Sir
William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, was born in the village of Menstrie,
Scotland. He is famously to have been a scholar, a poet, and someone who had
worked closely to both James I and Charles I and was involved in the affairs of
England and Scotland. He received his education through Dr. Thomas Buchanan
that whom was the tutor of James I of Scotland, however, it is also thought
that he may have attended the University of Glasgow according to the Dictionary
of Canadian Biography. Later in 1603, he had made a reputation of himself as a
poet when he had written and published his “Tragedy of Darius” in Edinburgh
along with the “Tragedy of Croceus” and were later reprinted in 1604. “Aurora,”
another popular work of Alexander, was also printed with the works previously
mentioned but was a piece written before. Although Aurora was published with
those other works, it is recognized to be one of his most, if not most famous,
and well-known pieces he’s written; it seems to outshine some of his other
works at the time. “He there wrote, in 1604, his best-known work, “Aurora,” a
sonnet sequence that outlived his subsequent didactic tragedies” (Britannica,
2016). These were later followed up by the “Alexandrian Tragedies” in 1605 and
the “Tragedy of Julius Caesar” in 1607.Later in 1612, he wrote “An Elgie on the
Death of Prince Henrie” and was a then appointed usher in the house of Prince
Charles. Two years later, he had then published his final work, “Doomes-Day.”
Sir William’s work has so much importance and influence so much, so he still
receives praise from many contemporary writers, one of which included Drummond
of Hawthornden. He was recognized as an influential writer so much that he was
asked to help transcribe the Psalms of King David by King James. According to
the Encyclopedia Britannica, later in 1630 he was created Viscount or Stirling
and Lord Alexander of Tullibody, then in 1633, the Earl of Stirling Viscount of
Canada, and (again) Lord Alexander of Tullibody. Alexanders famous work,
“Aurora,” was written in 1604 along with the “Tragedies of Darius and Croceus,”
but as mentioned before, are outshined by this popular and well-known piece
done by Sir William Alexander. The work “Aurora” is a work seemingly dedicated
to a woman named Aurora, which who the speaker is infatuated and in love with and
tells for how she makes him feel about her. With little to no research done on
the work, interpretation and speculation are left to figure out the themes of
the poem, but it is strongly suggested that romance and suffering is the
primary theme. This is strong reminiscent of Sydney’s “Astrophil and Stella” as
they have the same theme of a strong desire for someone, yet their love causes
them pain. When tying these poems together, they follow a convention made
famous by Petrarch, another well-known poet, and are known as Petrarchan
(Renaissance) sonnet sequences. One seen throughout these poems are “the object
of desire is powerful.” This indicates that the infatuation and love for the
lady leaves the poet/speaker weak and helpless to their feelings toward them,
it may even leave them in pain and cause them to suffer. The object of desire
is all they can think about, this is shown in sonnet 10 of “Aurora”:

 

The
poem does have a specific rhyme scheme and consistent structure going on. As
seen in the sonnet above, the first and fourth lines of the sonnet rhyme, along
with the second and third lines rhyming as well. That’s the usual and most
consistent rhyme scheme that occurs within all the sonnets. The structure is
interesting because all the sonnets have their first two and last two lines
with indents, however the indents on the first lines are due to them having a
large decorated letter at the beginning of each sonnet. Sonnet 1 has a
significantly larger decorated letter, so the indent is bigger than the others.
The decorated letters on each sonnet may just be there for decoration purposes
itself, maybe it is a popular style of writing and printing different pieces of
literary work at the time. It may have been possible that these decorative
letters could’ve been used to make emphasis on the sonnets, or to indicate
which were sonnets or not. Other than Aurora, there are other works that
Alexander had published, many of them have written around the same time Aurora
was and were all put into a collection called “The Monarchicke Tragedies”.
According to Kristen Sandrock in her journal “Ancient empires and early modern
colonialism in William Alexander’s Monarchicke Tragedies (1603-07)”, “the
collection consists of four dramas – “The Tragedy of Croesus”, “The Tragedy of
Darius”, “The Alexandræan Tragedy” and “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” – which
were printed between 1603 and 1607, with Darius is the ?rst published drama.”
These dramas were made to show the downfalls of each king and their kingdom,
following with how they expanded their territories. Alexander wrote these two
“advise” James I on how to be a “wise and successful king,” the plays
‘persistently interrogate situations of monarchic instability, fallibility, and
destruction’ to advise James on how to be a wise, successful king (Sandrock,
347). Alexander’s “Doomes-Day” was another significant and important work
because it was the final piece he had made. Peter Auger said in his journal of
the “Recreation and William Alexander’s Doomes-day (1637)” it was surely written
to be Alexander’s more serious and long-lasting poetic achievements, and there
is evidence that his contemporaries, including William Drummond, thought so
too. This poetic piece was divided up into twelve cantos, or “Hours” (Auger,
2), and is thought to represent the destruction of earth in real-time. The
apocalypse is a major theme within the poem and there are sections devoted to
representing devices to retain human information, like a sort of encyclopedia
of sorts. For example, the third section is devoted to how we interpret all the
information while the last focuses more on “dooms-day” itself. It is
unfortunate that despite his great works and his influence in history, that he
is not brought out or represented in a light that he should. His work is
praised amongst his contemporaries and even seen in good light to both Charles
I and James I which whom he served under. It should be noted that he could’ve
been one of the most important writers of his time and should be recognized in
the same regard.

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