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An application of Gascoigne’s Certayne notes of instruction to a bouquet of his Posies Forbes, Alexander Malcolm

Abstract

The critical literature on George Gascoigne suffers from a serious omission: there has been no attempt to apply Gascoigne's Certayne Notes of Instruction concerning the making of verse or ryme in English, written at the request of Master Edouardo Donati¹ to any extended portion of his poetry, in a thorough way, toward an interpretative end. That a poet's poetics would not be so applied to his poetry is certainly ironic. The irony is intensified in this instance, because in all probability Gascoigne wrote the Notes after most of the poetry was composed.² In consequence, there is a considerable likelihood that the Notes might have been in part formulated through a process of inductive reasoning from patterns found in the poetry, not simply through logical deduction. Therefore, they are naturally applicable to the body of poetry which they follow (The Posies of George Gascoigne Esquire: Corrected, perfected, and augmented by the Author).³ My study is directed toward rectifying this omission in the critical literature on Gascoigne. In the first chapter, I examine the published critiques of Gascoigne which bear upon the relation between Gascoigne's poetic theory and his poetic practice. As I hope to show in that chapter that there has indeed been a failure to examine thoroughly any body of Gascoigne's work in terms of his own stated poetic principles, I should note here that, accordingly, I shall not incorporate critical references in the concluding chapter devoted to my reading of the poems (for there are no. critical references to the poems considered herein that are the products of any method of interpretation that is at all similar to my own). Occasional similarities in the literature on Gascoigne, either of observation or of interpretation with respect to particular poems, are at most representative of parallel methodologies or conclusions. They may sometimes be similar to, but they lie in distinctly different currents from, the new interpretative channel that I hope to establish. In Chapter II, I anatomize the poetic principles enunciated by Gascoigne in his Notes. I also attempt in this chapter to place Gascoigne's theories in the historical mainstream of ideas similar to his own. In the last chapter, which justifies the first two, I apply Gascoigne's principles to a coherent body of his poetry. Since I cannot treat all of Gascoigne's poems within the limits of a thesis, I restrict my selection to the "Flowers" division of the Posies. It makes sense to deal with those which are found in the first set of his poems (as established in the edition that he "Corrected, perfected, and augmented"). As suggested by the titles of these sets, "Flowers" exemplify more fully the application of his beliefs than would poems included as "Herbes," and exemplify that application better than would those classified as "Weedes." The principles that guide my selectivity within this framework will be explained at the beginning of the chapter in which the poems are analyzed. This chapter will conclude my thesis. As interpretative conclusions cannot be generalized, as the critical generalizations that can be made will be made in it, as the test of interpretative application of the Notes is the conclusion of all that precedes it, and as the reader must be the final judge of the method and interpretations contained in it, I shall not follow this chapter with another which, given the nature of this thesis, would be either unwarranted or redundant. I conclude this study, therefore, with this chapter.

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