Barbarous Antiquity reorients early modern English poetry around England's mercantile and cultural exchanges with the Ottoman Empire, revealing how English poetry renegotiated its relationship to the classical past.
2014 | 296 pages | Cloth $59.95
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Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Trafficking with Antiquity: Trade, Poetry, and Remediation
PART I. BARBARIAN INVASIONS
Chapter 1. Strange Language: Imported Words in Jonson's Ars Poetica
Chapter 2. Shaping Subtlety: Sugar in The Arte of English Poesie
PART II. REDEEMING OVID
Chapter 3. Publishing Pain: Zero in The Rape of Lucrece
Chapter 4. Breeding Fame: Horses and Bulbs in Venus and Adonis
PART III. REORIENTING ANTIQUITY
Chapter 5. On Chapman Crossing Marlowe's Hellespont: Pearls, Dyes, and Ink in Hero and Leander
Epilogue: The Peregrinations of Barbarous Antiquity
Trafficking with Antiquity: Trade, Poetry, and Remediation
In the poetry of late sixteenth-century England, writers struggled with ambivalence toward ancient, Latin, and Greek poetic paradigms. Classical antiquity was already estranged: as a fragmented, partially obscured, and lost "golden age," it was only partly accessible through its literary remains. Though they wrote in vernacular English, most early modern writers were nevertheless schooled in Latin from childhood. As they wrestled with this literary legacy, writers turned to contemporary mercantile trade for new models and metaphors. Much of this trade was located in the Levant, the same space occupied by the classical myths that inspired much of early modern poetry. In this way, the classical antiquity represented in early modern English poetry became newly barbarous.
The growing appetite for foreign goods and England's increased diplomacy with the Ottoman Empire had an impact not only on early modern drama but on poetry as well, and this can be traced, in part, through philology. In 1581, the Turkey Company was founded, the first successful English trade company to begin importing goods into England directly from Turkey (previously the Russia Company traded with the East, attempting trade with Persia). In 1593, the Turkey Company officially became the Levant Company. The first English ambassadors to the Ottoman Empire were merchants; thus, Anglo-Ottoman diplomatic relations were from the start bound up with trade. And with trade came new imports and new, imported English words for such things, words for things that, though they must have been known to the ancient classical world, did not have Greek or Latin names. And these words were quickly adopted and assimilated by English poets, figuring prominently in poetry that still paid homage to ancient Greek and Roman models.
It would be a Herculean task to document the number of newly assimilated late sixteenth-century English words that describe goods and practices imported from the Far East and North Africa by way of the Ottoman Mediterranean, a task that no one has accomplished thus far. As the appetite for imported luxury goods continued to grow in this period, words for exotic spices and pharmaceuticals—including sugar, candy, syrup, julep, marzipan, and eryngo—enhanced the vocabularies of English writers, dyers, and culinary artists. Although words for some of these objects were in use in English in the late Middle Ages, the Oxford English Dictionary reveals that their English meanings shifted and expanded greatly in the middle of the sixteenth century. A variety of words connected with artists' pigments and the dyed textile trade were introduced into the English language in this period, words like crimson (from Turkish kirmiz, a beetle crushed to create the scarlet dye), turquoise, indigo, and ultramarine (from their places of origin in Turkey, India, and a place "beyond the sea," the Lapis mines of Afghanistan). The terms for the different types of flowering bulbs imported from Turkey—including tulip, which takes its name from the Arabic word for turban—were so numerous that they took up twenty-five additional pages between the first and second editions of Gerard's Herball in 1597 and 1633.
In early modern English, the word import functioned only as a verb, not as a noun in the sense that I am using it. The terms merchandise, wares, and goods described what we now call imports. By the middle of the seventeenth century, English writers were already describing imported words as if they were merchandise. A dedicatory poem states this boldly in the front matter of Thomas Blount's English lexicon Glossographia: or a Dictionary, Interpreting all such Hard Words, Whether Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Teutonick, Belgick, British or Saxon; as are now used in our refined English Tongue (1656): "And, as with Merchandize, with terms it fares, / Nations do traffic Words, as well as Wares." Blount's address to his readers emphasizes the abundance of imported foreign words assimilated into English, depicting each culture's contribution almost as a plundering of treasure.
We can draw a parallel between these imported words' currency in English and the way the goods they refer to were imported through early modern mercantile markets. These words might be seen as global versions of what Pierre Bourdieu has termed the "economy of linguistic exchange." A similar collection of Eastern (Turkish, Sanskrit, Persian, and Semitic) words and imports began to function as poetic currency in the texts that this book examines, mirroring and mimicking the way that the materials they signified functioned as global commodities within the Ottoman Mediterranean. Jonathan Gil Harris has recently noted the correlation between the migration of pepper as an Indian import to Europe and to the New World, and then back to Asia, and the way the words pepper and its cognate, pimiento, similarly moved from Indian through European, American, and Oriental vocabularies. To clarify, then: foreign words come into England with foreign trade, and many of them describe the new goods that have entered the country. But unlike the imports they denote (the material objects signified), these words were not exchanged for money or other words within the English language: they circulated freely. More important, these words circulated associatively, forming a web or network of meanings and associations rather than corresponding one to one with the object they signified. Thus, an early modern reader might encounter the word orient while reading Marlowe's Hero and Leander and associate the word with any number of different things—the East, a sunrise, a bright light, a nacreous pearl. The formulation of early modern language proposed by Foucault, which has been adopted by other scholars of early modern material textuality and philology serves as a useful model here. Foucault imagines early modern language as a web of associations, with meanings "renewed in every interval, which combines here and there with the forms of the world and becomes interwoven with them." Each of the words this book examines forms a point in this web composed of many different associative strands. The meaning of the word thus fluctuates throughout the early modern text, just as it fluctuates throughout early modern culture.
Just as the imported goods in question did not supplant established commodities, these words augmented English vocabularies. As poetic currency, new words did not replace existing imagery; they enhanced it. Even in English translations of Latin, new words amplify the original text: the early modern English word cipher (zero, imported from the Middle East) shows up in Marlowe's translation of Ovid's Amores 3.6 to describe impotence, and the word orient (nacreous) appears several times in Philemon Holland's translation of Pliny's Historia Naturalis, describing the luminescent quality of pearls. Though orient is of Latin origin, starting in the middle of the sixteenth century, this word was used to refer to a pearl's shine. Though they may have encountered these concepts, neither Pliny nor Ovid had access to any of these words; they came to Europe by way of mercantile exchange but were only naturalized when European traders began to adopt them in practice. Zero was adopted through contact with Arab and South Asian mathematical culture, and jewel merchants brought back pearls from the Persian Gulf and Sri Lanka, utilizing the term orient as a way of grading and valuing a gem.
