The Courtier Poets: Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke

Updated on April 6, 2018
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I can't seem to stop writing poetry or reading poetry. I think it is safe to say I love poetry and I love sharing great poetry with others.

A True Elizabethan

Fulke Greville, Lord Brook, wrote his own epitath that read "Servant to Queen Elizabeth, Councillor to King James, and Friend to Sir Philip Sidney."

He was born at Beauchamp Court in Warwickshire in the year 1554. When young he attended Shrewsbury School where he met Sir Philip Sidney. This friendship was to become the inspiration for Greville's lyrics.

After primary school he attended Jesus College, Cambridge and finally appeared in court in the year 1575.

Sidney and Dryer accompanied him to Germany on a mission of diplomacy. While in Germany the three of them formed "The Protestant League." A league that was not accepted by the Queen and ultimately disbanded.

While away from court he spend time in Ireland with Sir William Winter and later moved to Italy. While in Italy he entertained the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno.

He wrote his "Treatie of Human Learning" using the Italian form the Terza Rima and his "Caelica" is written in sonnet. In "Caelica" Greville begins to use Shakespearean rhyme scheme in his sonnets and begins to break away from the Petrarchan influence on lyrical poetry.

The death of his friend Sir Philip Sidney effected him deeply. He fell into a deep depression and even though he was appointed representative of Warwickshire in Parliament and was made the Treasurer of the Navy he was never quite the same.

Through all of this he was knighted by the Queen in the year 1603.

"Caelica" remains as a standard for lyrical love poetry and his "Treatie on Human Learning" continues the tradition of reason and logic in philosophy.

Before his death in 1613 Greville wrote "I know the world and believe in God." A man beyond his time and a true Elizabethan.

The Betrayal of Death

Though the schoolyards of Shrewsbury school were bustling with activity, Greville and Sidney hide behind the schoolyards largest oak.

They would share poems and books and laugh about other students. Everyday they would meet to read a poem and work on latin from their coursework.

It was during this time that a pact was made that they would be friends forever. Both the boys followed the pact out of school and into the courts of England.

They were separated when they finished Shrewsbury and Greville attended Jesus College, Cambridge and Sidney, Christ Church, Oxford.

Both of them ended up in court after University and would meet again when assigned mutual diplomatic assignments in Germany. Greville, Sidney, and Dyer stayed at each others side not only strengthening their religious beliefs through the implementation of the "Protestant League" but started writing poetry.

The three courtiers worked on their greatest works during their time together in Germany and in Ireland afterwards. Sidney worked on his "Arcadia," Greville on "Caelica," and Dyer on his essays.

They supported each other and read over their manuscripts. Greville joined the circle of writers and learned men that gathered around Countess Pembroke, Sidney's sister. He used his pull found within his membership to ensure the publication of Sidney's "Arcadia."

After Sidney's death Greville disappeared from the courts and his public life. He began writing his "Treatise on Human Learning" and "Life of Sir Philip Sidney."

There is no greater love than the labour and dedication of biography. Dyer had written the first Epitaph for Sir Philip Sidney, Greville included his masterful rendition later after returning to his public life.


"Epitaph on Sidney"

An Epitaph upon the Right Honorable Sir Philip Sidney

Silence augmenteth grief, writing increaseth rage,

Staled are my thoughts, which loved and lost the

wonder of our age;

Yet quickened now with fire, though dead with

frost ere now,

Enraged I write I know not what; dead, quick,

I know not how.


Hard-hearted minds relent and rigor's tears abound,

And envy strangely rues his end, in whom no fault

was found.

Knowledge her light hath lost, valor hath slain her knight,

Sidney is dead, dead is my friend, dead is the

world's delight.

Place, pensive, wails his fall whose presence was

her pride;

Time crieth out, "My ebb is come; his life was my

springtide."

Fame mourns in that she lost the ground of her reports;

Each living weight laments his lack, and all in sundry sorts.

He was (woe worth that word!) to each

well-thinking minds

a spotless friend, a matchless man, whose virtue

ever shined,

Declaring in his thoughts, his life, and that he writ,

Highest conceits, longest foresights, and deepest

works of wit.

He, only like himself, was second unto none,

Whose death, though life, we rue, and wrong, and

all in vain do moan;

Their loss, not him, wail they that fill the world with cries,

Death slew not him, but he made death his ladder

to the skies.

...


A Look at the scansion of "Epitaph on Sidney"

Greville's "Epitaph of Sidney" is a masterful example of Poulter's Measure. Poulter's Measure is a common form from the Courtier Poets, mostly Henry Howard.

A fourteener is a line consisting of 14 syllables, which are usually made of seven iambic feet also called iambic heptameter.

Poulter's measure is a meter consisting of alternate Alexandrines combined with Fourteeners, to form a poem of 12 and 14 syllable lines. An Alexandrine is a 12 syllable iamb.

The term come from sellers of poultry. Poultry would sometimes give 12 to the dozen, and other times 14 (A Baker's Dozen).

When the Poulter's measure couplet is divided at its caesurae, it becomes a short measure stanza, a quatrain of 3, 3, 4, and 3 feet.

What Greville accomplishes in his "Epitaph" is the ability to use iambic heptameter in a smooth and flawless manner. Each line maintains it's rhythm and meter while expressing powerful emotions of loss.

After scansion we see perfect iambic heptameter with well chosen rhymes for each Poulter's couplet.

When scanning poems that use iambs masterfully we are given a chance to see how poets use tools like "spondee substitution," (//) stressed stressed foot, to cause conflict in rhythm and seal the readers attention.

We see masterfully crafted lines similar to:

"Hard-Hearted minds relent and rigors tears abound,"

Where he gives the line its power with the "Hard-Hearted" spondee.

When scanning poems crafted by masters of form we see lines of iambs that almost seem mystical and otherworldly.

"Highest conceits, longest foresights, and deepest works of wit."

Greville's was a constant revisor. He would never let his lines be and spend most of his time reviewing and changing. This need for perfection is seen in all his poems after close scansion.

An amazing courtier, friend, and poet.

First Septet of "A Treatise of Human Learning"

1

The mind of man is this world's true dimension,

And knowledge is the measure of the mind;

And as the mind, in her vast comprehension,

Contains more worlds than all the worlds can find,

So knowledge doth itself far more extend

Than all the minds of men can comprehend.

In Conclusion

When young he attended Shrewsbury School where he met Sir Philip Sidney. Both of them ended up in court after University and would meet again.

Greville,Sidney, and Dyer stayed at each others side not only strengthening their religious beliefs through the implementation of the "Protestant League" but started writing large amounts of poetry.

The three courtiers worked on their greatest works during their time together in Germany and in Ireland. Sidney worked on his "Arcadia," Greville on "Caelica," and Dyer on his essays.

Greville was stricken with grief at the death of his friend Sir Philip Sidney. He finds himself writing his "Treatie of Human Learning" and his "Epitaph" to his friend.

What he accomplishes in his "Epitaph" is the ability to use iambic heptameter in a smooth and flawless manner. Each line maintains it's rhythm and meter while expressing powerful emotions of loss.

A man who could be considered the perfect Elizabethan always remained loyal to the Queen. A loyalty he practiced throughout his life with his friends, his supporters in the court, and his country.

Text Referenced

"Five Courtier Poets of the English Renaissance," Blender M., Robert, Washington Square Press, 1969.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jamie Lee Hamann

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      • snakeslane profile image

        Verlie Burroughs 9 days ago from Canada

        "The mind of man is this world's true dimension" Fulke Greville. Awesome article on Courtier poets the world has probably forgotten about (or never heard of). Jamie, such a valuable resource. Great work.

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