Page images
PDF
EPUB

Do, pious marble, let thy readers know
What they, and what their children owe
To Drayton's name, whose sacred dust
We recommend unto thy trust.
Protect his memory and preserve his story:
Remain a lasting monument of his glory;
And when thy ruins shall disclaim
To be the treasurer of his name,
His name that cannot fade shall be

An everlasting monument to thee. As Aubius Persius Flaccus,' says Meres, in the Wit's Treasury, 'is reputed among all writers to be of an honest life and upright conversation ; SO Michael Drayton (quemtoties honoris et amoris causa nomino) among scholars, soldiers, poets, and all sorts of people, is held for a man of a virtuous disposition, honest conversation, and well governed carriage, which is almost miraculous among good wits in these declining and corrupt times, when there is nothing but roguery in villainous man; and when cheating and craftiness are counted the cleanest wit and the soundest wisdom?' Villainous man has been declining any time these four thousand years.

We can assign Drayton to no particular order of poets; for, so far as he is famous at all, he has equally distinguished himself under all the Muses, from a love-lorn sonnet up to what, for a more descriptive appellation, we must call an epic poem. The Poly-Olbion is a sort of historical, antiquarian, and topographical chronicle in verse; and is alike remarkable for the prolixity of its narrative, the length of its metre, and the variety of its information. It can hardly be called prose or verse, history or romance, argument or description; but an anomalous cento of all these species of composition; and, although it contains many poetical passages, and much curious detail, its merit as a whole can scarcely make us regret, that he did not coinplete his design, by extending the poem to Scot. land. The Baron's Wars are liable to the same Vol. II.

Еe

objections with the Poly-Olbion : the Legends and Heroical Epistles are in a much better taste; and the Nymphidia is among the best specimens of the wild and whimsical in the language. It is said to have suggested Shakespeare's witches in Macbeth. His Idias, Sonnets, and Divine Poems, are not distinguished by any peculiar excellence; and his general merits are so well expressed by Mr. Headly, that we shall spare ourselves the trouble of delineating them in our own language. Drayton possessed great command of his abilities. He has written no masques; his personifications of the passions are few; and the allegorical view which the popularity of Spenser's works may fairly be supposed to have rendered fashionable, and which overruns our earlier poetry, but seldom occurs in him. While his cotemporary Jonson peopled his pages with the heathen mythology, and gave our language new idiomes, by the introduction of latinisms, Drayton adopted a style, that, with a few exceptions, the present age may peruse without difficulty, and not unfrequently mistake for its own offspring. In a most pedantic æra he was unaffected, and seldom exhibits his learning at the expense of his judgment. The latter observation must be confined to particular passages; for, as applied to whole poems, the Poly-Olbion is an everlasting monument of the contrary.

MICHAEL DRAYTON.

NYMPHIDIA:

THE COURT OF FAIRY.

Old Chaucer doth of Topas tell,
Mad Rablais of Pantagruel,
A later third of Dowsabel,

With such poor trifles playing:
Others the like have labour'd at,
Some of this thing, and some of that,
And many of they know not what,

But that they must be saying. Another sort there be, that will Be talking of the FAIRIES still, Nor never can they have their fill,

As they were wedded to them: No tales of them their thirst can slake, So much delight therein they take, And some strange thing they fain would make,

Knew they the way to do them. Then since no Muse hath been so bold, Or of the latter, or the old,

Those elvish secrets to unfold,

Which lie from others' reading; My active Muse to light shall bring The court of that proud fairy king, And tell there of the revelling,

Jove prosper my proceeding.
And thou Nymphidia, gentle fay,
Which meeting me upon the way,
These secrets didst to me bewray,

Which now I am in telling:
My pretty light fantastic maid,
I here invoke to thee my aid,
That I may speak what thou hast said,

In numbers smoothly swelling.
This palace standeth in the air,
By necromancy placed there,
That it no tempests needs to fear,

Which way soe'er it blow it:
And somewhat southward tow’rd the noon,
Whence lies a way up to the Moon,
And thence the fairy can as soon

Pass to the Earth below it.
The walls of spiders' legs are made,
Well morticed and finely laid,
He was the master of his trade,

It curiously that builded :
The windows of the eyes of cats,
And for the roof, instead of slats,
Is cover'd with the skins of bats,

With moonshine that are gilded.
Hence Oberon, him sport to make,
(Their rest when weary mortals take,

And none but only fairies wake)

Descendeth for his pleasure:
And Mab, his merry queen, by night
Bestrides young folks that lie upright,
(In elder times the mare that hight)

With plagues them out of measure.
Hence shadows, seeming idle shapes,
Of little frisking elves and apes,
To earth do make their wanton scapes,

As hope of pastime hastes them : Which maids think on the hearth they see, When fires well-near consumed be, There dancing hays by two and three,

Just as their fancy casts them.
These make our girls their slutt'ry rue,
By pinching them both black and blue,
And put a penny in their shoe,

The house for cleanly sweeping:
And in their courses make that round,
In meadows and in marshes found,
Of them so call'd the Fairy-ground,

Of which they have the keeping.
These, when a child haps to be got,
Which after proves an idiot,
When folk perceive it thriveth not,

The fault therein to smother:
Some silly doating brainless calf,
That understands things by the half,
Say, that the fairy left this aulf,

And took away the other.

« PreviousContinue »