The central premise of Barbarous Antiquity is that the growing English appetite for strange things and stranger words extended to literary production: poets and printers of the period responded to the same allure by incorporating foreign words and images into their poetry—texts that simultaneously paid homage to ancient Greek and Roman writers and styles. These words and images inaugurate a new poetic economy, reconfiguring cultural attitudes toward ancient and modern, East and West, and redefining what it meant to write and publish poetry in English during the Renaissance. Often imported words or names for imported things appear only a few times within a poetic text, but what matters is their placement at key moments of the narrative, not their frequency. Working together with imagery, as verbal representations of foreign merchandise, words and things create new networks of associations with early modern overseas trade.
Although early modern global trade and Anglo-Ottoman relations have been a popular topic in early modern literary scholarship, few studies have turned from analyses of drama to poetry. This is partly because the early modern stage was prime space for negotiating issues of cultural and religious identity, and with the exception of Spenser's Faerie Queene, we rarely find representations of Turks, Muslims, and Saracens in early modern poetry modeled on classical narrative and lyric. The majority of stage depictions of Ottoman characters engage with negative representations of the powerful, early modern Ottoman Empire as bloodthirsty, idolatrous, sybaritic, and overly militaristic, representations that can also be found in the multiplicity of meanings for the word Turk in the period, many of which point to uncouth and barbaric behavior.
As Jonathan Burton has demonstrated, early modern English poetry is fairly uninterested in Turkish racial or religious identity, other than to stereotype it. In looking for representations of Turks themselves in poetry, Burton finds no evidence of the Turks as "trading partners as allies." But what if we turn our attention away from Ottoman identity and look for Ottoman imports? We do find references to mercantilism and non-Western commodities in poetry. And as Roland Greene has demonstrated in his analysis of Petrarchism, many early modern English poetic forms, like the sonnet, were themselves imports, originating in Persian and Arab literary culture and making their way into Britain through Italy by way of Mediterranean trade routes. As this book will show, early modern poetry depicted England's exchanges with trading partners to the East and South differently from drama, through language and imagery of imported commodities rather than through positive or negative representations of Ottoman identity. Commodities imported from the eastern Mediterranean were often ornate luxury goods, which had much in common with early modern metaphors for poetic ornament as oriental gemstones, imported cosmetics, pigments, and dyes.
Trafficking with the East
Engaging directly with the Ottomans for the first time, the English disrupted and reoriented the flow of trade around the Mediterranean. Up to this period, goods originating in the Ottoman and Islamic Middle East and North Africa had come into England by way of the Catholic European West (Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain). Once the English began offering British woolen "kersies" and English-mined tin and lead directly to Turkey, Venetian and French middlemen could no longer offer English wool to the Turks at higher cost. The flow of traffic no longer moved east to west along a horizontal axis; it now moved north to England and south to North Africa, in widening circles and arcs.
The word East serves here as a fragile placeholder for a number of different global coordinates and cultures (among them eastern Europe, central Asia, Anatolia, the Maghreb, Persia, India, and Indonesia). The Ottoman Empire is only "the East" when viewed from the European perspective. East implies a division between Europe as West, Asia and North Africa as East, but this bilateral division was not clear in sixteenth-century cartography. Where was the line drawn, when the Ottoman Empire's borders were liquid and flexible? Equally useful to understanding early modern English global geography is the notion of North and South, where the South encompasses not only the Italian Mediterranean, but Spain and North Africa as well. To early modern readers and writers on all sides of the Mediterranean, the late sixteenth-century Ottoman Empire was more than simply the "East," a diachronic space in the history of dialogue between East and West. That empire held a uniquely polychronic space, not only because of the multiple temporalities it encompassed, as the current occupant of the lands formerly part of ancient Greece and Rome, but because it constructed its own space in a more malleable, fluid way. Its lands and seas stretched from the Greek islands across the Mediterranean and south to North Africa, east to Jerusalem, and up into central Asia. As Palmira Brummett's and Halil Inalcik's histories of early modern Ottoman expansion have shown, the Ottoman Empire's boundaries were defined by sea trade more than by land conquest, and they were almost always subject to change. On the one hand, the Ottomans redefined empire by blending trade with diplomacy, seafaring with conquest, creating something new and different from the Western empires of the classical past. On the other hand, sixteenth-century Ottoman rulers themselves were aware of the layered temporal landscapes they inhabited, redefining themselves as new Roman rulers. Both the Ottoman sultans and the Hapsburg emperors in the sixteenth century "would aspire to resurrect the Roman Empire."
Because of the fluidity of the Ottoman Empire's borders and its translation of diplomacy into trade, early modern engagements between England and the Ottoman Empire thus participate in something different from a linear discourse of East and West; they create multitemporal and transglobal configurations. As Jerry Brotton's analysis of sixteenth-century cartography reveals, early modern European travelers and explorers also viewed the classical world and the lands occupied by the Ottoman Empire as one and the same: "The supposedly 'western' world of Europe actually defined itself as coextensive with, rather than in contradistinction to, the classical world of the east, whatever its intellectual and cultural dimensions." We can join Brotton's analysis of a coextensive East and West with Jonathan Gil Harris's multilayered approach to history, which entails moving beyond diachronic and synchronic models of narrative space in favor of multitemporal, or "polychronic" strata. In other words, for English eyes, the lands of the early modern Ottoman Empire were in the process of becoming the "East" but were not fixed in space or time. They were also, at the same time, lands of classical antiquity and ancient Greek myth. The site of ancient Troy, near ancient Abydos, was also the site of an Ottoman military garrison: both places were coextensive and equally present for early modern readers and travelers.
One such traveler and writer was George Sandys, who is known for his English translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses (1632). Sandys wrote an extensive and richly illustrated narrative documenting his travels across Europe to the Ottoman Empire in 1610. As an antiquarian, he was "curious in the search of Antiquities," keen to explore the monumental relics of ancient European empires and to learn as much as he could about the history of the current cultural groups that controlled and occupied those lands and waterways. For an English antiquarian like Sandys, the ancient classical past might have felt more vivid and alive than either the medieval Orthodox past or the Muslim present. As he travels through the Mediterranean and farther east into central Asia, Sandys must find a way to reconcile his familiar but extinct classical antiquity with the unfamiliar yet jarringly contemporary cultures and religious groups of the early seventeenth-century Ottoman Empire.
