick, Richard Lovelace, Sir John Suckling, and Thomas Carew. Cavalier Poetry is an early seventeenth century movement centered mainly on Robert Herrick, Thomas Carew, John Suckling, Richard Lovelace, and Carew. Most of these poets were admirers of Ben Jonson. Cavalier Poetry gets its name from the supporters of King Charles I in the seventeenth century who were at that period called the Cavaliers. They were royalists during the Civil Wars. Cavalier Poetry is different from metaphysical poetry since it does not use complicated metaphors and unrealistic imagery, but prefers a rather straightforward expression. This poetry was erotic and its strength lied in its shortness. Simply, it did not confuse readers with deep meaning and allegory but reflected every thought as they were supposed to be understood along with their motto "Carpe Diem" meaning "seize the day".
The most common characteristic of Cavalier Poetry is its use of direct language which expresses a highly individualistic personality. In more detail, the Cavaliers, while writing, accept the ideal of the Renaissance Gentleman who is at once a lover, a soldier, witty, a man of affairs, a musician, and a poet, but abandon the notion of his being also a pattern of Christian chivalry. They avoid the subject of religion, apart from making one or two graceful speeches. They attempt no plumbing of the depths of the soul. They treat life cavalierly, indeed, and sometimes they treat poetic convention cavalierly too. In short their features can be succinctly given in the following points:
I. Generally they were intended to entertain rather than instruct.
II. They were influenced by John Donne for his elaborate conceits and meditative tone and influenced by Ben Jonson for his admiration for ancient Greek and Roman poetry.
III. Their style features conversational style based on natural speech patterns.
IV. Classical Influence was exercised on these poets in terms of regular rhythmic patterns, carefully structured stanzas and simple but elegant language
V. Theme of love was popular in their compositions. The love expressed was characterized by idealized love, addressed to imaginary women with classical names, sarcastic commentaries on the pursuit of coy beauties, mistress no longer goddess but woman spoken to and poem more important to poet than woman.
VI. Their writing owes something to both styles. They used direct and colloquial language expressive of highly individual personality. They enjoyed the casual, the amateur and the affectionate poem. They did not write religious poetry, nor do they explore the depth of the soul. And finally, they celebrate minor pleasures and sadness of life.
The Cavalier poetry no longer remains on the domain of English literature. They soon disappear from the scene of poetry. Though they flourished during reign of Charles I, they were disgraced when Puritan leader, Oliver Cromwell, became leader. Some fled London; others arrested or imprisoned; while only Herrick lived to see restoration of Monarchy. Now, let‘s introduce these poets and their contribution to the development of Cavalier Poetry as follows: 42
I. Thomas Carew (1595?–1639?): Carew was one of the Cavalier poets. He was educated at Merton College, Oxford. He had a short diplomatic career on the Continent, then returned to England and became a favourite of Charles I and a court official.
II. He is best know for his courtly, amorous lyrics, such as ―Ask me no more where Jove bestows‖ and ―He that loves a rosy cheek,‖ but of equal importance are his ―Elegy on the Death of Dr. Donne,‖ and the highly erotic poem, ―A Rapture.‖ In his use of metaphysical and classical material, he shows the influence of both John Donne and Ben Jonson.
Thomas Carew shows great lyrical talent in Poems. His style and verification are so polished and refined that he anticipates the neo-classical poetry. He is neither obscure nor uncouth.
III. Richard Lovelace (1618–1657?: He is another the English Cavalier poet. He was the son of a Kentish knight and was educated at Oxford. In 1642. He was briefly imprisoned for having presented to Parliament a petition for the restoration of the bishops. An ardent royalist, he served with the French army during the English civil war. On his return to England in 1648, he was imprisoned by the Commonwealth. His royalist sympathies lost him his entire fortune, and he died in extreme poverty. He is remembered almost solely for two extremely graceful, melodic, and much-quoted lyrics, ―To Althea, from Prison‖ and ―To Lucasta, Going to the Wars.‖ The first volume of his poems, Lucasta: Epodes, Odes, Sonnets, Songs, &c., appeared in 1649; the companion volume, Lucasta: Posthume Poems, in 1660.
