Guide Literature and Religious Culture in Seventeenth-Century England

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In the decades that followed, emblems appeared throughout Europe on many elements of material culture.

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Artists inserted them into fresco cycles, or they became popular symbols incised onto jewelry. Sometimes they were even reproduced on dinnerware, so that cultivated, humanistically educated men and women might decode their meanings between the courses at banquets. Even as they grew more popular, though, the sensibilities that surrounded their consumption underwent changes—changes that were, in part, sponsored by St. Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises and other sixteenth-century works that advocated a thorough and disciplined contemplation on visual stimuli in the "mind's eye" to enhance one's personal meditations.

Emblems, once the preserve of a cultivated society anxious to demonstrate its knowledge of iconography and literary traditions, now came to circulate in books that were prized by devout Catholics, Puritans, and Anglicans alike as an aid to religious devotion. In books of emblems the emblem itself now came to be represented with three components: a motto that encapsulated the emblem's meaning, a symbolic picture that represented it, and a poem that commented upon its deeper significances.

Works like these were self-consciously difficult, and they called upon the viewer's senses to decode the hidden underlying meanings that lay in the emblem's symbolic language. They both required and rewarded those who used their wits and erudition to unlock their many encoded significances. This same highly visual and symbolic sense is to be found in the difficult poems of Donne and his friend, George Herbert, and it also played a role in Herbert's admirers, Richard Crashaw and Henry Vaughan. While the concerns of these so-called "metaphysical poets" differed, and their style was extremely varied, there were thus certain common links in their works that were rooted in the devotional climate of their age.

Different sensibilities of style and content can be seen in a second, albeit equally artificial group of poets from the early Stuart period who have by long tradition been identified as the Cavaliers. Generally, this term was applied to all those who supported Charles I during the Civil Wars of the s. The first three of these figures were courtiers in Charles I's circle, and did not live to see the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II. Edmund Waller and Robert Herrick , by contrast, lived through the Civil Wars and came to see their fortunes rise again during the Restoration.

Thomas Carew , the elder statesman of the group, served Charles I in the Bishops' War of , an engagement precipitated by the Crown's disastrous plan to establish bishops in Presbyterian Scotland. One year later, Carew's career as a royalist was cut short by death, perhaps occasioned by the exertions of his military endeavors. In contrast to the seriousness and high moral tone observed in many of the "metaphysicals," Carew's poems were altogether lighter and less problematic, and like other Cavalier poets , they often reveal an easy attitude toward sex and morality.

Although he wrote a poem in praise of John Donne, his own style seems to have owed more to the witticisms of Ben Jonson , an English Renaissance poet and dramatist, than to the serious moral tone promoted at the time by Anglican holiness. Above all the members in the group, he seems to have been an excellent literary craftsman with an often-meticulous attention to detail in his poems, a quality for which another Cavalier, Sir John Suckling , criticized him as if he were a pedant. Of the remaining figures, Edmund Waller was long among the most admired, and his poems continued to elicit admiration from critics throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The great John Dryden — credited Waller's poetry with ushering in England's "Augustan Age," and among the specific qualities that he admired in it was a great "sweetness. Born to a wealthy family, he increased his fortune by several skillful marriages, and when he entered Parliament in the s, he was originally a member of the opposition. During the s, he switched sides to become a royalist, but when he led an unsuccessful plot to seize London from Puritan forces in , he was banished for a time from the country before being reconciled to the Puritan Commonwealth and rising to prominence again under Charles II after By contrast, Robert Herrick was the only member of the "Cavaliers" that never served at court.

Granted a rural living in the Church of England as a reward for military service to the Crown, he lived out his days away from London, in considerably quieter circumstances—that is, as a country parson in a remote corner of Devon in the southwest of England. Although he originally detested the countryside, he came to admire the rural folkways of his parishioners, in part, because he abhorred the ways in which Puritans were attempting to suppress country people's traditional customs.

His works were like all of. His sermons often dealt with the mysteries of death, suffering, and Christian redemption. In contrast to the doctrinally tinged messages of Puritans at the same time, Donne and other Anglicans attempted to stir their audiences to repentance and holiness of life through presenting powerful images, as he does in this famous passage from his Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions , texts that were originally delivered in his office as Dean of St.

Paul 's Cathedral in London. PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all.

When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled , which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest.

Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature, religion and culture

If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God.

Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Spelling modernized by Philip Soergel.

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The execution of Charles I by Parliament in January of signaled a sudden end to the Cavaliers' musings, and although certain poets like Waller and Herrick continued to write in this vein following the restoration of the monarchy, the decisive Puritan victory quieted such voices for a time. During the Puritan Commonwealth, many Royalist supporters were forced to flee England before returning, or like Herrick, to exist on the gifts of their friends before taking up the life they had enjoyed during the war.

During the Puritan Commonwealth devotional works, religious polemics, and sensational prophecies continued to pour from England's presses, although there was little market in the heated religious climate of the s for the kind of gracious and elegant poetry once championed by Cavalier society. One of the figures that continued to fuel the anxious political debates of the period was John Milton — , who early in life had trained to be a Puritan minister, but until the s had spent much of his time studying and perfecting his skills as a poet.

During the Civil Wars Milton first became embroiled in the battle between Puritans and Royalists when he published a number of pamphlets attacking the episcopacy. With the establishment of the Commonwealth, he continued his activities as a propagandist for the Puritan cause, although he also served as a secretary to the Council of State.

Increasingly blind, he nevertheless continued to support the cause, publishing one tract so vehement in defending the Puritan cause that it was burnt in ceremonial bonfires in several French cities. As the Commonwealth began to flounder in the months following the death of its Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell , Milton tried to rally support for the increasingly unpopular government, again by serving as a pamphleteer. Students and scholars alike will find this new, wide-ranging literary history of the period invaluable. It is an outstanding achievement. David Loewenstein, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Out of stock. View on Wiley Online Library. This is a dummy description. A History of Seventeenth-Century Literature outlines significant developments in the English literary tradition between the years and That ferment was reflected in the literature of the era, which also registered a heightened focus on and analysis of the self and the personal life. However, little of this seems in evidence in the elaborate frontispiece to Michael Drayton's long "chorographical" poem on the landscape, regions, and local history of Great Britain , which appeared in the first years of the reign of the Stuart king James I The great seventeenth-century heroic poem, Paradise Lost , treats the Fall of Man and its tragic consequences.

James was an autocrat who believed strongly in the Divine Right of Kings. He believed that God had placed him on the throne as God's lieutenant on earth. This autocratic ideal was to have terrible ramifications for Stuart kings. Religious strife - During the early part of the century there was a growing religious division in people.

The Anglican official Church was the middle way.

The language and literature of chastity | University of Cambridge

On one side stood the illegal Roman Catholic Church, and on the other stood the growing Puritan movement. Puritans were even more conservative in their forms of worship than were the Anglicans. They were convinced that all were equal in the sight of God, and because of this, kings were not strictly necessary. I am simplifying here, and this is all rather complex. The popularity and strength of the Puritan movement grew throughout the s until in Civil War broke out between the Puritans, who were supported by and actually controlled Parliament, and the Court, or Royal Party. This religious strife is often mirrored in the poetry of the pre-war years.

Charles had inherited his father's ideas of kingship, but not his strength.


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