Joshua Sylvester's translation of Du Bartas' Les semaines and the development of English poetic diction

Lepage, John Louis (1982) Joshua Sylvester's translation of Du Bartas' Les semaines and the development of English poetic diction. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 1982LepagePhd.pdf] PDF
Download (24MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


This dissertation first sets out to place Du Bartas' Les Semaines in its
religious and epic setting, and argues that the poem's mission is to exist as
poetry and as religious instruction at the same time. From this and its
philosophical backdrop emerges a poetry that emphasises equation, or fusion,
over comparison. Antique-type similes are therefore summarily examined and
connected with the "primary" sensibilities of Homer.
The proper fusive style and language of Sylvester's translation are then
considered. Its style is found to be conscious to a degree, relying especially
on repetitional devices of catechistic value, such as anaphora and symploce;
on devices of oxymoronic and paradoxical metamorphosis, such as agnominatio;
and on devices of epigrammatic summary, such as chiasmus.
The language of Sylvester's Du Bartas is then examined closely in two
domains, those of its scientific and natural description. The two are not
wholly separable. It is found that Sylvester's language, as Du Bartas, must
be interpreted at more than its literal level; that three levels of interpretation
along the lines of three levels of allegory are implicit. This is so in
respect the italicised language so prominent in Divine Weeks, discussed in
Chapter 5, and in respect of the adjectival and verbal language discussed in
Chapter 7. One way of designating the organising principle lying behind these
language hieroglyphs is as emblem book turned purely into words. This is
insensitive to the poetic third level of Operation, which seeks to do more
than teach, which seeks to inspire.
This dissertation relates Sylvester's language to two traditions of English
poetry, as different one from the other as noun is from adjective: the metaphysical
school and the Augustan period. It argues that metaphysical poetry
is enthralled with Du Bartas' conceits in Sylvester's translation, is influenced
by them, and takes them up. These conceits are nonetheless often one-word,
substantive, and hieroglyphic. Augustan poetry on the other hand takes up a Sylvestrian diction, often unaware of its implications, because it deems this
language the true language of poetry. The rather dramatic place given to
Divine Weeks in the development of English poetic diction is dealt with at a
statistical level in an excursus on Sylvester's word and language formulations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 1982
Depositing User: Ms Dawn Pike
Unique ID: glathesis:1982-5083
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2014 11:49
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2014 11:49

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year