Kalender of Man’s Life

Shakespeare’s Library –  Poetry

#18 Robert Farley, Kalender of Man’s Life (1638-03-08)

Shakespeare was an avid reader of poetry, plays, and other literary genres, but he was also inspired by practical everyday texts. The “shepherd’s calendar” was a compendium of useful information similar to an almanac, and was an extremely popular genre. Like Edmund Spenser (see item 20) Robert Farley imitated this genre by adapting the almanac form while extending and combining it with the conventions of emblem books. Emblems included a symbolic image, a Latin motto, and a poem explaining the importance of the quality depicted. Farley’s book traces the stages of a man’s life, beginning in the spring of youth and ending with winter, providing both English and Latin versions of his poems. Imitating Farley’s own practice, one early owner of this copy produced his own Latin translation of a few lines of Farley’s English verse, writing the lines in the margin. The small format and abundance of illustrations provide an example of the kinds of almanacs and emblem books with which Shakespeare would have been very familiar.

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