Francis Quarles : a study of his literary ancestry and contemporary setting as a religious poet
In his choice of biblical material, in his attitude towards biblical matter in poetry, in his efforts to supplant secular poetry with divine poetry, and in his style and metre, Francis Quarles is in an established tradition of religious poetry which dates from the mid-sixteenth century. He used this poetry to support the Established Church and a Monarchy based on Divine Right when these institutions were being attacked. He criticized particularly Roman Catholics, Arminians, Puritans, and Separatists. However, his poetry is not purely propagandist. He shared a contemporary interest in the vocabulary of the language and made many additions to it, and in his syncretizing of classical mythology with Christianity he followed contemporary practice. He favoured the Authorized Version of the Bible, and he satisfied demands for moralistic and didactic literature in his poetic renderings of biblical material, which is developed through the use of long speeches, long similes, descriptive action, and exegesis. In Emblemes, where the poems are but extended paraphrases of biblical text, the same techniques of development are used.In his invocations Quarles follows prevailing practices in addressing the Holy Spirit, God, or Christ. There was contemporary confusion concerning the muse Urania, but she retains her primary classical associations and is never more than the Christian poet's tutelary spirit or a personification of his poetic genius. The high esteem in which Quarles' works were held is shown in the comments of many of his contemporaries. In Cowley's criticism his lack of artistry in handling biblical material is pointed out. Quarles shows more poetic powers in his occasional lyrics and his satirical ability is at times suggested. Had be concentrated on these powers, quite possibly he would today hold a higher place as a poet in English literature.