Michael Drayton.

The complete works of Michael Drayton, now first collected (Volume 2) online

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quest.

1 De Gest. Reg. 2. cap. 11.

* He commanded all laws made by the ancient Kings to be kept,
especially those of Ethelred, to which the Kings swear under name
of King Edward's laws, not that he made them, but observed them.




VOL. II.



THE TWELFTH SONG.



The Argument.

The Muse, that -part of Shropshire lilies
Which on the East of Severne /<e.s.-
Where mighty Wrekin /ro?n his height,
In the proud Cambrian Mountains' spite,
Sings those great Sa.xonsy uHng here,
Wliich the most famous warriors were.
And as she in her course proceeds,
Belating many glorious deeds,
Of Guy of Warwick's /[;/*< doth strain
With Colebrond, that renoivn6d Dane,
And of the famous Battles tried
Twixt Knute and Edmond-Irouside ;
To the Staffordian fields doth rove ;
Visits the Springs of Trent and Dove ;
Of Moreland, Cank, and Need wood sings ;
An end which to this Canto brings.



10



IS




I HE haughty Camhrian Hills enamor'd of their praise
(As they who only sought ambitiously to raise
The blood of god-like Brate) their heads do
proudly bear :
And ha\ang crown'd themselves sole Eegents of the air
(Another war with Heaven as though they meant to make) 5
Did seem in great disdain the bold aiFront to take,

8—2



116 POLY-OLBION,

That any petty Hill upon the English side,

Siunild dare, not (with a crouch) to vail unto their pride.

When JFrelin, as a Hill his proper worth that knew,
And undei'stood from whence their insolency grew, lo

For all that they appear'd so terrible in sight,
Ytt would not once forego a jot that was his right.
And when they star'd on him, to them the like he gave,
And answer'd glance for glance, and brave again for brave :
That, Avlien some other Hills, which English dwellers were, is
The lusty IFreJdn saw himself so well to bear
Against the Cambrian part, respectless of their power j
His eminent disgrace expecting every hour,
Tliose Flatterers that before (with many cheerful look)
Had grac'd his goodly site, him utterly forsook, 20

And muffled them in clouds, like mourners veil'd in black,
Which of their utmost hope attend the ruinous wrack :
That those delicious Nymphs, fair Teanu and Ilodon clear
(Two Brooks of him belov'd, and two that held him dear ;
He having none but them, the}'^ having none but he, 2&

"Wliich to their mutual joy might either's object be)
Witliin their secret brtasts conceived sundry fears.
And as they mixt their streams, for him so mixt their tears.
Whom, in their coming down, wdien plainly he discerns,
For them his nobler heart in his strong bosom yearns : so
But, constantly resolv'd, that (dearer if they were)
The Lrikms should not yet all from the English bear ;
Therefore, quoth he, brave Flood, though forth by Cambria

brought,^
Yet as fair England's friend, or mine thou would'st be thought
(0 Severne !) let thine ear my just defence partake : 35

"Which said, in the behalf of th' English, thus he spake :

Wise IFcerer (I suppose) sufficiently hath said
Of those our Princes here, which (iistcd, watch'd, and pray'd,

* Out of PlinUimon, in the confines of Cnrdk'an andMontgovKri/.



THE TJVELFTII SONG. 117

"Whose deep devotion went for others' vent'rous deeds :
But in this Song of mine, he seriously that reads, 40

Shall find, ere I have done, the Britan (so extoll'd,
Whose height each Mountain strives so mainly to uphold)
Match'd with as valiant men, and of as clean a might,
As skilful to command, and as inur'd to fight.
Who, when then- fortune will'd that after they should
scorse 4i

Blows with the big-bon'd Dane, eschanging force for force
(When first he put from sea to forage on this shore,
Two hundred years^ distain'd with either's equal gore ;
Now this aloft, now that : oft did the English reign,
And oftentimes again depressed by the Dane) so

The Saxons, then I say, themselves as bravely show'd,
As these on whom the Welsh such glorious praise bestow'd..

