17th Century & 16th Century Poetry

947 Words Mar 29th, 2011 4 Pages
How is the poetry of the 17th century different from the poetry of the 16th century?

The poetry of the 16th century and the poetry of the 17th century were mainly lyrical. However, this similarity of expressing personal thoughts and feelings did not prevent major differences between both periods whether in themes or in structure.

Poetry in Elizabethan time was based on courtly love conventions which included conceits and complements. Themes such as the unattainability of the lady, sleeplessness, constancy in love, cruelty of the beloved, renunciation of love, fine passion of the lover versus icy emotions of the beloved, praise of the beloved’s beauty and eternalizing her as being subject of the poem; these all are
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The possessions and even one’s life of the royal cause.

Carpe Diem is another major theme never found in courtly love poetry, but rather in cavalier. Cavalier poets urge young lovers to “seize the day”, enjoy the present moment because youth and beauty will fade soon and forever. The theme of brevity of life also serves the carpe diem, since the best in life ends “Corinna’s Going a Maying” insists on enjoying youth and love and not to be shy, because all pleasures of life come to an end when death comes. [Cavalier poets did not take life seriously, because this life is too short, so one should enjoy it.

As to structure, the form of the 16th century’s poems is different from early 17th century’s poems. Elizabethan’s poems were mainly sonnets which present a situation (in the octave or in the first three quatrains) to find a solution (in the sestet or in the couplet) whereas cavalier poets used only short lyrics composed of stanzas which are simple in verse and style to express their feelings and thoughts.

Although both periods were contrasting in themes and form, poets could express their emotions and opinions according to the events surrounding
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