The relative peace and prosperity of the Elizabethan age (1558–1603) fostered the growth of one of the most fruitful eras in literary history. Lyric poetry, prose, and drama flourished in sixteenth-century England in works that blended medieval traditions with Renaissance optimism.
This anthology celebrates the wit and imaginative creativity of the Elizabethan poets with a generous selection of their graceful and sophisticated verse. Highlights include sonnets from Astrophel and Stella, written by Sir Philip Sidney — a scholar, poet, critic, courtier, diplomat, soldier, and ideal English Renaissance man; poems by Edmund Spenser, whose works combined romance with allegory, adventure, and morality; and sonnets by William Shakespeare, whose towering poetic genius transcends the ages. Other celebrated contributors include John Donne ("Go, and catch a fallen star"), Ben Jonson ("Drink to me only with thine eyes"), and Christopher Marlowe ("The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"). The poetry of lesser-known figures such as Michael Drayton, Samuel Daniel, and Fulke Greville appears here, along with verses by individuals better known in other fields — Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth I, and Walter Raleigh — whose poems offer valuable insights into the spirit of the age.