Michael Drayton.

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Henry Frowde, M.A.
Publisher to the University of Oxford
London, Edinburgh, New York
and Toronto





SONNETS (1594) 1

SONNETS (1599) 28

SONNETS (1602) 42

SONNETS (1605) 47

SONNETS (1619) 51

ODES (1619) 56

ODES (1606) 85

ELEGIES (1627) 88

NIMPHIDIA (1627) 124










1563 Drayton born at Hartshill, Warwickshire.

1572? Drayton a page in the house of Sir Henry Goodere, at

c. 1574 Anne Goodere born?

Feb. 1591 Drayton in London. _Harmony of Church_.

1593 _Idea, the Shepherd's Garland_. _Legend of Peirs Gaveston_.

1594 _Ideas Mirrour_. _Matilda_. Lucy Harrington becomes Countess
of Bedford.

1595 Sir Henry Goodere the elder dies. _Endimion and Phoebe_,
dedicated to Lucy Bedford.

1595-6 Anne Goodere married to Sir Henry Rainsford.

1596 _Mortimeriados_. _Legends of Robert, Matilda, and Gaveston_.

1597 _England's Heroical Epistles_.

1598 Drayton already at work on the _Polyolbion_.

1599 _Epistles_ and _Idea_ sonnets, new edition. (Date of Portrait
of Drayton in National Portrait Gallery.)

1600 _Sir John Oldcastle_.

1602 New edition of _Epistles_ and _Idea_.

1603 Drayton made an Esquire of the Bath, to Sir Walter Aston.
_To the Maiestie of King James_. _Barons' Wars_.

1604 _The Owle_. _A Pean Triumphall_. _Moyses in a Map of his

1605 First collected edition of _Poems_. Another edition of
_Idea_ and _Epistles_.

1606 _Poemes Lyrick and Pastorall_. _Odes_. _Eglogs_.
_The Man in the Moone_.

1607 _Legend of Great Cromwell_.

1608 Reprint of Collected Poems.

1609 Another edition of _Cromwell_.

1610 Reprint of Collected Poems.

1613 Reprint of Collected Poems. First Part of _Polyolbion_.

1618 Two _Elegies_ in FitzGeoffrey's _Satyrs and Epigrames_.

1619 Collected Folio edition of Poems.

1620 Second edition of _Elegies_, and reprint of 1619 Poems.

1622 _Polyolbion_ complete.

1627 _Battle of Agincourt_, _Nymphidia_, &c.

1630 _Muses Elizium_. _Noah's Floud_. _Moses his Birth and
Miracles_. _David and Goliah_.

1631 Second edition of 1627 folio. Drayton dies towards the end
of the year.

1636 Posthumous poem appeared in _Annalia Dubrensia_.

1637 _Poems_.


Michael Drayton was born in 1563, at Hartshill, near Atherstone, in
Warwickshire, where a cottage, said to have been his, is still shown. He
early became a page to Sir Henry Goodere, at Polesworth Hall: his own
words give the best picture of his early years here.[1] His education
would seem to have been good, but ordinary; and it is very doubtful if
he ever went to a university.[2] Besides the authors mentioned in the
Epistle to Henry Reynolds, he was certainly familiar with Ovid and
Horace, and possibly with Catullus: while there seems no reason to doubt
that he read Greek, though it is quite true that his references to Greek
authors do not prove any first-hand acquaintance. He understood French,
and read Rabelais and the French sonneteers, and he seems to have been
acquainted with Italian.[3] His knowledge of English literature was
wide, and his judgement good: but his chief bent lay towards the
history, legendary and otherwise, of his native country, and his vast
stores of learning on this subject bore fruit in the _Polyolbion_.

