In January, 1595, Richard Barnfield published his twenty sonnets to Ganymede.1 This sequence is mainly remarkable for its subject--that passionate friendship of one man for another which is the first motive in Shakspere's series. In treating this subject Barnfield has but two lyrical themes, Ganymede's beauty and the poet's love. There is no narrative or dramatic element in the sequence. Ganymede's beauty is expressed by mythological comparisons:--
"Cherry-lipt Adonis in his snowie shape,
Might not compare with his pure Ivorie white."2
The poet's love for his friend is put in equally literary terms, drawn from classical thought:--
"The Stoics thinke (and they come neare the trath,)
That virtue is the chiefest good of all.
* * * * * * *
My chiefest good, my chiefe felicity,
Is to be gazing on my love's faire eie."3
It is suspected that Barnfield imitates Shakspere, or that Shakspere imitates him. Certainly, besides the common use of the theme of friendship, there is a resemblance between them in the smoothness and sweetness of their verses.
1Poems, Grosart, The Roxburghe Club, 1876.