Fulke Greville's Caelica

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Fulke Greville’s Caelica is in the first rank of lyric sequences produced in Elizabethan and Jacobean England and is unusual in having been produced over a very long period. In consequence, it has an intricate textual history. Begun in the 1570s, in poetic exchange with Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella, first drafted in fair copy in 1619, then revisited and revised by the author on at least three occasions in the years that followed, the manuscript seems a testimony both to Greville’s nostalgic relationship to the Elizabethan past, and to the
complexities of his own authorial position. More fundamentally, though, than a consequence of biography or textual transmission, however, revision is for Greville both a habit of thought and a poetic praxis that creates a loosely allusive structure to the two parts of the sequence, progressing from erotic to divine love and from Caelica to Christ, in which the erotic poetry anticipates the movement towards conversion, and the spiritual poetry revises or restates the terms of the earlier poems. Greville’s poems are characterized by frequent perspectival shifts and re-orientations, often involving a turn towards abstraction, either in philosophical or satirical vein. A recurrent concern of the latter part of the sequence are questions about the nature of time, and the incommensurability of time and eternity, often worked out through an apocalyptic or eschatological lexis that emphasises the radical transformative power of grace. In this way the lyrics themselves reflect the authorial manuscript as an extraordinary experiment in subjectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Handbook of Renaissance Poetry
EditorsJason Scott-Warren
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusSubmitted - 2022


  • Renaissance poetry
  • Lyric
  • Religion and Literature

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