While still at Polesworth, Drayton fell in love with his patron's
younger daughter, Anne;[4] and, though she married, in 1596, Sir Henry
Rainsford of Clifford, Drayton continued his devotion to her for many
years, and also became an intimate friend of her husband's, writing a
sincere elegy on his death.[5] About February, 1591, Drayton paid a
visit to London, and published his first work, the _Harmony of the
Church_, a series of paraphrases from the Old Testament, in
fourteen-syllabled verse of no particular vigour or grace. This book was
immediately suppressed by order of Archbishop Whitgift, possibly because
it was supposed to savour of Puritanism.[6] The author, however,
published another edition in 1610; indeed, he seems to have had a
fondness for this style of work; for in 1604 he published a dull poem,
_Moyses in a Map of his Miracles_, re-issued in 1630 as _Moses his Birth
and Miracles_. Accompanying this piece, in 1630, were two other 'Divine
poems': _Noah's Floud_, and _David and Goliath_. _Noah's Floud_ is, in
part, one of Drayton's happiest attempts at the catalogue style of
bestiary; and Mr. Elton finds in it some foreshadowing of the manner of
_Paradise Lost_. But, as a whole, Drayton's attempts in this direction
deserve the oblivion into which they, in common with the similar
productions of other authors, have fallen. In the dedication and preface
to the _Harmony of the Church_ are some of the few traces of Euphuism
shown in Drayton's work; passages in the _Heroical Epistles_ also occur
to the mind.[7] He was always averse to affectation, literary or
otherwise, and in Elegy viij deliberately condemns Lyly's fantastic

Probably before Drayton went up to London, Sir Henry Goodere saw that he
would stand in need of a patron more powerful than the master of
Polesworth, and introduced him to the Earl and Countess of Bedford.
Those who believe[8] Drayton to have been a Pope in petty spite,
identify the 'Idea' of his earlier poems with Lucy, Countess of Bedford;
though they are forced to acknowledge as self-evident that the 'Idea' of
his later work is Anne, Lady Rainsford. They then proceed to say that
Drayton, after consistently honouring the Countess in his verse for
twelve years, abruptly transferred his allegiance, not forgetting to
heap foul abuse on his former patroness, out of pique at some temporary
withdrawal of favour. Not only is this directly contrary to all we know
and can infer of Drayton's character, but Mr. Elton has decisively
disproved it by a summary of bibliographical and other evidence. Into
the question it is here unnecessary to enter, and it has been mentioned
only because it alone, of the many Drayton-controversies, has cast any
slur on the poet's reputation.

In 1593, Drayton published _Idea, the Shepherds Garland_, in nine
Eclogues; in 1606 he added a tenth, the best of all, to the new edition,
and rearranged the order, so that the new eclogue became the ninth. In
these Pastorals, while following the _Shepherds Calendar_ in many ways,
he already displays something of the sturdy independence which
characterized him through life. He abandons Spenser's quasi-rustic
dialect, and, while keeping to most of the pastoral conventions, such as
the singing-match and threnody, he contrives to introduce something of a
more natural and homely strain. He keeps the political allusions,
notably in the Eclogue containing the song in praise of _Beta_, who is,
of course, Queen Elizabeth. But an over-bold remark in the last line of
that song was struck out in 1606; and the new eclogue has no political
reference. He is not ashamed to allude directly to Spenser; and indeed
his direct debts are limited to a few scattered phrases, as in the
_Ballad_ of _Dowsabel_. Almost to the end of his literary career,
Drayton mentions Spenser with reverence and praise.[9]

It is in the songs interspersed in the Eclogues that Drayton's best work
at this time is to be found: already his metrical versatility is
discernible; for though he doubtless remembered the many varieties of
metre employed by Spenser in the _Calendar_, his verses already bear a
stamp of their own. The long but impetuous lines, such as 'Trim up her
golden tresses with Apollo's sacred tree', afford a striking contrast to
the archaic romance-metre, derived from _Sir Thopas_ and its fellows,
which appears in _Dowsabel_, and it again to the melancholy, murmuring
cadences of the lament for Elphin. It must, however, be confessed that
certain of the songs in the 1593 edition were full of recondite conceits
and laboured antitheses, and were rightly struck out, to be replaced by
lovelier poems, in the edition of 1606. The song to Beta was printed in
_Englands Helicon_, 1600; here, for the first time, appeared the song of
_Dead Love_, and for the only time, _Rowlands Madrigal_. In these songs,
Drayton offends least in grammar, always a weak point with him; in the
body of the Eclogues, in the earlier Sonnets, in the Odes, occur the
most extraordinary and perplexing inversions. Quite the most striking
feature of the Eclogues, especially in their later form, is their bold
attempt at greater realism, at a breaking-away from the conventional
images and scenery.

