Googe Is Scrooge: Barnaby Googe and Poetic Asceticism
Medieval English Studies, vol. 8 (2000)
When we examine the tradition of Renaissance poetry in England, our attention diverges mainly into two eras: the pioneer years of Henry Surrey and Thomas Wyatt and the years of the golden poets like Sidney and Spenser. Observing more closely, we may note that there is a gap, nearly thirty or forty years long, between these two eras and come to learn that poets like George Gascoigne, Barnaby Googe, George Turberville, and Edward De Vere fill that gap. These plain-style poets, as they are sometimes called, seem to endorse the poetic style, subject matter and aesthetic assumption that set them apart from Surrey and Wyatt as well as from late sixteenth-century poets like Sidney, Campion, and Spenser. And because they deliberately eschewed the ornate and embellished style that the age deemed as the norm, their works have been valued, at best, as interesting and poor in general. As Yvor Winters points out, however, it is not that their works lack quality but that the standard with which we have been appraising them is seriously flawed: “We tend to find in poetry what we are looking for, and in the early sixteenth century most of us look, perhaps, not altogether consciously, for imperfect Sidneys” (93).