As Sandys remarks in his dedicatory epistle to King James, the lands and artifacts of classical antiquity so precious to English literary history were now sadly in the possession of the Ottoman Empire, or "barbarous Tyrant posessing the thrones of ancient and iust dominion." Barbarous was originally a classical Latin term for invading northerners, but in early modern English, it came to mean non-European and sometimes Levantine. Sandys laments the destruction and disappearance of classical antiquity at the hands of a conquering Muslim empire, but it is clear that what he is mourning is not so much the Ottoman occupation of these lands as the loss of the past itself. The Greek islands are desolate and deteriorated, "so highly celebrated by the ancient Poets: but now presenting nothing but ruines, in a great part desolate, it groneth vnder the Turkish thraldome." Smyrna is now an early modern Ottoman city with new mosques filled with practicing Muslims: "now violated by the Mahometans, her beautie is turned to deformitie, her knowledge to barbarisme, her religion to impietie."
What Sandys experiences in these encounters is a kind of temporal and spatial dislocation between the ancient, classical past in the early modern English humanist imagination, the Byzantine Empire in the early modern Christian thinking, and contemporary, early modern Ottoman culture. Eliding the lost beauty of ancient myth with the more recent loss of Eastern Christianity, Sandys's temporality might be seen even to classicize or antiquate medieval history. What does it mean for Western antiquity to be repossessed by "barbarous" Ottoman foreigners? How does this change the early modern English project of reclaiming Roman antiquity as its own? This book argues that early modern English poetry occupies a space in which English writers negotiated their vexed relationship to classical antiquity by engaging with and appropriating non-Western culture through words and imagery associated with Mediterranean and Asian imports. By trafficking with imagery and vocabularies of imported commodities, early modern English poets also trafficked with, or exchanged, the past, replacing an already fraught vision of classical antiquity with a further estranged and exoticized one. When words and things from the East began to be imported into English, the poets of England revised their attitude toward ancient Greece and Rome. Just as exotic luxury goods, scientific theories, and decorative styles were brought into England from Italy, Persia, and the countries under Ottoman control, so too were foreign, nonnative words absorbed into English. Once these new, imported words started infiltrating poetic texts ostensibly modeled on classical literary traditions, the already complicated status of classical "antiquity" was thrown further into flux. With the addition of these new concepts, imported neologisms, and imaginary things circulating associatively through early modern culture and texts, antiquity itself took on the characteristics of Levantine and Asian cultures, becoming "barbarous."
Trafficking with the Past
Latin literature was the staple for an early modern humanist grammar school education, where boys learned to write, speak, and orate in Latin in imitation of Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Cicero, and Seneca. Yet although early modern English writers acknowledged and paid homage to the literary authority of classical antiquity, by the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, there were signs of strain in English writers' relationship to ancient Greek and Roman culture. The English had recently broken away from the Roman Catholic Church, and they viewed the ancient Romans as both ancestors (via the Troy myth) and conquerors (via the narrative of the Four Empires: Roman, Danish, Saxon, and Norman). Latin had been banished from the Anglican Church and was preserved only at the courts and schoolrooms. And the English language was rapidly expanding to include new Latinate forms of English words alongside words imported from England's growing global encounters with non-Western cultures. Leonard Barkan, Sean Keilen, and Jonathan Gil Harris have exposed fissures in the early modern cultural elevation of classical antiquity. In his analysis of broken ancient Roman monuments and sculpture, Barkan argues that early modern Europeans viewed classical antiquity itself as a collection of fragments, and Keilen notes that early modern English depictions of the classical past as a "golden age" allowed writers to question and critique the practice of classical imitation and the authority of the ancients. Harris encourages us to read the layered landscape of early modern London with its ancient Hebrew mural inscriptions as a temporal palimpsest that impresses an occidental present onto an oriental past.
The alternately familiar and vexed relationship of early modern English writers to classical antiquity derives in part from the authority that the Elizabethan education system vested in Latin authors, grammar, and language. For Jeff Dolven, "skepticism and self-doubt smolder at the roots of English humanism," which is why English writers turned to Romance (a genre excluded from classical hierarchies). The violent discipline that characterized classical humanist education may have made the authority of the ancients seem savage and barbarous itself: Dolven and Lynn Enterline note that corporal punishment of children was at the heart of classical humanist education of schoolboys. Some of this violence characterizes the speaker's frustration in Philip Sidney's sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella. In the first sonnet, the poet struggles with writer's block and characterizes his creative capacity as a boy exposed to corporal punishment: "Invention, Nature's child, fled step-dame study's blows" (AS, 1.10). Later, the speaker rails against his humanist education in moral virtue, claiming that Cato's philosophy is better suited to "Churches or Schooles" (AS, 4.6) and the poet's mouth "too tender for thy hard bit" (AS, 4.8). Throughout the sequence, Astrophil describes himself as Stella's shackled, tortured slave and in several instances speaks of the failure of his humanist education to help him in love.
Even Ben Jonson, famous for his classical learning and his adoption of the Roman poet Horace's ideals in the creation of his own literary "plain" style, acknowledges the ambivalence early modern writers felt when confronted with authority of classical antiquity. "Non nimium credendum antiquitati" ("not particularly believing in the ancients") he wrote in Timber (1641), his published commonplace book and Ars poetica. Jonson explains that as much as writers ought to acknowledge and emulate ancient Greek and Roman erudition, they must also move past them, "not to rest in their sole authority, or take all upon trust from them." Demonstrating his mastery of Latin commonplacing, Jonson peppers this ambivalent passage with quotations. Classical writers should act "Non domini nostri, sed duces fuere" ("not as our leaders but as our guides"). He concludes with a combination of English and Latin slightly paraphrased from Seneca: "Truth lies open to all; it is no man's several. Patet omnibus veritas; nondum est occupata. Multum ex illa, etiam futuris relicta est." The English phrase that opens this commonplace, "Truth lies open to all," and so on, appears in the first Latin sentence, but Jonson leaves the second sentence untranslated: "And there is plenty of it [Truth] left even for posterity to discover." The phrase is found in Seneca's epistle 33 (line 11). In his combination of Latin and English sententiae, Jonson is able to ground his idea about departing from classical authority in Roman literary authority itself, both paying homage to his classical humanist education and inviting others to transcend it.
The early modern ambivalence to Greek and Latin antiquity also may have been bolstered by the representation of British and northern Europeans themselves as barbarous tribes in classical Latin texts. Some writers, like Spenser and Harvey, attempted to reclaim this native English "Gothish" behavior by linking it to the innocence of Ovid's Golden Age (Metamorphoses I. 89-112). Both Thomas Campion and Samuel Daniel describe English as a barbarous language, but they dispute whether it is suited to classical hexameters, with Daniel arguing that the imposition of Latin hexameters onto English forces it to seem even more uncouth. But the experience of reading about one's own ancient ancestors as the very barbarians that Roman writers denigrate must have further complicated the early modern view of Britain's inherited and imposed Roman literary legacy.
