Renaissance Poetry and the Psalms: Influences and Problems


  • Anne Lear


The influence of the Psalms on sixteenth and seventeenth century religious poetry was profound. Indeed, the study of this influence has been a key feature of the work of modem literary scholars who have noted the impact of the Psalms on the poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, Francis Quarles, John Donne, and George Herbert among many other Renaissance poets. This influence was acknowledged and embraced by Renaissance literary critics themselves. Sir Philip Sidney, in his Apology for Poetry, cited biblical poesy as the key reference point for the usefulness and, indeed, the beauty and excellence of all poetry; and other Protestant poets of a pronounced theoretical bent, such as George Wither, recognized the Psalms in particular as a storehouse both of spiritual comfort, and of poetic variety.