A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Warner, William

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

Warner, William (1558-1609). -- Poet, b. in London or Yorkshire, studied at Oxf., and was an attorney in London. Inpage 396 1585 he pub. a collection of seven tales in prose entitled Pan his Syrinx, and in 1595 a translation of the Menæchmi of Plautus. His chief work was Albion's England, pub. in 1586 in 13 books of fourteen-syllabled verse, and republished with 3 additional books in 1606. The title is thus explained in the dedication, "This our whole island anciently called Britain, but more anciently Albion, presently containing two kingdoms, England and Scotland, is cause ... that to distinguish the former, whose only occurrants I abridge from our history, I entitle this my book Albion's England." For about 20 years it was one of the most popular poems of its size -- it contains about 10,000 lines -- ever written, and he and Spenser were called the Homer and Virgil of their age. They must, however, have appealed to quite different classes. The plain-spoken, jolly humour, homely, lively, direct tales, vigorous patriotic feeling, and rough-and-tumble metre of Warner's muse, and its heterogeneous accumulation of material -- history, tales, theology, antiquities -- must have appealed to a lower and wider audience than Spenser's charmed verse. The style is clear, spirited, and pointed, but, as has been said, "with all its force and vivacity ... fancy at times, and graphic descriptive power, it is poetry with as little of high imagination in it as any that was ever written." In his narratives W. allowed himself great latitude of expression, which may partly account for the rapidity with which his book fell into oblivion.