One way early modern poets responded to this frustrated bond with the literary authority of classical antiquity was by emulating a Roman poet whose writings were perceived as "counter-classical" (to borrow W. R. Johnson's and Heather James's terminology). That poet was Ovid. Shakespeare and the poets of the 1590s preserve an early modern interest in classical poetics only by appropriating the work of a "classical" poet who was anything but classical. For James, this means that the kind of classicism that early modern poets located in Ovidian narrative and elegy made classicism itself commensurate with early modern poetic experimentation and innovation. The task of early modern humanism, which, as Enterline teaches us was physically beaten into schoolboys in the Latin grammar schools, was to imitate the ancients. Yet the fragmented material remains of Roman culture made antiquity seem both foreign and incomplete. Perhaps this is why so many poets turned to Ovid, whose writing unravels the threads of his own classical literary culture from within. If Ovid is "counter-classical" for early modern English readers, it is not simply because his poems are violent, erotic, and fantastical; he is "counter-classical" because these aspects of his poetry align themselves with foreignness in a period when Britain was encountering and engaging with exogamous cultures to a greater extent than ever before.
In their appropriations of Ovid's poetry, early modern English poets not only engaged in a process of rewriting the classical in early modern England; they constantly augmented these Ovidian appropriations with new imported words and concepts from contemporary eastern Mediterranean trade as a way of dealing with the challenges presented by a fragmented, outdated literary inheritance. In this instance, it might be useful to think about the reliance of English poets on classical sources moving beyond imitatio (replicating the arguments, methods, and style of classical authors) to a version of remediation. As defined by the digital media scholars Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin, remediation involves both a material refashioning and a dialectic between older forms of media and newer ones; it is "that which appropriates the techniques, forms, and social significance of other media and attempts to rival or refashion them in the name of the real." Thus, we might see printed English verse translations or appropriations of stories taken from Ovid's metamorphoses (poems that we now call epyllia) and dramatic performances incorporating his writings (such as Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus) as textual remediations of first-century classical Latin codices, of illuminated manuscripts and the fourteenth-century Ovide Moralisé, of sixteenth-century printed, woodcut-illustrated vernacular translations, and everything in between. Though Bolter and Grusin readily point out that written texts can be remediated in the same way that visual images are, and that this process is an ancient one, I find that early modern poetry calls for a modified version of their initial theoretical model. Each new version of early modern printed and manuscript literature did not necessarily struggle to provide what Grusin and Bolter call "immediacy" (the vanishing or supplanting of the media itself by its content). In contrast, early modern English textual and linguistic conventions continually forced readers and writers to confront the textual medium's material shape and the space it occupied. Early modern textual remediation drew attention to the material text, not away from it. It was a process that involved both translation and appropriation but highlighted rather than ignored the newness of the material media in which it worked: media that included the printed and illustrated text, poetic and rhetorical ornament, and new English vocabularies derived from imported words and things.
Early modern poetic remediation is Ovidian in nature: the writers of this period described the processes of translation and the adoption of figurative language as metamorphosis. And Ovid was the Roman poet most widely translated from Latin into the vernacular in England and Europe—the vast number of European vernacular editions of Ovid's texts printed in the sixteenth century attests to his immense popularity. Therefore, it could be said that Ovid's Metamorphoses was the most appropriate text for early modern writers to remediate, given that it contained numerous tales of characters whose bodies and thoughts were remediated into other material forms. Another aspect of early modern Ovidian remediation occurs when English poets reconfigure the poem by introducing nonclassical vocabularies and concepts into Ovidian narrative. Arthur Golding's "Englished" Ovid, which replaces nymphs with fairies, dryads with elves, and Hades with Hell, serves as one such example. The poems that this book examines are another: they incorporate other, nonclassical elements, from Arabic arithmetic to Turkish bulbs and dyed textiles. Thus, I maintain that it was not only Ovid's popularity in print and his rejection of Augustan decorum that made him so appealing a poet to early modern imitators; it was also his preoccupation with strangeness and otherness, and his own history of exile and marginalization to the Black Sea, the limits of the Roman Empire, that made his poetry an ideal crucible for the early modern experimental importation of new media, including foreign words and ornament.
As Georgia Brown and Gordon Braden have demonstrated, the highly rhetorical and elaborately structured Ovidian narrative poems of the 1590s—three of which (The Rape of Lucrece, Venus and Adonis, and Hero and Leander) take up the largest part of this book's attention—are self-conscious of their own ornamental form. To some extent, the ornate style of Renaissance English narrative verse has its origins in late classical minor epics attributed to the school of Nonnos, of which Grammaticus Musaeus's poem Hero and Leander is the most well known today. Yet the extravagance of early modern English epyllia cannot be attributed solely to the ancient origins of the poems' form. Poetic and rhetorical handbooks compare poetic ornament luxury goods imported from the East to precious stones, colored textiles, and cosmetics—the same imagery of Eastern imports that I am arguing populates sixteenth-century English verse.
Drawing on a classical metaphor (color as figurative language), George Puttenham claims that poetry comprises "a manner of vtterance more eloquent and rhetoricall than ordinarie prose ... because it is decked and set out with all maner of fresh colours and figures, which maketh that it sooner inueglieth the iudgement of a man." The phrases "decked out" and "fresh colors" suggest fancy dress, freshly rouged cheeks, and a painted canvas. Several times in his treatise, Puttenham draws on the language of bodily decoration to describe poetic tropes, particularly in the third book of the treatise, "Of Ornament." There, Puttenham compares poetic ornament to embroidered clothes, judiciously applied facial cosmetics, highly polished marble, and painted miniatures (222). Thomas Wilson places an equally materialistic emphasis on rhetorical ornament, comparing it to exotic, scintillating gemstones. With the use of exornation (poetic and rhetorical figures), "our speech may seeme as bright and precious, as a rich stone is faire and orient."
The late Elizabethan connection between poetry and ornament was not contained to figurative language alone. Poems themselves were conceived of as having an ornamental material form, and this is evidenced by the way that individual poems and verses, described as "flowers," were stored and copied into commonplace books. Poetic anthologies (from the Greek anthos or flower) emphasized this further, highlighting the material and linguistic connection between poems and posies (both deriving from the Greek word poieisin, "to fashion"). Indeed, for Juliet Fleming, poems together with inscriptions are all part of a larger, more fluid material form known as posy: "To contemplate a song of pearl, or a 'poysee' ('posy', 'poesie') 'made of letters of fine gold'—or, alternatively, a miniature book in an ornamental binding designed to be worn at the waist—is to be unable to distinguish between a poem, a jewel, an acoustical structure and a feat of embroidery." In Fleming's view, early modern writing has an "ostentatious materiality" that makes poetry indistinguishable from real, material objects. I would extend this analogy further by noting that each of the inscribed objects Fleming describes—embroidered letters in seed pearl and gold filament, enameled girdle books like Elizabeth's tiny prayer book—are both ornamented and ornamental. These objects not only seem to comment on the ornamental nature of early modern poetry, but to remediate and embody it. Puttenham depicts poetic form as gem-like, when he presents his readers with poems in geometric shapes that he insists are reproductions of poems originally fashioned out of inlaid gemstones. The poems take the shapes of carved jewels in lozenges and diamonds, reproduced on the pages in print, first just as lined shapes and then as fully worded poems. According to Puttenham, these shaped poems, like the gemstones they represent, have Ottoman origins, which I will discuss in more detail in Chapter 2.