Having paid his tribute to one poetic fashion, Drayton in 1594 fell in
with the prevailing craze for sonneteering, and published _Ideas
Mirrour_, a series of fifty-one 'amours' or sonnets, with two prefatory
poems, one by Drayton and one by an unknown, signing himself _Gorbo il
fidele_. The title of these poems Drayton possibly borrowed from the
French sonneteer, de Pontoux: in their style much recollection of
Sidney, Constable, and Daniel is traceable. They are ostensibly
addressed to his mistress, and some of them are genuine in feeling; but
many are merely imitative exercises in conceit; some, apparently, trials
in metre. These amours were again printed, with the title of 'sonnets',
in _1599_[10], 1600, _1602_, 1603, _1605_, 1608, 1610, 1613, _1619_, and
1631, during the poet's lifetime. It is needless here to discuss whether
Drayton were the 'rival poet' to Shakespeare, whether these sonnets were
really addressed to a man, or merely to the ideal Platonic beauty; for
those who are interested in these points, I subjoin references to the
sonnets which touch upon them.[11] From the prentice-work evident in
many of the _Amours_, it would seem that certain of them are among
Drayton's earliest poems; but others show a craftsman not meanly
advanced in his art. Nevertheless, with few exceptions, this first
'bundle of sonnets' consists rather of trials of skill, bubbles of the
mind; most of his sonnets which strike the reader as touched or
penetrated with genuine passion belong to the editions from 1599
onwards; implying that his love for Anne Goodere, if at all represented
in these poems, grew with his years, for the 'love-parting' is first
found in the edition of 1619. But for us the question should not be, are
these sonnets genuine representations of the personal feeling of the
poet? but rather, how far do they arouse or echo in us as individuals
the universal passion? There are at least some of Drayton's sonnets
which possess a direct, instant, and universal appeal, by reason of
their simple force and straightforward ring; and not in virtue of any
subtle charm of sound and rhythm, or overmastering splendour of diction
or thought. Ornament vanishes, and soberness and simplicity increase, as
we proceed in the editions of the sonnets. Drayton's chief attempt in
the jewelled or ornamental style appeared in 1595, with the title of
_Endimion and Phoebe_, and was, in a sense, an imitation of Marlowe's
_Hero and Leander_. _Hero and Leander_ is, as Swinburne says, a shrine
of Parian marble, illumined from within by a clear flame of passion;
while _Endimion and Phoebe_ is rather a curiously wrought tapestry, such
as that in Mortimer's Tower, woven in splendid and harmonious colours,
wherein, however, the figures attain no clearness or subtlety of
outline, and move in semi-conventional scenery. It is, none the less,
graceful and impressive, and of a like musical fluency with other poems
of its class, such as _Venus and Adonis_, or _Salmacis and
Hermaphrodius_. Parts of it were re-set and spoilt in a 1606 publication
of Drayton's, called _The Man in the Moone_.

In 1593 and 1594 Drayton also published his earliest pieces on the
mediaeval theme of the 'Falls of the Illustrious'; they were _Peirs
Gavesson_ and _Matilda the faire and chaste daughter of the Lord Robert
Fitzwater_. Here Drayton followed in the track of Boccaccio, Lydgate,
and the _Mirrour for Magistrates_, walking in the way which Chaucer had
derided in his _Monkes Tale_: and with only too great fidelity does
Drayton adapt himself to the dullnesses of his model: fine rhetoric is
not altogether wanting, and there is, of course, the consciousness that
these subjects deal with the history of his beloved country, but neither
these, nor _Robert, Duke of Normandy_ (1596), nor _Great Cromwell, Earl
of Essex_ (1607 and 1609), nor the _Miseries of Margaret_ (1627) can
escape the charge of tediousness.[12] _England's Heroical Epistles_ were
first published in 1597, and other editions, of 1598, 1599, and 1602,
contain new epistles. These are Drayton's first attempt to strike out a
new and original vein of English poetry: they are a series of letters,
modelled on Ovid's _Heroides_,[13] addressed by various pairs of lovers,
famous in English history, to each other, and arranged in chronological
order, from Henry II and Rosamond to Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guilford
Dudley. They are, in a sense, the most important of Drayton's writings,
and they have certainly been the most popular, up to the early
nineteenth century. In these poems Drayton foreshadowed, and probably
inspired, the smooth style of Fairfax, Waller, and Dryden. The metre,
the grammar, and the thought, are all perfectly easy to follow, even
though he employs many of the Ovidian 'turns' and 'clenches'. A certain
attempt at realization of the different characters is observable, but
the poems are fine rhetorical exercises rather than realizations of the
dramatic and passionate possibilities of their themes. In 1596, Drayton,
as we have seen, published the _Mortimeriados_, a kind of epic, with
Mortimer as its hero, of the wars between King Edward II and the
Barons.[14] It was written in the seven-line stanza of Chaucer's
_Troilus and Cressida_ and Spenser's _Hymns_. On its republication in
1603, with the title of the _Barons' Wars_, the metre was changed to
_ottava rima_, and Drayton showed, in an excellent preface, that he
fully appreciated the principles and the subtleties of the metrical art.
While possessing many fine passages, the _Barons' Wars_ is somewhat
dull, lacking much of the poetry of the older version; and does not
escape from Drayton's own criticism of Daniel's Chronicle Poems: 'too
much historian in verse, ... His rhymes were smooth, his metres well did
close, But yet his manner better fitted prose'.[15] The description of
Mortimer's Tower in the sixth book recalls the ornate style of _Endimion
and Phoebe_, while the fifth book, describing the miseries of King
Edward, is the most moving and dramatic. But there is a general
lifelessness and lack of movement for which these purple passages barely
atone. The cause of the production of so many chronicle poems about this
time has been supposed[16] to be the desire of showing the horrors of
civil war, at a time when the queen was growing old, and no successor
had, as it seemed, been accepted. Also they were a kind of parallel to
the Chronicle Play; and Drayton, in any case even if we grant him to
have been influenced by the example of Daniel, never needed much
incentive to treat a national theme.

