The Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1500-1600 by Arthur F. Kinney

By Arthur F. Kinney

This can be the 1st entire account of English Renaissance literature within the context of the tradition that formed it: the courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, the tumult of Catholic and Protestant alliances through the Reformation, the age of printing and of recent international discovery. The significant other covers advancements in poetry, prose, non secular writing, drama, satire and humanism in fourteen newly-commissioned essays, written by means of specialists for pupil readers. a close chronology of significant literary achievements concludes with a listing of authors and their dates.

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They are mainly interesting for biographical reasons, in that they give an YOUNG NIMROD 21 idea of Sassoon's poetic beginnings. Undoubtedly this is at least partly why they were preserved in the Collected Poems. What they illustrate above all, however, are the young poet's main problems: he had little to say and no poetical voice to say it with. The section opens with a piece that is only remarkable for its exuberant mood. In a short poem of only eight lines young Nimrod comes galloping by "With jollity of hom and lusty cheer".

Not only does 'Foot Inspection' not use a dream-setting, even more remarkable are the lines where the poet introduces a religious metaphor, inspired by the foot inspection/foot washing association. Asking one of the soldiers about the condition of his boots, the officer considers how the soldier will never know "How glad I'd be to die, if dying could set him free / From battles". This identification with Jesus the Redeemer and the explicitly stated desire to sacrifice himself for his men, reveal an intensity of feeling for his men that is not found in the work of any other officer-poet.

Gosse published it anonymously in The Times on 15 January, when it was read by Lady Ottoline Morrell. She thought the poem had "real beauty", became interested in its author and made enquiries, which eventually led to a correspondence between Sassoon and Lady Ottoline, and still later to regular invitations to Garsington Manor, Lady Ottoline's country house near Oxford. Sassoon thus gained what was to be an important social contact before he became known as an angry war poet. But the poem also heralds the major change in Sassoon's war poetry: the "woeful crimson of men slain" suggests the emergence of a growing concern for his men, a concern that was to be the main reason for Sassoon's eventual revolt.

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