It is no accident, then, that many late sixteenth-century poems are also rich with imagery associated with the traffic in Near Asian and Levantine luxuries, whether they are the literal gemstones and "Orient" pearls Marlowe uses to describe Hero's virginal virtue and bodily fluids, which I examine in the first half of Chapter 5, or the cryptic ciphers and zeros (arithmetic was a recent Eastern mercantile import, too) that inscribe and scar the bodies of Shakespeare's Tarquin and Lucrece, as I will discuss at length in Chapter 3. References to the trade with the East create their own verbal and associative economies within each text, expanding and remodeling England's view of itself as an emerging player in the global market. This book explores what it means for English writers to have a materially inflected Eastern poetics at the dawn of the seventeenth century, long before the British Empire's colonization of and infatuation with the Orient. Early modern English poets, I argue, turned to Levantine and Asian imports as a way of renegotiating their ambivalent relationship to classical poetry.
Words and Things
If overseas exchange helped English poets adapt and remediate stories and themes from classical poetry, the active mediators that reshaped ideas about the ancient world and the contemporary Near East were words. And words in early modern England had more materiality than they do for us. By this I mean that words had a physical presence, that they possessed textual materiality—as figures of ink pressed into a page, as graffiti on a wall, or as an inscription on a monument—and also that they could be considered objects or "merchandise," as the dedicatory poem in Blount's dictionary attests, when they entered the English language from foreign tongues. In those cases, words functioned as imports.
What happens when a word that signifies a thing, maybe even an imported, luxurious thing such as a pearl, takes up residence in the imaginary world of a poem? The circulation of words-as-things and things-as-words must necessarily shift, and the word-as-thing must undergo another metamorphosis once it is placed within a fictional and poetic register. An early modern reader may not have had access to an orient pearl, a Turkey red carpet, or an Arabian horse, but poetry made imaginary versions of these things graspable. My reading of early modern English poetic space as an arena of possibility owes something to Giorgio Agamben's idea that poetry necessarily occupies a "topology of the unreal" in order paradoxically to appropriate reality. For Agamben, words play an integral role in conjuring inaccessible things: "the phantasm generates desire, desire is translated into words, and the word [la parola] defines a space wherein the appropriation of what could otherwise not be appropriated is possible." This is not so different from Sidney's definition of poesy as occupying a conditional, synchronic space outside the linear past and present of historical reality. For Sidney, proper poets "borrow nothing of what is, hath been, or shall be; but range, only reined in with learned discretion, into the divine consideration of what may be and should be." For Sidney, poetry has the ability to effect social change, but only because it engages not with past, present, or future but with conditional possibility.
Things, Bill Brown reminds us, draw attention to their existence only when they cease to function as we expect them to: we are supposed to look through a window, but when the window is begrimed, we find ourselves looking at its surface. I want to draw attention to the "thingness" of words and imagery in early modern poetry, to what the reader is not supposed to see. Although poetry is always drawing attention to its sinews and musculature, today we are supposed to wrestle through this infrastructure to arrive at a poem's meaning, to bypass the words and metaphors in favor of uncovering the significance, stories, form, and arguments of a poem, not to pause and contemplate the individual words themselves. But early modern language was neither transparent nor fixed in meaning, nor was composition distanced from the physical exertion of writing and printing as much as it is in our digital age. Though this could be said about all poetry, early modern writers and readers in particular demonstrated a heightened awareness of the "thingness" of words, not only as building blocks of text but also as marks on a page and as imports from other countries and cultures. Each of the individual words I examine in this book is a tiny axis of associations that is incorporated into a larger network of images of imported things within a poem.
In many cases in this book, an imported word appears only a few times within a poem I examine. Statistical frequency, however, does not determine the resonance or significance of a given word within a text, especially when the word is found to participate in a larger network of imagery throughout the poem. The word cipher, for example, appears thrice in Shakespeare's Lucrece, but each instance marks a turning point in the narrative, and each instance is accompanied by a succession of circles, Os, windy exhalations, and illustrations of written negations that together form a network of zero-like associations. Orient appears twice in Marlowe's Hero and Leander, but the pearls it describes are everywhere, dripping from Hero's eyes, twined around Cupid's arm, at the bottom of Neptune's aquatic bower.
Uncovering networks of imported words and things necessarily entails asking my readers to shift their gaze from the dominant imagery and narrative of a poem to images less apparent. By uncovering new networks of images, I deliberately reorient a poem around early modern global trade networks and networks of association between words, objects, metaphor, and imaginary things. Queer theory performs a similarly disorienting gesture, allowing canonical writers like Shakespeare, as Madhavi Menon puts it, to "break out of the boundaries within which he has been confined." As Menon argues, queer readings are no longer limited to explorations of same-sex subjects and gender; they include other forms of textual dislocation. My own reorientations of poems around an axis of imported goods can then be read as queer "disorientations." The notion of reorientation within a poem can be extended to a larger, global cultural model: early modern English trade with Asian and Arab cultures participated in a kind of reorientation itself, in which European cultural assumptions about the East (or the Orient) were reevaluated and revised, and the European Renaissance understanding of classical history had to be reconceived as well.
To understand the agency of imported oriental words and imagery in a remediated ancient occidental poem, I will borrow two terms from Bruno Latour: intermediaries and mediators. According to Latour, the circulation of objects creates social networks; these objects can be either intermediaries, which do not reshape networks and only serve to convey meaning in a symbolic manner, or mediators, which connect and transform these networks. The distinction between a mediator and an intermediary is one of materiality: whereas an intermediary indicates a change through an abstract, symbolic relationship, there is something in the material infrastructure of a mediator that fundamentally changes or creates a social network. For example, in 1930s American culture, silk stockings (intermediaries) symbolized upper-class luxuries, until the newly invented chemical structure of nylon made sheer stockings affordable and available to all classes, thus reconfiguring both the social network and its meanings. A similar argument might be made about the technological transition from a literary culture based on book publication (intermediary) first through manuscripts and next based on moveable type (mediator), which reconfigured social networks by making books more affordable and readily available.