Nor could his angry sword, who Egbert overthrew
(Through which he thought at once the Saxons to subdue)
His kingly courage quell : but from his short retire, 55

His reinforced trpops (new forg'd with sprightly lire)
Before them drave the Dane, and made the Britan run
(Whom he by liberal Avage here to his aid had won)
Upon their recreant backs, which both in flight were slain.
Till their huge murthered heaps manur'd each neighbouring
plain. till

As, Ethelwolfe again, his utmost powers that bent
Against those fresh supplies each year from Denmark sent
(Which, prowling up and down in their rude Danish oars,
Here put themselves by stealth upon the pest'red shores)
In many a doubtful fight much fame in England wan. os
So did the King of Kent, courageous Afhelstan,
Which here against the Dane got such victorious days.

So, we the IFiUshire men as worthily may praise.
That buckled with those Danes, by Ceorle and Osrick brought.
^ See to the Firdt Soug.



118 POLY-OLBION,

And Elheldred, with them nine sundry Fields that fought,
Recorded in his praise, the conquests of one year. n

You right-nam'd English then, courageous men you were
When Bedding ye regain'd, led by that valiant Lord :
■\Vhere Basrig ye out-brav'd, and Halden, sword to sword ;
The most redoubted spkits that Denmark here addrest. 75

And Aimed, not much inferior to the rest :
"Who having in his days so many dangers past.
In seven brave foughten Fields their Champion Huhha chac'd.
And slew him in the end, at AUngton, that day
Whose like the Sun ne'er saw in his diurnal way : so

"Where those, that from the Field sore -wounded sadly fled,
Were well-near overwhelm'd with mountains of the dead.
His force and fortune made the foes so much to fear,
As they the Land at last did utterly forswear.

And, when proud Bollo, next, their former powers repair'd
(Yea, when the Avorst of all it with the Euglhh far'd) so
"\Miose Countries near at hand, his force did still supply,
And Denmark to her drew the strengths of Normandg,
This Prince in many a fight their forces still defied.
The goodly River Lee he wisely did divide, oo

By wdiich the Danes had then their full-fraught Navies

tew'd :
Tlie greatness of whose stream besieged Harford rew'd.
This yllfred whose fore-sight had politicly found
Betwixt them and the Thames advantage of the ground,
A puissant hand thereto laboriously did put, 05

§ And into lesser streams that spacious Current cut.
Their ships thus set on shore (to frustrate their desire)
Those Danhli hulks became the food of English fire.

Great Alfred left his life : when Bifida up-grew,
That far beyond the pitch of other women flew : loo

Who havuig in her youth of childing felt the woe,
^ See to the next Song, of Eollo.



THE TWELFTH SONG. 119

§ Her lord's embraces vow'd she never more would know :
But diff'ring from her sex (as full of manly fire)
This most courageous Queen, by conquest to aspire,
The puissant Danish powers victoriously pursu'd, io5

And resolutely here through their thick squadrons hew'd
Her way into the North. Where, Darby having won,
And things beyond belief upon the Enemy done,
She sav'd besieged Yorke ; and in the Danes despite.
When most they were upheld with all the Eastern might, no
More Towns and Cities built out of her wealth and power.
Than all their hostile flames could any way devour.
And, when the Danish here the Country most destroy'd,
Yet all our powers on them not wholly were employ'd;
But some we still reserv'd abroad for us to roam, 115

To fetch in foreign spoils, to help our loss at home.
And all the Land, from us, they never clearly wan :
But to his endless praise, our English Athelstan,
In the Northumbrian fields, with most victorious might
Put Alaffe and his powers to more inglorious flight ; 120
And more than any King of th' English him before,
Each way from North to South, from West to th' Eastern

shore,
Made all the Isle his own ; his seat who firmly fixt,
The Galidonian Hills and Cathnes point betwixt,
§ And Constantine their King (a prisoner) hither brought ; 125
Then over Severne's banks the warlike Britans fought :
Where he their Princes forc'd from that their strong retreat,
In England to appear at his Imperial seat.

