English Literature

A History Of Elizabethan Literature by George Saintsbury

By George Saintsbury

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BarnabeGooge, a Lincolnshire man, and a member of both universities, appearsto have been born in 1540, wasemployedin Ireland, and died in 1594. He was kin to the Cecils,and Mr. He, too, wasan indefatigable translator, andwrotesomeoriginalpoems. Bothpoetsaffected thecombination of Alexandrine andfourteener TURBERVILLE 19 (split up or not, as the printer chose,into six, six, eight, six), the popularity of which has been noted, and both succumbed too often to its capacitiesof doggerel. :" The green that you did wish me wear Aye for your love, And on my helm a branch to bear Not to remove, Was ever you to have in mind Whom Cupid hrUh my fuire assigned.

The translators, such as North, whose famous version of Plutarch after Amyot had the immortal honour of suggesting not a little of Shakespere'sgreatest work, had the chief excuseand temptationin doing this; but all writers did it more or less: the theologians(to whom it would no doubt have been " more easier" to write in Latin), the historians(though the little known Holinshed has broken off into a much more vernacular but also much more disorderly style), the rare geographers(of whom the chief is Richard Eden, the first English writer on America), and the rest.

It never occurred to them that English left to itself could equal Greek or Latin. They simply endeavoured, with the utmost pains and skill, to drag English up to the samelevel as these unapproachablelanguagesby forcing it into the same moulds which Greek and Latin had endured. Properly speaking we ought not to laugh at them. They were carrying out in literature what the older books of arithmetic call " The Rule of False,"-that is to say, they were trying what the English tongue could not bear. No one was so successfulas Stanyhurst in applying this test of the rack: yet it is fair to say that Harvey and Webbe, nay, Spenser and Sidney, had practically, though, except in Spenser'scase, it would appear unconsciously, arrived at the same conclusion before.

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