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This article is taken from PN Review 29, Volume 9 Number 3, January - February 1983.

The Latin Poetry of Englishmen Richard Stoneman

IF Petrarch had chosen to write only in the vernacular, it has been said, the Western world would have had no classical comedy or tragedy, no Paradise Lost, no Pindaric Odes of Ronsard: our literature would be the poorer. The recent publication of three anthologies of Renaissance Latin verse offers an opportunity to assess the debts of our vernacular literature to this massive body of literature, most of which has until now been unavailable in any modern editions. The poets included in these three books are most various in date, provenance and temperament. Though Petrarch is the point of departure for all three, they include poets from every country of Europe, including Scotland, Hungary and Poland (which bred one of the most influential of them all, at least on English literature, Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski). Only Nichols extends his selection to so fresh a date as Milton, by which time the pivotal work of the Renaissance was well done.

For Renaissance Latin poetry is pivotal in many senses. There is a constant interplay in the Renaissance between Neo-Latin, classical and vernacular literature. Many poets, including Milton and Crashaw, wrote in Latin as well as English; George Buchanan translated his own Latin poetry into English (see no. LXVIII in McFarlane); the translators of classical poetry, like Timothe Kendall, George Turbeville, Henry Vaughan, Thomas Stanley, also translated Neo-Latin. Marcantonio Flaminio's In Auroram was the inspiration for an Italian poem of Bernado Tasso. The universality of Latin is exemplified by translations ...


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