But after, when the Danes, who never wearied were,
Came with intent to make a general conquest here, iso

They brought with them a man deem'd of so wond'rous

might,
As was not to be match'd by any mortal wight :
For, one could scarcely bear his axe into the field ;



120 POLF-OLBIOiV,

Which as a little wand the Dane would lightly wield :

And (to enforce that strength) of such a dauntless spirit, 135

A man (in their conceit) of so exceeding merit,

That to the Englhli oft they ofFer'd him (in pride)

The ending of the war by combat to decide :

Much scandal which procur'd unto the English name.

When, some out of their love, and some spurr'd on with

shame, i4o

By envy some provok'd, some out of courage, fain
Would undertake the cause to combat with the Dane.
But Athelstan the while, in settled judgment found,
Should the Defendant fail, how wide and deep a wound
It likely was to leave to his defensive war. 145

Thus, whilst with sundry doubts his thoughts perplexed

are.
It pleas'd all-powerful Heaven, that Warwick's famous Guy
(The knight through all the world renown'd for chivalry)
Arriv'd from foreign parts, where he had held him long.
His honourable arms devoutly having hong 150

In a Religious house, the off 'rings of his jjraise,
To his Redeemer Christ, his help at all assays
(Those Arms, by whose strong proof he many a Christian

freed,
And bore the perfect marks of many a worthy deed)
Himself, a palmer poor, in homely russet clad 155

(And only in his hand his hermit's staff he had)
Tow'rds IFinchestcr alone (so) sadly took his way,
Where Athelstan, that time the King of England lay ;
And where the Danish Camp then strongly did abide,
Near to a goodly mead, wliich men there call the Hide, loo

The day that fhiij arriv'd (when silent night did bring
Sleep both on friend and foe) that most rcdigious King
(Whose strong and constant heart, all grievous cares sup-

prest)



THE TTVELFTH SONG. ]21

His due devotion done, betook himself to rest.

To whom it seem'd by night an Angel did appear, ig5

Sent to him from that God Whom he invok'd by pray'r ;

Commanding him the time not idly to forslow,

But rathe as he could rise, to such a gate to go.

Whereas he should not fail to find a goodly knight

In palmer's poor attire : though very meanly dight, 170

Yet by his comely shape, and limbs exceeding strong,

He eas'ly might him know the other folk among ;

And bad him not to fear, but choose him for the man.

No sooner brake the day, but uprose Athelstan ;
And as the Vision show'd, he such a palmer found, irs

With others of his sort, there sitting on the ground :
Where, for some poor repast they only seem'd to stay,
Else ready to depart each one upon his way :
When secretly the King revealed to the knight
His comfortable dreams that lately-passed night : iso

With mild and princely words bespeaking him ; quoth he,
Far better you are known to Heaven (it seems) than me
For this great action fit : by Whose most dread command
(Before a world of men) it's lay'd upon your hand.
Then stout and valiant knight, here to my court repair, iss
Refresh you in my baths, and mollify your care
With comfortable wines and meats what you will ask :
And choose my richest arms to fit you for this task.

The palmer (grey with age) with countenance lowting low.
His head even to tlie earth before the King doth bow, mo
Him softly answering thus ; Dread Lord, it fits me ill
(A wretched man) t' oppose high Heaven's eternal will :
Yet my most sovereign Liege, no more of me esteem
Than this poor habit shows, a pilgrim as I seem ;
But yet 1 must confess, have seen in former days 195

The best knights of the world, and scuffled in some frays.
Those times are gone with me ; and, being aged now,



