Other Literary Forms
Thomas Norton contributed verse to the miscellany of Richard Tottel, Songs and Sonnets (1557), one of the most widely read collections of English poetry in the entire Renaissance. In 1561, Norton translated John Calvin’s final version of Institutes of the Christian Religion, completed only a few years before, and in 1562, he turned twenty-eight psalms into metric versions for the collection of Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins. Norton also wrote a number of religious pamphlets. As a writer, however, he is remembered almost exclusively for his part in Gorboduc.
Thomas Sackville showed considerable early promise as a poet. For the second edition of the famed A Mirror for Magistrates (1563), Sackville provided the “Induction” and one of the tragic laments, “Complaint of Henry, Duke of Buckingham.” Both poems are in rhyme royal, a stanza of seven lines of iambic pentameter rhyming ababbcc.
The “Induction” recounts a Dantesque journey into Hell. As a bitterly cold night falls on a desolate winter countryside, Sackville, pondering the mutability of all living things, muses particularly on the tragic falls of great men in England and wishes that someone would describe their tragedies in order to warn the living to avoid the mistakes of the dead. Suddenly, the pitiful figure of Sorrow, a goddess, appears to lead him into the underworld, where they pass such allegorical figures as Remorse, Misery, Sleep (for whom Sackville composes some of his most beautifully poetic lines), Death, and War before reaching the area where they encounter the ghost of Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham. The second poem, Buckingham’s lament, begins at this point; in it, the duke admits to the crimes he helped Richard III commit on his way to the throne, but he says that he turned against the tyrant and tried to overthrow him. The failure of his enterprise he furiously blames on the common people who deserted him, and he utters terrible curses against one of his own men, Humphrey Banaster, who ultimately betrayed him to Richard. Then, his energy almost spent, Buckingham warns magistrates to learn a lesson from his fall and to rule their subjects wisely and well.