IV. Robert Herrick: In August 1591 Robert Herrick was the seventh child and fourth son born to a London goldsmith, Nicholas, and his wife, Julian Stone Herrick. When Herrick was fourteen months old, his father died. At age 16, Herrick began a ten-year apprenticeship with his uncle. The apprenticeship ended after only six years, and Herrick, at age twenty-two, matriculated at Saint John's College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1617. Over the next decade, Herrick became a disciple of Ben Jonson, about whom he wrote five poems. In 1623 Herrick took holy orders, and six years later, he became vicar of Dean Prior in Devonshire. His post carried a term for a total of thirty-one years, but during the Great Rebellion in 1647, he was removed from his position because of his Royalist sympathies. Following the restoration of Charles II, Herrick was reinstated at Dean
Prior where he resided from 1662 until his death in October 1674. He never married, and many of the women mentioned in his poems are thought to have been fictional.
His principal work is Hesperides; or, the Works Both Human and Divine of Robert Herrick, Esq. (1648). A group of religious poems printed in 1647 appear within the same book under a separate title page bearing the name His Noble Numbers. The entire collection contains more than 1200 short poems, ranging in form from epistles and eclogues to epigrams and love poems. Herrick was influenced by classical Roman poetry and wrote on pastoral themes, dealing mostly with English country life and village customs.
V. John Suckling: He is a cavalier poet and playwright best known for his lyrics. He wrote four plays including Aglaura which had two fifth acts, one tragic and one with a happy outcome and a comedy. The Goblins (1638) was much influenced by Shakespeare's Tempest and generally thought to be his best. His chief works are included in Fragmenta Aurea including his best known lyrics 'A Ballad Upon a Wedding' and 'Why so Pale and Wan, Fond Lover?'. He also wrote a satire A Session of the Poets (1637), a send-up of contemporary poets.
VI. Andrew Marwell combined Renaissance sensuousness and humanism with Puritanism in his poems. His poems deal with the theme of nature as in Garden and Upon the Hill; love as in The Gallery, To His Coy Mistress; and patriotism as in Cromwell‘s Return from Ireland.
2.5 PROSE OF CAROLINE AGE
The development of prose was copious and excellent in kind. Jeremy Taylor, the most prominent literary divine of this period, is remembered for his collection of sermons, known as The Liberty of Prophesying, Holy Living and Holy Dying. These are fine specimens of religious prose. The Puritan Richard Baxter wrote The Saint‘s Everlasting Rest which is purely religious is matter and aim. Thomas Fuller, another divine, wrote much on religious subjects. His most memorable work is Worthies of England.
Sir Thomas Browne, a physician, wrote Vulgar Errors, Hydriotaphia or Urn Burial and Religio Medict. Religio Medict, his finest work, is an excellent prose companion to the metaphysical 44verse of the age. His writings are collections of independent papers. He is personal and intimate. Browne‘s style in pedantic, ornate and strongly Latinised. His style is a model for musical prose. Milton wrote most of his prose during the middle period of his life when he was busy with public affairs. He wrote a number of pamphlets on various topics of public interest. Aeropagitica, a great and impassioned treatise on the freedom of the press, is his finest prose work. Owen Feltham wrote Resolves: Divine, Moral, Political. These are essays which show Bacon‘s influence. William Drummond made the first conscious and sustained effort in English to write political prose in a Cypress Grave. Abraham Cowley cultivated a form of essay more intimate and confidential, though less profound, weighty and philosophical than the Baconian. As a writer his output consists of some discourses and prefaces. His essays are remarkable for intimacy and sincere self – revelation. His essay Of Myself is the finest of his compositions. James Howell is the forerunner of Queen Anne essayists. His prose has no poetic quality. It is intellectual, simple, familiar and essay. Howell‘s Epistolae Hoe is a collection of familiar letters, domestic and foreign, partly historical, political and philosophical. He anticipated the periodical essay.
2.6. LET’S SUM UP
In this unit we have seen what Caroline Age is, its general features characterised by civil war, rise of Puritanism, lack of spirit of unity, dominance of intellectual spirit and decline of drama. We studied the poetry of the age including Puritan Poetry, Metaphysical Poetry and Cavalier poetry along with their features and major poets. This section of the unit studies Puritan poetry and Milton as a puritan poet extensively; Metaphysical school of poetry thoroughly and Cavalier poetry in its entirety. The last portion of the unit is devoted to the prose of Caroline age especially the prose writers and their contribution to its development.