122 POLY-OLBION,

Have off 'red np my arms, to Heaven and made my vow

Ke'er more to bear a shield, nor my declining age

(Except some palmer's tent, or homely hermitage) 200

Shall ever enter roof : but if, by Heaven and thee,

This action be impos'd great English King on me,

Send to the Danish Camp, their challenge to accept,

In some convenient place proclaiming it be kept :

Where, by th' Almighty's power, for England I'll appear. 205

The King, much pleas'd in mind, assumes his wonted
cheer.
And to the Danish power his choicest herault sent. .
When, both through camp and court, this combat quickly

went.
Which suddenly divulg'd, whilst every list'ning ear,
As thirsting after news, desirous was to hear, 210

Who for the English side durst undertake the day ;
The puissant Kings accord, that in the middle way
Betwixt the tent and town, to either's equal sight,
Within a goodly mead, most fit for such a fight.
The Lists should be prepar'd for this material prize. 215

The day prefixt once com'n, both Dune and English rise,
And to th' appointed place th' unnumb'red people throng :
The weaker female sex, old men, and children young.
Into the windows get, and up on stalls, to see
The man on whose brave hand their hope that day must be.
In noting of it well, there might a man behold 221

More sundry forms of fear than thought imagine could.
One looks upon his friend with sad and heavy chear,
Who seems in this distress a part with him to bear :
Their passions do express much pity mixt with rage. 225
Whilst one his wife's laments is labouring to assuage,
His little infant near, in childish gibbri(lg(> shows
AV' hat addeth to his grief who sought to calm her woes.
One having climb'd some roof, the concourse to descry,



THE TIVELFTH SONG. 123

From thence upon the earth directs his humble eye, 230

As since he thither came he suddenly had found

Some danger them amongst which lurk'd upon the ground.

One stands with fix6d eyes, as though he were aghast :

Another sadly comes, as though his hopes were past.

This hark'neth with his friend, as though with him to break

Of some intended act. Whilst they together speak, 236

Another standeth near to listen what they say,

Or what should be the end of this so doubtful day.

One great and general face the gathered people seem :

So that the perfect'st fight beholding could not deem 2W

What looks most sorrow show'd ; their griefs so equal were.

Upon the heads of two, whose cheeks were join'd so near

As if togetJier grown, a third his chin doth rest :

Another looks o'er his : and others, hardly prest;

Look'd underneath their arms. Thus, whilst in crowds

they throng 245

(Led by the King himself) the Champion comes along;
A man well-strook in years, in homely palmer's gray.
And in his hand his staff, his reverend steps to stay.
Holding a comely pace : which at his passing by.
In every censuring tongue, as every serious eye, 250

Compassion mixt with fear, distrust and courage bred.

Then Colehrond for the Danes came forth in ireful red ;
Before him (from the camp) an ensign first display'd
Amidst a guard of gleaves : then sumptuously array'd
Were twenty gallant youths, that to the warlike sound 255
Of Danish brazen drums, with many a lofty bound.
Come with their Country's march, as they to Mars should

dance.
Thus, forward to the fight, both Champions them advance :
And each without respect doth resolutely chuse
The weapon that he brought, nor doth his foe's refuse. 200
The Dane prepares his axe, that pond'rous was to feel,



124 POLY-OLBIOX,

"\Miose squares were laid with plates, and riveted with steel,
And armed down along with pikes ; whose hard'ned points
(Forc'd \rith the weapon's weight) had power to tear the

joints
Of curass or of mail, or whatsoe'er they took : 255

Which caus'd him at the knight disdainfully to look.

When our stout palmer soon (unknown for valiant Gui/)
The cord from his straight loins doth presently untie,
Puts off his palmer's weed unto his truss, which bore
The stains of ancient arms, but show'd it had before 270
Been costl}^ cloth of gold ; and off his hood he threw :
Out of his hermit's staff his two-hand sword he drew
(The unsuspected sheath which long to it had been)
Which till that instant time the people had not seen ;
A sword so often try'd. Then to himself, quoth he, 275
Arms let me crave your aid, to set my Country free :
And never shall my heart your help again require,
But only to my God to lift you up in pray'r.

