Katherine Maus' opening essay challenges the dismissive legacy of critical approaches to Cavalier poets
, which she sees in the continued belittling of Herrick's works as insignificant and slight in subject and form.
This new collection replaces two earlier Norton Critical Editions: Ben Jonson and the Cavalier Poets
and George Herbert and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Poets.
English Cavalier poets
urged people to carpe diem, or "seize the day.
Viewed askance in periods which set store by propriety and good taste, his gift for writing light verse has now and then been hailed as welcome proof that German literature is not an eternal exception and that it, too, was capable of producing a seventeenth-century poet worthy of being set alongside the Italian Marinists or cavalier poets
such as Lovelace, his exact contemporary, or Suckling, his closest English counterpart.
Both Spenserian and Cavalier poets
appropriated Shakespeare's distinctive treatment of fairylore, ironically aligning it with the courtly myth of the TudorStuart "faery" monarchs.
Like the Cavalier poets
countering emptiness with a tortured sophistication, Massinger's accommodations were doomed.
There was, prima facie, some logic in this: all the really significant Jacobean poets were dead, the coterie of the 1630s were busily being not just cavalier poets
in a losing cause, and in some cases literal Cavaliers; and Milton, busily employed in prose polemic, was well away from his greatest triumphs.
Rather, avoiding heavy irony, the easily moving voice traverses the familiar ground of "star-crossed lovers," "such sweet sorrow," and "remembrances of things past" with less immediate echoes of the Cavalier poets
- "More than love itself / the thought of love is better," "From your forests grow flutes / oracular drums and nymphs," "When morning cannot open its laden eyes / .
Corns also creates a convincing representation of the self-conscious festivity in the work of those Cavalier poets
who upheld the outlawed traditions of May-games and Christmas revelry; the naturalism and materialism of this tendency neatly counterpoints the morbid fascination with drink and escapism (following Lois Potter's seminal Secret Rites and Secret Writing, 1989) which it lies alongside.