Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Lesser Caroline Poets > Sir Francis Kynaston; Leoline and Sydanis
  Shakerley Marmion; Cupid and Psyche Patrick Hannay; Sheretine and Mariana  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

IV. Lesser Caroline Poets.

§ 4. Sir Francis Kynaston; Leoline and Sydanis.

Pharonnida, Thealma and Clearchus, Cupid and Psyche, have, as has been said, for nearly a century been accessible, to some extent, without recourse to the very rare originals. This has not been the case, till within the last few years, with a fourth and very curious example of the heroic poem, the Leoline and Sydanis (1642) of Sir Francis Kynaston. One or two of Kynaston’s lyrics, by the production of which he is distinguished from his compeers, had been noted and quoted by anthologists; and a singular experiment of his in the matter of Chaucer had also been chronicled in the present generation: but his principal poem had been left to curiosity-hunters. Kynaston was a Shropshire gentleman of family, and, apparently, of some means; a member, not merely by incorporation, but by actual residence, of both universities; he was proctor at Cambridge in 1635, and sat for Shropshire in parliament from 1621 onwards. In 1635, he started in London, not without royal patronage, a kind of institute or academy entitled Museum Minervae. His enthusiasm for Chaucer led him to execute (in 1635) a version of the first two books of Troilus and Criseyde in Latin rime royal—a thing apparently preposterous, but by no means actually contemptible; and he adopted the same measure in his English romance. It holds itself out as embodying some tradition of his Welsh neighbours, and the adventures pass entirely in Wales and Ireland, but are not connected with any of the better-known cycles of either Welsh or Irish literature. They describe the fortunes or (mainly) misfortunes of a king’s son and a duke’s daughter who are separated by the agency of black magic and reunited by that of white—the heroine, for a time, supporting the personage of page to her rival. In mere poetical value, Leoline and Sydanis is the inferior of Thealma and Clearchus, and very far the inferior of Pharonnida; but, as a story, it is infinitely superior to both, and it shows an important distinction of kind, which is not mereley heroic but distinctly heroicomic. Ariosto, rather than Tasso, is the model—if, indeed, Kynaston has not gone beyond Ariosto to patterns still more distinctly satiric or burlesque. Rime royal, which, as a metre, has a decidedly serious complexion, does not lend itself to this use quite so well as the octave. But Kynaston is by no means wholly unsuccessful—and, with some slips into the prosaic (which is the danger of the style, and, in this use, of the metre), presents an early, a fairly original and a very interesting, anticipation of “Whistlecraft” and Don Juan. The Latin Troilus, though, of course, only a tour de force, is a remarkable counterpart, in its straightforward utilisation of a classical language for modern metre, of earlier and later experiments in classical metre with modern language. And, though the statement may seem rash, it suggests that the rarer and less popular experiment has in it less inherent elements of failure. Something more will be said later of Kynaston’s lyrics. But they certainly illustrate that remarkable diffusion of the lyrical spirit which is one of the notes of the age; and, as certainly, they are not the less interesting from being found in company with a long poem of considerable individuality and no small merit, and with a curious experiment of the kind just described—the whole due, not to a professional man of letters or a mere recluse student, but to a person of fortune, of position in politics as well as in academic business and of evidently active tendencies. Their author is not the best poet of this chapter, but he is one of its most notable and typical figures.   12

  Shakerley Marmion; Cupid and Psyche Patrick Hannay; Sheretine and Mariana  
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