Abstract: This article investigates William Browne’s use of a poem by the medieval poet Thomas Hoccleve as a tribute to his imprisoned fellow poet George Wither. It argues that Hoccleve’s self-referential poem-sequence The Series plays a wider role in Browne’s poem and Wither’s responses to it than has been realized. Recent scholarship has emphasized the unity of these “Spenserian” poets and explored their innovative uses of the pastoral genre to express public, political concerns. But Browne’s Hoccleve quotation reveals the important role that satire, and its traditional interests in self-governance, played in their work, strengthening recent arguments for these poems’ influence on Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy . The Spenserians used dialogic forms not simply to demonstrate consensus but to explore their differences, and rather than the poetic and political alliance that has been assumed, Browne’s ambiguous tribute to Wither may have created a lasting rift. But it also had a more productive legacy in shaping Wither’s turn to the psalms. Browne’s Hocclevian eclogue helps to uncover the political roots of this project and of the wider prophetic identity that Wither came to assume.
Studies in Philology – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Jan 6, 2017
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