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

VIII. The New English Poetry

§ 14. Barnabe Googe

We have seen the influence of the classics on the form of English poetry beginning feebly to make itself felt with Grimald. That influence must not be confounded with the study and translation of classical authors, which had begun earlier, with Barclay, Gavin Douglas and Surrey; for, while Surrey, for instance, had translated from the Aeneid, the influence moulding his own work was almost entirely Italian. But the study of the classics was soon to exercise its own influence; and, six years after the first publication of Tottel’s Miscellany, we find Barnabe Googe introducing in his Eglogs, Epytaphes and Sonettes (1563) the form of the pastoral, which, doubtless, he had learned from Barclay’s adaptations of the eclogues of Mantuan. Barnabe Googe, the son of a recorder of Lincoln, was born about 1540, educated at Cambridge and Oxford and, after travelling in France and Spain (see his poems written on starting and returning), taken into the service of Sir William Cecil. His earliest literary work was a translation of a satirical allegory, the Zodiacus Vitae of Marcellus Palingenius. His original poems appear to have been written before 1561, when he started for the continent, for they were then left in the hands of his friend, Blundeston, who took them “all togyther unpolyshed,” to the printer. Googe returned in time to correct them and to finish one of the poems, Cupido Conquered. The eclogues, epitaphs and sonnets (i.e. songs, for he has left no sonnets proper) were his last original work. He died in or about 1594. His eclogues are eight in number, and are interesting, partly because of the influence they must have exerted on Spenser, and partly from the manner of their treatment. Googe was an earnest protestant; and he combines with the pastoral of the classical idyllists some horror at their views of love, much devout thought and considerable indignation against Bonner and his works. His eclogues, indeed, are a curious mixture; for, while the talk is chiefly of love, the poet rarely fails to improve the occasion. In eclogue II, for instance—one of the most beautiful of the set in structure and rhythm—we have the death-song of Damoetas as he dies for love of a cruel mistress. In eclogue IV, the ghost of Damoetas visits Meliboeus and warns him to avoid love, which not only makes men wretched in life but dooms them after death. The eclogue is aimed against the pagan view both of love and heroism. In the sixth eclogue, as elsewhere in Googe, we hear that idleness is the root of love, a complaint which can be cured by exercise and work. In the eighth, Cornix sums up in a religous discourse. We have noticed in Tottel’s Miscellany the evidence of a troubled time of transition in politics and social life. The same evidence occurs in Googe. “Nobylitie begins to fade, and Carters up do sprynge,” he cries; the chief estate is in the hands of Sir John Straw and Sir John Cur, who, though they think themselves noble, are but fish which, “bred up in durtye Pooles, wyll ever stynke of mudde.” The fifth and sixth of the eclogues are borrowed from the Diana of Montemayor, and, possibly, are the first traces in English poetry of the influence of the Spanish romances.

The pastoral, then, with Googe, is not a refuge from the life of his times, but a means of giving vent to his thoughts about it; and the third eclogue, from which we have quoted, goes some way towards explaining why the revival initiated by Wyatt and Surrey was not carried on with more fervour. As a metrist, Googe is careless and often feeble. The metre of his eclogues is the fourteener line; he cuts it into two on his page; but, even so, is not always certain how many feet it should contain. This practice of division, when applied, as in his epitaphs, to decasyllabic lines, results in a monotonous fall of the caesura after the second foot. His songs are largely moral, in tone, like his eclogues. Their limited range of metre shows a lack of invention; and, though the movement is free, we miss the genuine lyrical note which less learned poets were then achieving.