Thomas Campion: Poems Background

Thomas Campion: Poems Background

Thomas Campion did not begin as a poet. In fact, Campion at one time was a law student. He was also a doctor. In addition to writing verse, he composed both the prose and music for masques. Even as a poet, there was a distinct evolutionary process: his earliest works were in classical Latin.

Born in 1595, life as a published poet commenced in 1601 with Thoma Campiani Poemata. The following year brought one of the most important publications of his career despite not being a collection of poetry. Observations in the Art of English Poesie is instead a treatise which defends qualitative verse while essentially rejecting the artistic claims to traditionally accented and rhymed verse. Campion’s poetry is itself a celebratory defense of qualitative verse in which syllabic arrangement is patterned according to length and duration instead of access and stress.

Following his death in 1620, Campion’s reputation almost instantly took a beating—perhaps in response to his criticism of traditional versification and by the 19th century he was a forgotten figure in the history of English poetry. All that changed in the late 1800s with the re-discover of Campion by A.H. Bullen. Bullen’s republished editions of Campion’s work would draw the attention of influential 20th century poets like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, thus restoring fully Campion’s rightful place in the history of British literature.

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