Here, Cohbrond forward made, and soon the Christian
knight
Encounters him again with equal power and spight : 2so
Whereas, betwixt them two, might eas'ly have been seen
Such blows, in public throng as us6d had they been,
Of many there the least might many men have slain :
Which none but they could strike, nor none but they sustain ;
The most relentless eye that had the power to awe, 2j55

And so great wonder breil in those the fight that saw,
As verily they thought, that Nature until then
Had purposely reserv'd the utmost power of men.
Where strength still answer'd strength, on courage courage
grew.

Look how two lions fierce, both hungry, both pursue 290
One sweet and selfsame prey, at one another fly,
And with their armed paws ingrappled dreadfully.



THE TWELFTH SONG, 125

The thunder of tlieir rage, and boist'rous struggling, make
The neighbouring forests round affrightedly to quake :
Then- sad encounter, such. The mighty Cokbrond stroke 295
A cruel blow at Gay : which though he finely broke,
Yet (with the weapon's weight) his ancient hilt it split,
And (thereby lessened much) the Champion lightly hit
Upon the reverent brow : immediately from whence
Tlie Ijlood dropp'd softly down, as if the wound had sense 300
Of their much inward woe that it with grief should see.
The Danes, a deadly blow supposing it to be.
Sent such an echoing shout that rent the troubled air.
The English, at the noise, wax'd all so wan with fear,
As though they lost the blood their agt'd Champion shed :
Yet were not these so pale, but th' other were as red ; 306
As though the blood that fell, upon their cheeks had stay'd.

Here Guy, his better spirits recalling to his aid,
Came fresh upon his foe ; when mighty Cokbrond makes
Another desperate stroke : which Guy of IFarwkk takes 310
Undauntedly aloft ; and follow'd with a blow
Upon his shorter ribs, that the excessive flow
Streatn'd up unto his hilts : the wound so gap'd withall.
As though it meant to say, ' Behold your Champion's fall
By this proud palmer's hand.' Such claps again and cries 315
The joyful English gave as cleft the very skies.
Which coming on along from these that were without.
When those within the town receiv'd this cheerful shout.
They answer'd them with like; as those their joy that knew.
Then with such eager blows each other they pursue, 320
As every offer miide should threaten imminent death ;
Until, through heat and toil both hardly drawing breath,
They desperately do close. Look how two boars, being set
Together side to side, their threat'ning tusks do whet,
And with their gnashing teeth their angry foam do bite, 325
Whilst still they should'ring seek, each other where to smite :



126 POLY-OLBION,

Thus stood those ireful knights ; till flying back, at length
The palmer, of the two the first recovering strength,
Upon the left arm lent great Colebrond such a wound,
That whilst his weapon's point fell well-near to the ground,
And slowly he it rais'd, the valiant Guy again 331

Sent through his cloven scalp his blade into his brain.
When downward went his head, and up his heels he threw ;
As wanting hands to bid his Countrymen adieu.

The English part, which thought an end he would have

made, 335

And seeming as they much would in his praise have said,
He bade them yet forbear, whilst he pursu'd his fame
That to this passed King next in succession came ;
That great and puissant knight (in whose victorious days
Those knight-like deeds were done, no less deserving praise)
Brave Edmond^ JEdioard's son, that Stafford having ta'en, 341
With as successful speed won Darhy from the Dane.
From Lester then again, and Lincoln at the length,
Drave out the Dacian Powers by his resistless strength :
And this his England clear'd beyond that raging Flood,* 345
Which that proud King of Ilunnes once christ'ned with his

blood.
By which, great Edmond's power apparantly was shown.
The Land from Uumher South recovering for his own ;
That Edgar after him so much disdain'd the Dane
Unworthy of a war that should disturb his reign, sso

As generally he seem'd regardless of their hate.
And studying every way magnificence in State,
At Chester whilst he liv'd at more than kingly charge,
Eight tributary Kings^ there row'd him in his barge :
His shores from pirates' sack the King that strongly

kept : 355

§ A Ncjdune, whose proud sails the British Ocean swept.

