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French wars, and the Wars of the Roses—no poet of note arose in England, though north of the Tweed several writers kept alive the roll of Eng­lish verse ; the Robin Hood ballads, and Chevy Chase are the chief native productions. In the early part of the sixteenth century the revival of classical learn­ing and the study of Italian models rekindled the poetic instincts of young England, just awakening into intellectual vigour. The Earl of Surrey enlarged the field of versification by the introduction of the Sonnet* form, which soon became a general favourite, and by composition in Blank verse>\ which was quickly developed into the highest form of poetic expression. Sackville at once introduced it into the drama, Marlowe improved it, while Shak-spere and Milton used it with a perfection never since equalled.
By the time of Shakspere the vocabulary of our language had greatly changed and increased. About one-fifth of the old English words had become obsolete, but the eight or ten thousand words that constituted our speech at the end of the fourteenth century had grown to thirty thousand. Of these our great dramatist, to express his all-embracing thoughts, makes use of about fifteen thousand, though it should be remarked that many of these, chiefly of Latin origin, occur not more than once or twice. No succeeding poet has approached this exuberance of utterance. The minor poets of the age of Shakspere and
* For a full account of the Sonnet, see p. 303. f See p. 184.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III