Humanism, Spencer, Metaphysical Poets



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Humanism or New Learning is a literary form born as a consequence of the new geographical discoveries. Humanism is a revival of interest in classical culture; it was spread through Italy by geek refugees and from here to other countries.
Humanist focused attention on man rather than god, they taught that love of this world is preferable to longing for the next, and emphasized individualism
In Italy Renaissance has a more serene and pagan appearance(it reproposed study of Plato, supported freedom of though and emphasized human dimension of man) , while in England was more meditative and less brilliant then in Italy: it looks at individualism more as a form of responsibility than of enjoyment, and tried to reconcile the pagan spirit of Italian Humanism with that of Christianity. Obstacle to its development was the attitude of certain ruler

Edmund Spencer was born in London in 1552, educated in Cambrige (he studied Tasso and Ariosto). After University he was introduced to court life and ha become the secretary to Lord Grey . HE spent the rest of his life in Ireland.
He wrote works autobiographical, in prose, love sonnets, a marriage song, a series of twelve eclogues.

The Faerie Queen is Spencer's masterpiece. It was meant to be in 12 books, but only 6 were published.
Each one of this deal with the adventures of a knight embodying a particular moral virtue [Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, Justice and Courtesy]. The chief of the knights is Prince Arthur. He's the ideal gentlemen, he's a rescuer at some critical point in each book. In the end he will marry Gloriana, the queen of faeries who represented queen Elizabeth.

Ariosto influenced Spencer the most, even though Orlando Furioso is full of gaiety and vigour, it describes human adventures, poetry fluent and natural and fantasy and allegory coexist with realism. The faerie queen is more languid and romantic, set in a fantastic world, its poetry is more artificial and its allegory is too religious and moralistic.
To Ariosto's 8 lines of iambic pentameters, Spencer added an iambic hexameter or 12-syllable Alexandrine.
So the result was a 9 line stanza rhyming ababbcbcc, and it was to become one of the most important measures in English poetry.

Spencer was interest to the new world. Most of Spencer's works contain various metaphors connected to sea-life and references to American reality. Even the Faerie queen presents some parallels with expedition to America. For example the shipwreck of the "Goodly Ship" echoes the shipwreck of the Delight; the bower bliss is described like paradise on ground echoing the definition of Virginia's report; indians, wild mand and cannibals=primitive American communities.

With the accession of James I to the throne, tension and contrddiction increased. Poetry become more meditative and intellectual. The poets that best represented this new poetry were the Metaphysical Poets (non-sense poetry).
Metaphysical in general means concerning to the fondamental nature of the universe and men's function or places.
For Samuel Johnson "metaphysical" meant "abstruse" and "incongruous". He thought that they were trying to show off, wished at any cost to be original and striking, filled their poems with enormous and disgusting hyperboles, privileged ingenuity and they were too analytic and fragmentary. Poetry full of metaphors, paradoxes and conceits. Only in the 20th century these poets were fully appreciated.

John Donne invented witty elabortion.
WIT: poet was expected to be a man of wit, displaying not only his sensitivity but also his knowledge and cleverness.
Wit was the ability to make up unusual metaphors and images and arrangements in a unexpected way so as to surprise the reader.
The repeated combination of this metaphysical elements with that particular type or metaphore ossimale called CONCEIT.