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Poem of the week: And if I did, What Then? by George Gascoigne | Carol Rumens

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Wryly addressing a failure of romantic fidelity, with a very modern suspicion of work that 'smells of the inkhorn', this 16th-century lyric still fizzes

George Gascoigne (1539?1577) had a disappointing career at court and perhaps this accounts for the pragmatic, rather sardonic nature of his poetry. Or perhaps these characteristics hindered his advancement? At any rate, there is an independence of mind here, and a voice and tone which cut through the centuries as he exclaims, "Fie pleasure fie! I cannot like of this" or sings a lullaby to his lost youth and his lost erection. He was a clever innovator in a variety of genres besides poetry, and some of his ideas about verse composition still have currency today.

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