* Uumher, ' See to the Tenth Song.



THE TIVELFTH SONG. 127

But after his decease, when his more hopeful son,
§ By cruel stepdame's hate, to death was lastly done,
To set his rightful Crown upon a wrongful head
(When by thy fatal curse, licentious Etheldred, 860

Through dissoluteness, sloth, and thy abhorred life,
As grievous were thy sins, so were thy sorrows rife)
The Dane, possessing all, the English forc'd to bear
A heavier yoke than first those heathen slaveries were ;
Subjected, bought, and sold, in that most Avretched plight, 365
As even their thi-aldom seem'd their neighbours to affright.
Yet could not all their plagues the English height abate :
But even in their low'st ebb, and miserablest state,
Courageously themselves they into action put,
§ And in one night, the throats of all the Danish cut. 37o

And when in their revenge, the most insatiate Dane
Unshipp'd them ou our shores, under their puissant Swane :
And swoll'n with hate and ire, their huge unwieldy force,
Came clust'ring like the Greeks out of the Wooden-horse :
And the Norfolcian towns, the near'st unto the East, 376
With sacrilege and rape did terriblest infest ;
Those Danes yet from the shores we with such violence drave.
That from our swords, their sliips could them but hardly save.
And to renew the war, that year ensuing, when
With fit supplies for spoil, they landed here again, sso

And all the Southern shores from Kent to Cornwall spread,
With those disord'red troops by Alaffe luther led,
In seconding their Swane, which cry'd to them for aid ;
Their multitudes so much sad Ethelred dismay'd.
As from his Country forc'd the wretched King to fly, 3S5
An English yet there was, when England seem'd to lie
Under the heaviest yoke that ever kingdom bore,
Who wash'd his secret knife in Stvane's relentless gore,
Whilst (swelling in excess) his lavish cups he ply'd.
Such means t' redeem themselves th' afliicted Nation try'd.



128 POLY-OLBION,

And when courageous Knute, th' late murther'd Swaniis^ son,
Came in t' revenge that act on his great father done, 392
He found so rare a spirit that here against him rose.
As though ordain'd by Heaven his greatness to oppose :
Who Avith him foot to foot, and face to face durst stand. 395
When Knute, which here alone affected the command,
The Crown upon his head at fair South-hampton set :
And Edniond, loth to lose what Knute desir'd to get.
At London caus'd himself inaugurate to be.
King Knute Avould conquer all, King Edmond would be free.
The Kingdom is the prize for which they both are prest :
And with their equal powers both meeting in the West, 402
The green Dorsetian fields a deep vermilion dy'd :
AYhere GilUngham gave way to their great hosts (in pride)
Abundantly their blood that each on other spent. 405

But Edmond, on whose side that day the better went
(And with like fortune thought the remnant to suppress
That Sarum then besieg'd, which was in great distress)
With his victorious troops to Scdhhurij retires :
When with fresh bleeding wounds, Knute, as with fresh

desires, 410

Whose might though somewhat maim'd, his mind yet un-

subdu'd,
His lately conquering Foe courageously pursu'd :
And finding out a way, sent to his friends with speed,
'\^'llo him supply 'd with aid : and being help'd at need,
Ti;mpts Edmond still to fight, still ho})ing for a day. 415

Towards JVwstershire their powers both well upon their way,
There, falling to the field, in a continual fight
Two days the angry hosts still parted were l)y night :
AVhere twice the rising sun, and twice the setting, saw
Them with their equal wounds their wearied breath to draw.
Great London to surprise, then (next) Cnnutas makes : 421
And thitherward as fast King Edmond Iromide takes.



THE TJVELFTH SONQ. 129

\^niilst Kmde set down his siege before the Eastern gate,


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