« IndietroContinua »
This book includes most of the poems contained in the earlier edition of Lyrics from Elizabethan Dramatists (1889). Poems of Robert Greene and Thomas Lodge are added from Lyrics from Elizabethan Romances (1890).
169, New Bond Street, London, W.
22nd September, 1891.
'HE scattered lyrical poetry of the Elizabethan age is as voluminous as it is excellent.
I attempted to collect a portion of it in an anthology entitled Lyrics from Elizabethan Song-books ; and I now add another chapter to the story. It is only by a patient and minute examination that we gradually become aware of the extent and wealth of this fruitful tract of English literature; if we advance too rapidly our survey must needs be defective. In the present volume' I have gathered together the lyrics dispersed among the plays masques,
of the Elizabethan age, allowing myself the usual privilege of construing the word “ Elizabethan” in an elastic sense, so as to include all who “trafficked with the stage” in the days of James I. and Charles I.
Adopting chronological order, I begin with our
The ground had been traversed before by the late Robert Bell in his Songs from the Dramatists. My predecessor's labour covered a wider area than mine, Sheridan being the last name in his anthology. My collection, within the limits that I have prescribed to myself, is somewhat fuller than Bell's.
earliest regular comedy, Ralph Roister Doister; the Interlude called Lusty Juventus, and Gammer Gurton's Needle. Then comes John Lyly, who plentifully garnished his comedies with songs, while he never struck a lyrical note in his romance, Euphues. We are indebted to Edward Blount, the enterprising publisher who in 1632 issued a collective edition of Lyly's plays, for the preservation of these songs. They were not included in the original editions of the plays. In those days publishers frequently omitted songs when they put plays to press. Marston's plays, for instance, have come down without any of the songs, though the stage-directions show that songs were provided in abundance. There is in Lyly's songs a fairy lightness that presents a most refreshing contrast to the pedantic finery of Euphues. Where shall we find a conceit more neatly turned than in those delightful verses, frequently imitated but never equalled, “Cupid and my Campaspe played "? It must be remembered that Lyly's songs were written at a time when our English lyrists were doubtfully feeling their way. Lodge and Breton frequently relapse into the tedious long
1 Yet I can hardly believe that these lost songs were by Marston, and suspect that the players had to procure them from some other quarter. Where plays were represented by companies of boy-actors (as in the case of Lyly and Marston) songs were usually introduced, for the boys had been carefully trained in singing, and opportunities had to be afforded to them of displaying their accomplishment.