The Renaissance (from the French word meaning ‘to be born again’) refers to the rebirth of art and learning in Europe in the sixteenth century, under the influence of models from the classical civilisations of Greece and Rome. Francis Bacon writes in The Advancement of Learning (1605) that ‘the ancient authors both in divinity and humanity, which had long slept in libraries began generally to be read ... and thereof grew again a delight in their manner of style and phrase’. The poetic forms of the time drew their inspiration directly from classical examples. John Donne’s elegies, for instance, written in the 1590s, derive from the Amores of the Roman poet Ovid, while Ben Jonson, immersed in the comedies of Terence and Plautus, used details from their plays in his own. Legends from classical literature, with all their details, were taken over into English poetry - such as that of Orpheus and Eurydice, used by John Milton in no less than four of his poems.
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