If we accept that language and poetry contribute to the fabric of social networks, then early modern imports and the words associated with them can be read both as intermediaries and mediators, transforming and revising early modern understanding of classical antiquity by their etymologies and material presence, and creating new symbolic vocabularies to describe these acts of exfoliation and revision. Words and vocabularies are intermediaries—they will always be a part of language and culture. New and imported words, on the other hand, are mediators, introducing a way of discussing exotic, new things and changing the landscape of language itself by making it more global and diverse. In each of the chapters of this book, I explore a different set of imported things: words, sugar, zero, horses, bulbs, pearls, dyes, and ink. Each of these imports can function as a mediator in an early modern global economy due to its material nature (even zero has a material counterpart, a mark on a page that indicates absence—it made double-entry bookkeeping possible by allowing merchants to indicate a negative balance in writing), but when these things are introduced into English poetry and transformed into words, metaphors, and material textual objects, poetry itself becomes the agent for change, mediating between the ancient classical past and the contemporary mercantile present.
As an example of a word and poetic image as mediator, I want to consider Edmund Spenser's use of the word antique in his translation of Joachim du Bellay's sonnet sequence and dream visions Les Antiquitez du Rome, which appeared in English as two poems: The Ruines of Rome: by Bellay and Visions of Bellay in Spenser's Complaints of 1591. Antique mediated between traditional and newer notions of classical antiquity, furthering the estrangement of classical antiquity in early modern England, a process that had begun during the Reformation as England found itself at odds with Rome. Depending on its context, the early modern English word antique (accented on the first syllable and also spelled anticke, antic, and antike) could mean either ancient or wild and savage. Today, we distinguish between these words by spelling them differently as antique (ancient) and antic (grotesque). But since both words had interchangeable orthography in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it is difficult to tell if early modern English writers and readers considered them distinct. The modern word antic derives from the Italian term stila antica, or "ancient style," first used to describe the grotesque designs found on the walls of the baths of Nero's Domus Aurea in Rome, first appearing in English in 1548 (according to the Oxford English Dictionary). As decorative grotesques, antics were foreign imports, entering England from Italy and ancient Rome. But in early modern England, antic could also indicate all sorts of barbarous things and behavior, including the capering skeletons in the wild danse macabre, and dark-skinned foreigners and blackness. The fact that antic and antique were orthographically indistinguishable further emphasized their connections to death and decay. For example, in Spenser's The Ruines of Rome, ancient Rome, and by extension antiquity itself, is rendered barbarous and foreign—even oriental—through the repeated use of the semantically fluid early modern term antique/antic. It is the plasticity of early modern orthography and the fluidity of its associative polysemia that make this word a Latourian mediator in the fabric of early modern English literary culture.
Du Bellay's poems are elaborate meditations and dream visions that describe the fall of the Roman Empire. Spenser's English versions of these poems are more than translations: they are also remediations in which the visions become even more estranged, exotic, and "counter-classical." The original poems were composed by a French Catholic writer during an extended stay in Rome in 1550, but in Spenser's translation, they acquire English Protestant resonances. When Rome is not only the ancient seat of culture and learning but also, to Elizabethans, the contemporary location of the popish antichrist, Rome's credibility as the seat of classical learning begins to tarnish. Spenser's translation of du Bellay attempts to negotiate this oscillating identity through his use of the equally multivalent term antique.
The opening poem in Spenser's sonnet sequence Ruines of Rome: by Bellay is both antic and antique in character. Like the antic Dance of Death, the invocation resembles a ritualistic summoning, as the speaker tries to raise the ashy phantoms of ancient Roman poets to help him tell his tale. And like the mystical rituals performed by Odysseus and Aeneas on the boundary between the living and the dead, it evokes antique classical epic: "Thrice vnto you with lowd voyce I appeale" (1.11). The summoning has a terrible echo, full of "shrilling voyce" (1.5) and "shrieking yell" (1.8). And though he intends to sing their praises, the poet's resurrection of these ancient buried "heavenly spirites" is fraught with "sacred horror" (1.13). Exactly whose corpses are Spenser and du Bellay reanimating? Unlike du Bellay, who calls his classical ghosts up heroically from the underworld, Spenser summons demons and tortured souls from the "depth of darkest hell" (1.6). In addition to ancient Roman poets, the sonnets invoke the very architectural ruins themselves ("Arcks, spyres" in Sonnet 7), along with something more primitive, the spiritual and mythological forces of Rome itself: Sonnet 5 imagines the shade (ghost) of Rome as a female "corse drawne forth out of the tombe" (63). No matter what phantom form these reanimated ashes of ancient poetry will take, it is their "antique furie" that the poet most desires:
Thrice vnto you with lowed voyce I appeale,
And for your antique furie here doo call,
The whiles that I with sacred horror sing
Your glorie, fairest of all earthly thing. (11-14)
Spenser uses antique in this poem in all of its antic senses, to signify death, destruction, and monstrous, outlandish behavior as much as to signify the ancient Roman past. In other words, Spenser's use of antique encapsulates the seeds of ancient Rome's own destruction, even as it moves beyond du Bellay's Catholic poem to imagine Catholic Rome's corruption from an English Protestant perspective. All of Spenser's uses of antique appear in French as antique in du Bellay's French text, which after all bears the title "Antiquities of Rome." Spenser's choice to translate du Bellay's title Antiquitez as "Ruines" is therefore surprising, but it suggests that for Spenser, antiquities themselves are ruins, "dusty reliques" (200), real physical traces of a lost and destroyed past. In French, there is no equivalent to early modern English ambiguity of antic/antique. It is worth noting that the early modern French word antique may have had a similar double valence: it was defined as both "auncient, old, stale" and as "cut with Antickes" or material decorated with grotesques, in Randall Cotgrave's 1611 English-French dictionary. This suggests that du Bellay's own use of the term may have also suggested a Rome both ancient and grotesque, though Spenser's English translation estranges his readers from Rome even further, since the English word anticke could also indicate decaying corpses, demons, clowns, and foreigners.
When the adjective antique appears in the poem to indicate Roman antiquity, it represents not simply the ancient past but Rome's physical material remains: the literal ashes of its people, its broken spires, its mountains like "th'antique Palatine" (52), and its charred remains. Spenser's use of antique here finds a corollary in his use of the word relique. Antic ashes are Rome's material relics. Thus, the material sense of antique in the poem becomes most closely tied to ruins and corpses. Sonnet 25 opens with a vain wish to awake "Those antique Caesars, sleeping long in darke" (339). Sonnet 19 imagines that the sins of ancient Rome (luxuriousness) are still buried in its architectural foundation: "Vnder these antique ruines yet remaine" (266), which indicates that from Spenser's Protestant perspective, the same sins will reappear all over again as Catholic idolatry.
