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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

XII. The Elizabethan Sonnet

§ 14. Barnabe Barnes

Barnabe Barnes, who made his reputation as a sonneteer in the same year as Lodge, was more voluminous than any English contemporary. He gave some promise of lyric power which he never fulfilled. As a whole, his work is crude and lacks restraint. At times, he sinks to meaningless doggerel, and some of his grotesque conceits are offensive. His collection of amorous sonnets bore the title of Parthenophil and Parthenophe: Sonnets, Madrigals, Elegies and Odes. Here, one hundred and five sonnets are interspersed with twenty-six madrigals, five sestines, twenty-one elegies, three “canzons,” twenty odes (one in sonnet form) and what purports to be a translation of Moschus’s first Eidullion.

Many of Barnes’s poems are echoes of Sidney’s verse, both in Arcadia and in Astrophel and Stella. His canzon II is a spirited tribute to Sidney under his poetic name of Astrophel. The first stanza runs:

  • Sing! sing Parthenophil! sing! pipe! and play!
  • The feast is kept upon this plain.
  • Among th’ Arcadian shepherds everywhere,
  • For Astrophel’s birthday! Sweet Astrophel!
  • Arcadia’s honour! mighty Paris’ chief pride!
  • Where be the nymphs? The Nymphs all gathered be,
  • To sing sweet Astrophel’s sweet praise.
  • Barnes also boasted of his debt to
  • That sweet Tuscan Petrarch, which did pierce
  • His Laura with love sonnets.
  • But Barnes’s volume is a spacious miscellany of echoes of many other foreign voices. He often emulates the anacreontic vein of La Pléiade, and had obviously studied much Latin and Greek poetry of post-classical times. There is a likelihood that Shakespeare knew his work well, and resented the unaccountable esteem which it enjoyed on its first publication.