Carver, P. L. The Life of a Poet, a Biography of William Collins.
New York: Horizon Press, 1967. Garrod, Heathcote William. Collins. 1928. New York: Octagon Books, 1973. Johnson, Samuel. "The Life of William Collins." In The Works of the English Poets from Chaucer to Cowper, including the Series edited with Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Dr. Samuel Johnson: and the most approved translation. Edited by Alexander Chalmers. 21 vols. London: C. Whittington, 1810. Johnston, Arthur. "Poetry and Criticism after 1740." Dryden to Johnson, edited by Roger Lonsdale, 313-349. New York: Penguin, 1993. Sherwin, Paul S. Precious Bane: Collins and the Miltonic Legacy. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977.
"COME LITTLE BABE" Nicolas Breton (?1593-4) A late 16th- or early 17th century poem, Nicolas Breton's "Come Little Babe" offers a prime example of the extension of a popular form from one century into the next. Breton adopts his favored approach of rime royal for his lullaby, varying the common seven-line verse format to six lines. He also departs slightly from rime royal's traditional rhyme scheme of ababbcc, using ababcc instead. While best known by its first line as a title, the poem may have appeared originally as "A Cradle Song" in a work titled The Arbor of Amorous Devices (1593-94). Later published in Lyrics from Elizabethan Romance (1890) by A. H. Bullen, the poem remained anthologized into the 21st century and can be found online in electronic format.
"Come Little Babe" adopts a narrative approach, its plotline revealed in words supposedly sung to an infant, but actually written for adult readers to enjoy. Rime royal typically was meant to be read, rather than spoken. Even though this poem's lullaby form suggests that it should be sung, its subject matter counters that tradition. The speaker begins, "Come little babe, come silly soul" but immediately departs a light approach to focus in its second line on the serious adult theme of sexual indecency: "Thy father's shame, thy mother's grief." The speaker states that the infant "little think'st and less dost know / The cause of this shy mother's moan," that he "wants the wit to wail her woe." Breton's heavy use of alliteration is a familiar mark of his style. While the child does cry, it "know'st not yet what thou dost ail."
By the third stanza the voice shifts from third-person point of view to first-, and the reader's suspicion that the speaker is the child's mother is confirmed. She seeks to absorb the blame for her "only joy" and declares that if God could see "O, thy sweet face!" the child could "soon purchase grace." The tone darkens in the final line of stanza 4, as with additional strong alliteration the mother remarks on her abandoned state: "For father false is fled away." She next thinks aloud of how the child's father might react should she die, and she requests her "sweet boy" to "commend" her to his father, replying to those who may "ask thy mother's name" that "by love she purchased blame." To prevent the child's assuming the worst of his father, she explains that while she may "moan," his father "is no rascal lad, / A noble youth of blood and bone," who with his smile can "beguile" even "Right honest women." Finally, she tells her child to sleep and mentions again that she will continue to weep, sitting by her child to "wail my fill." She concludes by asking that "God bless my babe, and lullaby / From this thy father's quality." Because rime royal served as a format only for loftier poems, the lullaby is likely intended as a cautionary tale for those well-born males tempted to take advantage of young women of lower social status.
COMPLAINT The term complaint traditionally refers to a poetic expression popular during the Middle Ages and used often by the group labeled Cavalier poets who were connected to the court of Charles I. The complaint is issued by a speaker who tells of his problem, the sorrow it gives him, and its causes. The problem may be of a political, a romantic, or another personal nature, but whatever the cause, it results in a tone of general dissatisfaction with fate and fortune. For example, Edmund Waller in "Of English Verse" expresses concern that the words of poetry will eventually die, because of "a daily-changing tongue," and he wonders how poets can then "extend their fame." Sir John Suckling adopts the same subject, although he adds a humorous tone of self-deprecation in his "A Sessions of the Poets," noting the debt that poets owe predecessors, but suggesting caution. He concludes a dramatic scene in which various poets and dramatists have stepped forward to testify with the lines, "Only
The small poets clear'd up again, Out of hope (as 'twas thought) of borrowing; But sure they were out, for he forfeits his crown When he lends any poet about the town.
Richard Lovelace's "Song: To Amarantha, That She would Dishevel Her Hair" represents the romantic complaint. The speaker complains against his love's binding her hair, a metaphor for the withholding from him her romantic attentions. On a more serious note, a ballad titled "Ballad: The Cavalier's Complaint" (1660), presently housed in the British Museum, expresses discontent over Charles I's seeming ingratitude toward his family's longtime supporters. William Cowper's "The Negro's Complaint" offers a plea against slavery in the voice of a slave.
Application of the label complaint has expanded recently, applied by feminist critics to an approach to serious poetry written by females in the Renaissance, the Augustan age, and later. Reacting to both natural and civil laws that restricted their activities and expression, poets such as Mary Lee, Lady Mary Chudleigh, voiced concerns in "To the Ladies" regarding a wife's position as little more than servant in many marriages. As another example, Anne Killigrew had to join other women in defending the originality of their works, as in "Upon the Saying That My Verses Were Made by Another."
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