In other instances, antique comes to represent not only Rome's material remains but its twofold destruction at the hands of foreign invaders (Goths) and its decline into the "cancring leisure" (312) of luxury and sensuality, which is illustrated through the language of rich material goods imported from the East. In Sonnet 17, Jove's eagle flying too close to the sun becomes both an omen and a metaphor for Rome's fall to northern European (Gothic) invaders, here described as "the Germane Rauen in disguise" (233). When the eagle catches fire and falls burning from the sky, the earth gives birth to Rome's destruction: "The earth out of her massie wombe forth sent / That antique horror, which made heauen adredd" (231-32). The "antique horror" here is the "Germane Rauen," in other words, the foreign invaders. Rome's inflated sense of pride informs the next use of antique, in Sonnet 27, which urges early modern visitors to Rome to find the same extravagance that led to ancient Rome's downfall in "Rome from day to day" (373). Rome's ruined architectural monuments are "haughtie heapes" (367), evidence of "The antique pride, which menaced the skie" (366). "Antique pride" finds a parallel in the "ruin'd pride / Of these old Romane works" (208-9) in Sonnet 15, which asks the "ashie ghoasts" of ancient Romans whether they still mourn the fall of Rome. This, along with the transposition of du Bellay's title, suggests that for Spenser, antique and ruin are almost interchangeable. Thus, we might read "antique pride" as "ruined pride."
The combination of antique/ruin with "pride" also hints at (Eastern) luxuriousness. The sonnet juxtaposes the ruined "haughtie heapes" with present-day Rome's "buildings rich and gay" (375) to show that early modern Rome is rebuilding ancient Rome anew. For Catholic du Bellay, this may be hopeful, but for Protestant Spenser, it is ominous, and ancient Rome's ghost as "the Romaine Daemon" (demon romain in du Bellay's text) takes on new meaning as the Catholic pope, who will "with fatall hand enforce, / Againe on foote to reare her pouldred corse" (378). The reanimated dusty ("pouldred") corpse of Rome resembles the resurrected antic skeletons of the danse macabre. Du Bellay's Sonnet 27 contains a second use of antique: "Regarde après, comme de jour en jour, / Rome, fouillant son antique séjour, / Se rebâtit de tant d'oeuvres divines." But Spenser replaces du Bellay's antique séjour with "decayed fashion": "Then also marke, how Rome from day to day, / Repayring her decayed fashion, / Renewes herself with buildings rich and gay" (373-75). Like his translation of antiquitez in the poem's title into "ruines," Spenser's translation of antique here into "decayed" suggests that there is a more material, physical presence to antiquity, one of putrefaction and loss.
In both Ruines of Rome and Visions of Bellay, Spenser and du Bellay attribute Rome's fall to the monstrous growth of its empire. Rome becomes a female mythological beast, a "Hydra" (Ruines 10.132; Visions 10.136), and the seven-headed beast of Revelation—the seven heads are the seven hills of Rome, a convenient trope for Puritan polemicists (Visions 8). In Ruines Sonnet 23, Rome embodies the grotesque, as the poet compares it to "a vicious bodie" poisoned and distended by the "grose disease" of luxury, "cancring leisure" (Ruines 23.312) brought about by Rome's defeat and colonization of the North African kingdom of Carthage: "That Carthage towers from spoile should be forborne" (310). Carthage's plunder makes Rome's inhabitants grow lazy: "people giuen all to ease" (317), and fat: "swolne with plenties pride" (321). And in Sonnet 28, Rome becomes a "half disbowel'd" (383) oak with a rotten, vermiculated trunk, "barbarous troupe of clownish fone" (Visions 5.64).
The subtle differences between du Bellay's French and Spenser's English reveal in the latter text an anxious and distanced relationship to Rome and antiquity. Sonnet 3 opens with an address to the Roman tourist, "Nouveau venu, qui cherches Rome en Rome." In Spenser's translation, the addressee is not simply a tourist but someone wrenched out of his or her own world: "Thou stranger, which for Rome in Rome thou seekest" (Ruines 3.1). Although it is a convention of early modern English printing to present proper nouns in italics, in Spenser's text, the italicization of Rome, coupled with "stranger" in place of du Bellay's "newcomer," serves to emphasize the cultural difference between the addressee and Rome. Who is this "stranger," this foreigner, and what does it mean to be a "stranger" to Rome? Leonard Barkan has characterized the genealogy of early modern Roman ruins poetry as a "descendancy of displaced persons," moving from Florentine Dante and Petrarch to French du Bellay and finally to English Spenser. Thus, the addressee could be the reader, estranged by the process of reading Spenser's translation. But what if this addressee is Spenser himself, struggling to transpose du Bellay's "strange" French text, already twice removed from Rome? The distance is more powerfully felt in Spenser's translation than in du Bellay's French. In a single word, Spenser's translation distances itself from its own genealogy, demonstrating exactly how removed from ancient and contemporary Rome early modern English readers and writers felt.
In the chapters that follow, I will show how antiquity is reoriented in the East through the fluctuating imagery of imports within a material poetic text. What ultimately happens in these texts is that the classical poetry of the past becomes reanimated by the eastern Mediterranean mercantile present, which helps the English conceive of a new, global poetics. The imported words I examine could be seen as engaging in a small-scale version of Bakhtinian "interanimation." For Bakhtin, the polyphonic interplay of multivalent languages that was strongest in the Renaissance eventually led to a new literary form, the novel. However, Bakhtin categorically dismisses poetry from being capable of interanimation; he insists that poetry depends upon linguistic and authorial individuality, which closed it off to dialogic registers. As I hope this book will demonstrate, such is not the case for the poetry of early modern England, where the language itself was becoming polyvalent and interanimated, and writers were constantly shifting registers by appropriating classical poetic voices. In the chapters that follow, I will attempt to show how a single word or image can interanimate a poetic text through a network of metaphors and associations.
Each chapter focuses on an early modern Eastern import or set of imports, along with the words, metaphors, and associations that define it. Seven of these will be considered: newly coined loanwords, sugar, zero, horses, bulbs, pearls, and dyes. They include both material commodities (like pearls) and immaterial ones (like words and zero), though each of these things—even zero—finds an embodied material form in the text. Given my emphasis on the relationship between words and things, each chapter takes a similar shape, beginning with the material history or historical philology of an imported object, followed by a close reading of how the import initiates a dialogue with the classical past within the selected poetic text or texts.