About this time, we find Drayton writing for the stage. It seems
unnecessary here to discuss whether the writing of plays is evidence of
Drayton's poverty, or his versatility;[17] but the fact remains that he
had a hand in the production of about twenty. Of these, the only one
which certainly survives is _The first part of the true and honorable
historie, of the life of Sir John Oldcastle, the good Lord Cobham,_ &c.
It is practically impossible to distinguish Drayton's share in this
curious play, and it does not, therefore, materially assist the
elucidation of the question whether he had any dramatic feeling or
skill. It can be safely affirmed that the dramatic instinct was nor
uppermost in his mind; he was a Seneca rather than a Euripides: but to
deny him all dramatic idea, as does Dr. Whitaker, is too severe. There
is decided, if slender, dramatic skill and feeling in certain of the
_Nymphals_. Drayton's persons are usually, it must be said, rather
figures in a tableau, or series of tableaux; but in the second and
seventh _Nymphals_, and occasionally in the tenth, there is real
dramatic movement. Closely connected with this question is the
consideration of humour, which is wrongly denied to Drayton. Humour is
observable first, perhaps, in the _Owle_ (1604); then in the _Ode to his
Rival_ (1619); and later in the _Nymphidia_, _Shepheards Sirena_, and
_Muses Elyzium_. The second _Nymphal_ shows us the quiet laughter, the
humorous twinkle, with which Drayton writes at times. The subject is an
[Greek: ag√іn] or contest between two shepherds for the affections of a
nymph called Lirope: Lalus is a vale-bred swain, of refined and elegant
manners, skilled, nevertheless, in all manly sports and exercises;
Cleon, no less a master in physical prowess, was nurtured by a hind in
the mountains; the contrast between their manners is admirably
sustained: Cleon is rough, inclined to be rude and scoffing, totally
without tact, even where his mistress is concerned. Lalus remembers her
upbringing and her tastes; he makes no unnecessary or ostentatious
display of wealth; his gifts are simple and charming, while Cleon's are
so grotesquely unsuited to a swain, that it is tempting to suppose that
Drayton was quietly satirizing Marlowe's _Passionate Shepherd_. Lirope
listens gravely to the swains in turn, and makes demure but provoking
answers, raising each to the height of hope, and then casting them both
down into the depths of despair; finally she refuses both, yet without
altogether killing hope. Her first answer is a good specimen of her
banter and of Drayton's humour.[18]

On the accession of James I, Drayton hastened to greet the King with a
somewhat laboured song _To the Maiestie of King James_; but this poem
was apparently considered to be premature: he cried _Vivat Rex_, without
having said, _Mortua est eheu Regina_, and accordingly he suffered the
penalty of his 'forward pen',[19] and was severely neglected by King and
Court. Throughout James's reign a darker and more satirical mood
possesses Drayton, intruding at times even into his strenuous
recreation-ground, the _Polyolbion_, and manifesting itself more
directly in his satires, the _Owle_ (1604), the _Moon-Calfe_ (1627), the
_Man in the Moone_ (1606), and his verse-letters and elegies; while his
disappointment with the times, the country, and the King, flashes out
occasionally even in the Odes, and is heard in his last publication, the
_Muses Elizium_ (1630). To counterbalance the disappointment in his
hopes from the King, Drayton found a new and life-long friend in Walter
Aston, of Tixall, in Staffordshire; this gentleman was created Knight of
the Bath by James, and made Drayton one of his esquires. By Aston's
'continual bounty' the poet was able to devote himself almost entirely
to more congenial literary work; for, while Meres speaks of the
_Polyolbion_ in 1598,[20] and we may easily see that Drayton had the
idea of that work at least as early as 1594,[21] yet he cannot have been
able to give much time to it till now. Nevertheless, the 'declining and
corrupt times' worked on Drayton's mind and grieved and darkened his
soul, for we must remember that he was perfectly prosperous then and was
not therefore incited to satire by bodily want or distress.

