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Elizabethan literature, English mystery cycles, narrative poetry


Though it would be impossible to claim for Thomas Blenerhasset's A Revelation of the true Minerva (15820 a place among the major works of Elizabethan literature, the poem deserves more than the cursory references it sometimes receives as an early indication of the influence of The Shepheardes Calender (1579) upon English verse. Not only does Blenerhasset's narrative poem suggest ways in which an alert and cultivated reader might respond to Spenser's first published poem, but A Revelation contains tantalizing clues to that rare metamorphosis accomplished by English writers in the reign of Elizabeth, a process by which Tudor poets, like their sovereign, sought to establish continuity with the traditions of the medieval past. A Revelation certainly bespeaks its debts to the classical and the contemporary pastoral traditions – at first hand, its direct and intense debt to Spenser, at second, its broader, more extensive debt to the conventions of the pastoral are passed on from Theocritus through Virgil to Mantuan and Elizabethans like Googe and Gascoigne – but it should also be seen in relation to another, and indigenous, variety of pastoral. In the medieval shepherds' pageants that dramatized the message oft he Incarnation in each of the four extant English mystery cycles, we may find yet another series of conventions that underpin Blenerhasset's elaborate compliment to Elizabeth, the incarnation of England's hopes and ideals.