Part I, "Barbarian Invasions," addresses texts in which barbarous linguistic imports challenge and supplant the venerated status of ancient Greek and Roman literary culture—from the introduction of barbarous imported neologisms in ancient Rome to the Middle Eastern and Indian inflected language of sugar, which replaces classical metaphors of honey to describe poetic production. The first chapter examines the status of imported and manufactured words as commodities in early modern literary culture and in Jonson's Horatian poetics. Jonson's play Poetaster fuses early modern literary London with Augustan Rome, dramatizing a classical society purging its language of outlandish neologisms. In the comedy's climax, a young upstart poet is given a purgative and vomits inkhorn terms into a bucket, which in turn are taken out, read, and passed around to the other characters. The play imagines ancient poetry contorted into a grotesque by modern linguistic imports, arguing for the establishment of a new, plain style uncorrupted either by Eastern imports or ornate Latinate neologisms. In this way, Jonson subtly both celebrates and ridicules new-made words and imported luxury goods, showing neologisms and archaisms to be two sides of the same, overly ornate coin.
The second chapter argues that as the language of poetic sweetness changes from honey to sugar in the early modern period, this shift also indicates a rejection of classical poetic models in favor of new, imported language located in new English words for confectionary deriving from Arabic, Persian, Indian, and Ottoman languages. The connections between English poetry and sugar not only are found in descriptions of poetry as sugared sweets but extend to the culinary uses to which sugar was put in the period. Sugar was a favored culinary and artistic medium because, like poetry, it could be transformed and shaped in a myriad of ways. Just as metaphors of sugar begin to dominate early modern writers' descriptions of poetry, pushing classical models of honey into the back seat, so do discussions of English poetry like Puttenham's begin to turn toward Asian poetic models and away from classical ones. At the heart of my analysis of Puttenham's Arte is an interpretation of his jeweled pattern poems as parallels to and patterns for inscribed sugar-plate and lozenges. Though Puttenham insists that his poems are real translations from Turkish and were originally written with colorful gemstones, the patterns he presents to his audience mirror patterns suggested for sugared sweets found in early modern cookbooks.
Part II, "Redeeming Ovid," posits that the addition of imagery and new English words for Asian and Levantine imports makes it possible for Shakespeare's narrative poetry to strive toward and propose alternatives to the pain of violation and thwarted union depicted in Ovid's poetry. In my readings of Shakespeare's two narrative poems, The Rape of Lucrece and Venus and Adonis, the Levantine and Asian imports of zero, horses, and bulbs allow this poet to provide alternative endings to two violent Ovidian poetic tragedies. The Rape of Lucrece contains an abundance of O-shaped images, from Lucrece's punctuated cries of desperation ("O!") to the suicide that circumscribes her body in a "watery rigoll" or circle of blood. Chapter 3 contends that the circular imagery and rhetoric of ciphers (zero) in The Rape of Lucrece enacts a poetic transformation of rape from an invisible, "unseen shame" into a figure for publication and agency, lending Ovid's tragic heroine pen and print, as well as a voice. In Chapter 4, I argue that the inclusion of imported Arabian stallions and Turkish tulips in Venus and Adonis presents readers with a productive alternative ending concurrent with the poem's tragically unproductive Ovidian genealogy. Shakespeare makes many significant changes to Ovid's story, namely choosing to represent Venus as older and physically larger than Adonis. But this chapter looks at two other Shakespearean additions: Adonis's horse and the "chequered" purple flower into which he transforms. Though Venus is not successful in her courtship, Adonis's horse is. Its position on display in the poem may hint at the wished for breeding of fame and fortune for its new author, counterbalancing the poem's tragic narrative outcome. The metamorphosis of Adonis into a purple flower checkered with white presents readers with another image of an imported object, a Turkish tulip or fritillary bulb. Bulbs were unique botanical specimens because they contained within them the promise of their own reproduction. If Adonis transforms into a bulb, then all is not entirely lost. As a bulb, the Adonis flower would be able to reproduce as well as regenerate, just as the poem holds the hope of the poet's success in publication.
In Part III, "Reorienting Antiquity," the classical mythology of the Hellespont works together with the language of early modern Ottoman mercantile geography to create a new, global form of English poetry that addresses both the excitement and the precariousness associated with Anglo-Ottoman traffic. For early modern English writers, the Hellespont was a geographical and historical intersection of East and West, Ottoman and classical. It was where Hero and Leander drowned, where a Byzantine Christian princess betrayed her father to a Muslim general, and where early modern Ottoman Janissaries conducted routine customs inspections of merchant ships. In Marlowe's and Chapman's Hero and Leander (1598), the landscape of the Hellespont is a space of dynamic and contested boundaries, infused with and informed by the English mercantile trade with the Ottoman Empire in luxury goods.
Marlowe's poem and Chapman's continuation and translation negotiate the boundaries and commodities of empire differently. For Marlowe, the narrow watery space separating Europe and Asia becomes a dynamic "free trade zone" where anything can happen and jeweled treasure lies buried at the bottom of the sea, free for anyone to discover. Marlowe's imagery of orient pearls represents freedom from Western mores, and the dynamic and protean space of the Hellespont becomes a body of water that queers its subjects as much as it divides East from West. For Chapman, on the other hand, the Hellespont is a heavily policed and regulated space, characterized by betrayal and dissimulation. Imported crimson dyes and paint pigments configure the protagonists' sexual concealment and dissimulation, which must be rooted out and punished by the gods. Unlike Jonson, Puttenham, or Shakespeare, Marlowe and Chapman incorporate the imagery of Ottoman and Asian imports back into classical poetic models: for Marlowe, pearls represent Ovidian libertas, and for Chapman, oriental pigments and dyes exemplify the colors of rhetoric and poetic dissimulation. Just as the Hellespont represents a palimpsestic space, Hero and Leander is a palimpsestic form of poetry.
In the book's Epilogue, I examine how the very imported things that became poetic currencies in sixteenth-century England were translated back into commodities in two seventeenth-century texts, thus assimilated into a global poetic economy that extended north and west as well as further east. Sir John Beaumont's poem The Metamorphosis of Tabacco (1600) translates the American commodity tobacco back into classical narrative, giving it not one but two Ovidian metamorphic myths of origin. Beaumont's representation of trade as a new Pantheon is global, rather than located in one place: tobacco is just one of a host of imports coming from the East, West, North, South, earth, sky, and sea. In contrast, Henry Ligon maps early modern poetic metaphors of the eastern Mediterranean onto the body of an African woman. His fantastical description of the mistress of the Portuguese governor of the Canary Islands simultaneously fragments her body into a collection of imported commodities and into an anthology of early modern poetic and literary references. Ligon's portrait of the governor's mistress reveals that just as early modern poems themselves were ornamented with imported words and things, so could foreign bodies be ornamented with poetry itself. Far out in the Canary Islands, with North Africa behind him and the Caribbean ahead of him, early modern poetic artifacts assume the roles of foreign imports themselves, mediating this time between a familiar Mediterranean oriental world and an unfamiliar New World.