Thomas Nashe Poetry: British Analysis
Thomas Nashe the satirical pamphleteer, who was wont to use language as a cudgel in a broad prose style, seldom disciplined himself to the more delicate work of writing poetry. Both his temperament and his pocketbook directed him to the freer and more profitable form of pamphlet prose. It is this prose that made his reputation, but Nashe did write poems, mostly lyrical in the manner of his time. No originator in poetic style, Nashe followed the lead of such worthy predecessors as Geoffrey Chaucer, Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, Edmund Spenser, and Christopher Marlowe.
Nashe’s interest in poetry was not slight. In typical Renaissance fashion, he believed poetry to be the highest form of moral philosophy. Following Sidney, he insisted that the best poetry is based on scholarship and devotion to detail. Not only does poetry, in his perception, encourage virtue and discourage vice, but also it “cleanses” the language of barbarisms and makes the “vulgar sort” in London adopt a more pleasing manner of speech. Because he loved good poetry and saw the moral and aesthetic value of it, Nashe condemned the “ballad mongers,” who abused the ears and sensitivities of the gentlefolk of England. To him, the ballad writers were “common pamfletters” whose lack of learning and lust for money were responsible for littering the streets with the garbage of their ballads—a strange reaction for a man who was himself a notable writer of pamphlets. For the...
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