One of the literary historians called the Elizabethan age as a nest of singing birds about the composition of poetry in this period. Many poets contributed to developing this form of literature and it reached the peak of its development. The poets not only adopted and innovated the forms of poetry and wrote on varied themes.
Elizabethan poetry reflects the spirit of the age. It represents a spirit of conquest and self-glorification, humanism and vivid imagination, emotional complexity and passionate strength, and humanism and vigorous imagination. Sublimity was thought to be an essential quality of poverty. Spenser, Shakespeare, and Marlowe had enormous power to exalt and sublimate poetry lovers.
The poetry of his period is notable for its spirit of independence. The poets refused to adhere to the established rules of poetic composition. As a result, new poetic devices and linguistic modes emerged. Lyric, elegy, eclogue, ode, sonnet, and other poetic forms were successfully attempted. During this period, the following major poetic divisions existed:
The love poetry is characterized by romance, imagination and youthful vigour, Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, Spenser’s Amoretti, Daniel’s Delia, Marlowe’s Hero and Leander, Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis and his sonnets are noticeable love poems of this period.
The ardent note of patriotism is the distinctive characteristic of Elizabethan poetry. Warner’s Abbicen’s England, Daniel‘s Civil Wars of York and Lancaster, Draytron’s The Barons War and The Ballad of Agincourt are some memorable patriotic poems.
Elizabethan age was a period both of action and reflection. Action found its superb expression in contemporary drama. People thought inwardly. The tragedies of Shakespeare represent this aspect of national life. Brooke‘s poems, On Human Learning, On Wars, On Monarchy, and On Religion have philosophical leanings.
It arose following the decline of the spirit of adventure and exploration, of youthful gaiety and imaginative vigour towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign. Donne’s Satires and Drummond’s Sonnets are two excellent examples of this type of poetry. Life’s merriment was lost during the reign of James I. A harsh cynical realism prevailed. Poetry had become self-conscious. Poetry had crept under the shadow of looming civil wars.
The poetry of this age is original. The early classical and Italian influences were completely absorbed and the poetry of this period depicts the typical British character and temperament.