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

XIII. Prosody from Chaucer to Spenser

§ 8. Sackville

To say this is by no means (as some seem rather uncritically to interpret it) to speak disobligingly of the lesser contributors to Tottel’s Miscellany, of Turbervile, of Gascoigne, or even of Googe, though in all these (especially in the first mentioned group and the last mentioned individual) exactness is too often secured by sing-song and jog-trot. Certainly it is not to belittle the work of Wyatt and Surrey and Sackville, though, in the first two of these, especially in their “poulter’s measure,” sing-song and jog-trot do appear. The fact is that the business of this generation—almost of these two generations—was to get things ready for their successors—to make a new raising of English prosody to its highest power possible in the hands of Spenser and Shakespeare, by once more thoroughly stamping it with rhythm. Chaucer had done this, but the material had given way; and, in doing so, it had cast an obsolete air on the forms themselves. Thus, even the magnificent rime royal of Sackville, full of the new and truly Elizabethan spirit as it is, has a sort of archaic and artificial air at times, the air of something that, if it were less magnificent, might be called pastiche. And nobody until Spenser himself—and not the earliest Spenser—writes good “riding rime.” But they exercise themselves in the regular fourteener, split and coupleted or sandwiched with alexandrines, as if this return to almost the oldest of English metres were instinctively felt to have some exercising and energising quality. And they practise, sometimes, very prettily and always very carefully, divers lyrical measures of good gymnastic power. The sonnet is too high for most of them, after the original adventurers: it will have to wait a little. But blank verse, handled in a stiff and gingerly manner, is still now and then practised, especially by that great experimenter and systematic prosodist Gascoigne. Some of them, especially Turbervile, can get a good deal of sweetness out of variegated rime.