In 1604 he published the _Owle_, a mild satire, under the form of a
moral fable of government, reminding the reader a little of the
_Parlement of Foules_. _The Man in the Moone_ (1606) is partly a
recension of _Endimion and Phoebe_, but is a heterogeneous mass of
weakly satire, of no particular merit. The _Moon-Calfe_ (1627) is
Drayton's most savage and misanthropic excursion into the region of
Satire; in which, though occasionally nobly ironic, he is more usually
coarse and blustering, in the style of Marston.[22] In 1605 Drayton
brought out his first 'collected poems', from which the _Eclogues_ and
the _Owle_ are omitted; and in 1606 he published his _Poemes Lyrick and
Pastorall_, _Odes_, _Eglogs_, _The Man in the Moone_. Of these the
_Eglogs_ are a recension of the _Shepherd's Garland_ of 1593: we have
already spoken of _The Man in the Moone_. The _Odes_ are by far the most
important and striking feature of the book. In the preface, Drayton
professes to be following Pindar, Anacreon, and Horace, though, as he
modestly implies, at a great distance. Under the title of _Odes_ he
includes a variety of subjects, and a variety of metres; ranging from an
_Ode to his Harp_ or _to his Criticks_, to a _Ballad of Agincourt_, or a
poem on the Rose compared with his Mistress. In the edition of 1619
appeared several more Odes, including some of the best; while many of
the others underwent careful revision, notably the _Ballad_. 'Sing wee
the Rose,' perhaps because of its unintelligibility, and the Ode to his
friend John Savage, perhaps because too closely imitated from Horace,
were omitted. Drayton was not the first to use the term _Ode_ for a
lyrical poem, in English: Soothern in 1584, and Daniel in 1592 had
preceded him; but he was the first to give the name popularity in
England, and to lift the kind as Ronsard had lifted it in France; and
till the time of Cowper no other English poet showed mastery of the
short, staccato measure of the Anacreontic as distinct from the Pindaric
Ode. In the _Odes_ Drayton shows to the fullest extent his metrical
versatility: he touches the Skeltonic metre, the long ten-syllabled line
of the _Sacrifice to Apollo_; and ascends from the smooth and melodious
rhythms of the _New Year_ through the inspiring harp-tones of the
_Virginian Voyage_ to the clangour and swing of the _Ballad of
Agincourt_. His grammar is possibly more distorted here than anywhere,
but, as Mr. Elton says, 'these are the obstacles of any poet who uses
measures of four or six syllables.' His tone throughout is rather that
of the harp, as played, perhaps, in Polesworth Hall, than that of any
other instrument; but in 1619 Drayton has taken to him the lute of Carew
and his compeers. In 1619 the style is lighter, the fancy gayer, more
exquisite, more recondite. Most of his few metaphysical conceits are to
be found in these later Odes, as in the _Heart_, the _Valentine_, and
the _Crier_. In the comparison of the two editions the nobler, if more
strained, tone of the earlier is obvious; it is still Elizabethan, in
its nobility of ideal and purpose, in its enthusiasm, in its belief and
confidence in England and her men; and this even though we catch a
glimpse of the Jacobean woe in the _Ode to John Savage_: the 1619 Odes
are of a different world; their spirit is lighter, more insouciant in
appearance, though perhaps studiedly so; the rhythms are more fantastic,
with less of strength and firmness, though with more of grace and
superficial beauty; even the very textual alterations, while usually
increasing the grace and the music of the lines, remind the reader that
something of the old spontaneity and freshness is gone.

In 1607 and 1609, Drayton published two editions of the last and weakest
of his mediaeval poems - the _Legend of Great Cromwell_; and for the next
few years he produced nothing new, only attending to the publication of
certain reprints and new editions. During this time, however, he was

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