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in 1603. Drayton acted as an esquire to his patron, Sir Walter Aston, in the ceremony of his installation as a Knight of the Bath. The poet expected some patronage from the new sovereign, but was disappointed. He published the first part of his most elaborate work, the Polyolbion, in 1612, and the second in 1622, the whole forming a poetical description of England, in thirty songs, or books.
The Polyolbion is a work entirely unlike any other in English poetry, both in its subject and the manner in which it is written. It is full of topographical and antiquarian details, with innumerable allusions to remarkable events and persons, as connected with various localities; yet such is the poetical genius of the author, so happily does he idealise almost everything he touches on, and so lively is the flow of his verse, that we do not readily tire in perusing this vast mass of information. He seems to have followed the manner of Spenser in his unceasing personifications of natural objects, such as hills, rivers, and woods. The information contained in this work is in general so accurate, that it is quoted as an authority by Hearne and Wood.
In 1627, Drayton published a volume containing The Battle of Agincourt, The Court of Faerie, and other poems. Three years later appeared another volume, entitled The Muses' Elysium, from which it appears that he had found a final shelter in the family of the Earl of Dorset. On his death in 1631, he was buried in Westminster Abbey, where a monument, containing an inscription in letters of gold, was raised to his memory by the wife of that nobleman, the justly celebrated Lady Anne Clifford, subsequently Countess of Pembroke and Montgomery.
Drayton, throughout the whole of his writings, voluminous as they are, shows the fancy and feeling of the true poet. According to Mr Headley-He possessed a very considerable fertility of mind, which enabled him to distinguish himself in almost every species of poetry, from a trifling sonnet to a long topographical poem. If he anywhere sinks below himself, it is in his attempts at satire. In a most pedantic era, he was unaffected, and seldom exhibits his learning at the expense of his judgment.'
[Morning in Warwickshire-Description of a
When Phoebus lifts his head out of the winter's wave,
No sooner doth the earth her flowery bosom brave,
But hunts-up to the morn the feath'red sylvans sing:
Then from her burnisht gate the goodly glitt'ring
Gilds every lofty top, which late the humorous night Bespangled had with pearl, to please the morning's sight;
On which the mirthful quires, with their clear open throats,
Unto the joyful morn so strain their warbling notes,
The ouzel near at hand, that hath a golden bill,
Upon his dulcet pipe the merle1 doth only play.
That moduleth her tunes so admirably rare,
To Philomel the next, the linnet we prefer ;
That hath so many sorts descending from her kind.
To kiss the gentle shade, this while that sweetly sleeps.
And near to these our thicks, the wild and frightful herds,
Not hearing other noise but this of chattering birds, Feed fairly on the lawns; both sorts of seasoned deer: Here walk the stately red, the freckled fallow there : The bucks and lusty stags amongst the rascals strew'd, As sometime gallant spirits amongst the multitude.
Of all the beasts which we for our venerial2 name, The hart among the rest, the hunter's noblest game:
1 Of all birds, only the black bird whistleth.
Save those the best of chase, the tall and lusty red,
The labouring hunter tufts the thick unbarbed grounds,
Or ent'ring of the thick by pressing of the greaves, Where he had gone to lodge. Now when the hart
The often-bellowing hounds to vent his secret lair, He rousing rusheth out, and through the brakes doth drive,
As though up by the roots the bushes he would rive. And through the cumb'rous thicks, as fearfully he makes,
He with his branched head the tender saplings shakes, That sprinkling their moist pearl do seem for him to
When after goes the cry, with yellings loud and deep, That all the forest rings, and every neighbouring place:
And there is not a hound but falleth to the chase. Rechating with his horn, which then the hunter cheers,
Whilst still the lusty stag his high-palm'd head upbears,
His body showing state, with unbent knees upright, Expressing from all beasts, his courage in his flight. But when th' approaching foes still following he perceives,
That he his speed must trust, his usual walk he leaves: And o'er the champain flies; which when the assembly find,
Each follows, as his horse were footed with the wind.
That serving not, then proves if he his scent can foil, And makes amongst the herds, and flocks of shagwool'd sheep,
Them frighting from the guard of those who had their keep.
But when as all his shifts his safety still denies,
T'assail him with his goad: so with his hook in hand,
1 The track of the foot.
One of the measures in winding the horn.
Until the noble deer, through toil bereav'd of strength,
He turns upon his foes, that soon have him inclosed. The churlish-throated hounds then holding him at bay,
And as their cruel fangs on his harsh skin they lay, With his sharp-pointed head he dealeth deadly
The hunter, coming in to help his wearied hounds, He desperately assails; until opprest by force, He who the mourner is to his own dying corse, Upon the ruthless earth his precious tears lets fall! To forests that belongs.
[Part of the Twenty-eighth Song of the Polyolbion.]
But, Muse, return at last, attend the princely Trent, Who straining on in state, the north's imperious flood, The third of England call'd, with many a dainty wood, Being crown'd to Burton comes, to Needwood where
Herself in all her pomp ; and as from thence she flows, She takes into her train rich Dove, and Darwin clear, Darwin, whose font and fall are both in Derbyshire; And of those thirty floods, that wait the Trent upon, Doth stand without compare, the very paragon.
Thus wand'ring at her will, as uncontroll'd she
Her often varying form, as variously and changes; First Erwash, and then Lyne, sweet Sherwood sends her in ;
Then looking wide, as one that newly wak'd had been, Saluted from the north, with Nottingham's proud height,
So strongly is surpris'd, and taken with the sight,
In which she sees herself above her neighbours bless'd. As wrap'd with the delights, that her this prospect brings,
In her peculiar praise, lo thus the river sings: 'What should I care at all, from what my name I
That thirty doth import, that thirty rivers make;
Fetch her descent from Wales, from that proud moun
Plinillimon, whose praise is frequent them among, As of that princely maid, whose name she boasts to bear,
Bright Sabrin, whom she holds as her undoubted heir, Let these imperious floods draw down their long de
From these so famous stocks, and only say of Trent,
1 The hart weepeth at his dying; his tears are held to be precious in medicine.
That Moreland's barren earth me first to light did bring,
Which though she be but brown, my clear complexion'd spring
Gain'd with the nymphs such grace, that when I first did rise,
The Naiads on my brim danc'd wanton hydagies,
Encircled my fair fount with many a lusty round:
Their banks are barren sands, if but compar'd with mine,
Through my perspicuous breast, the pearly pebbles shine:
I throw my crystal arms along the flow'ry valleys, Which lying sleek and smooth as any garden alleys, Do give me leave to play, whilst they do court my
And crown my winding banks with many an anadem;
As nature had thereon bestow'd this stronger guard,
His very near ally, and both for scale and fin,
In taste, and for his bait (indeed) his next of kin,
Food to the tyrant pike (most being in his power), Who for their numerous store he most doth them devour ;
The lusty salmon then, from Neptune's wat'ry realm, When as his season serves, stemming my tideful stream,
Then being in his kind, in me his pleasure takes,
Of many a liquorish lip, that highly is regarded.
Not Ancurn's silver'd eel excelleth that of Trent ; Though the sweet smelling smelt be more in Thames than me,
The lamprey, and his lesse, in Severn general be;
The flounder smooth and flat, in other rivers caught,
Since they but little are, I little need to speak
From all the rest alone, whose shell is all his bones : For carp, the tench, and bream, my other store among
To lakes and standing pools that chiefly do belong, Here scouring in my fords, feed in my waters clear, Are muddy fish in ponds to that which they are
Yet Sherwood all this while, not satisfied to show Her love to princely Trent, as downward she doth flow,
Her Meden and her Man, she down from Mansfield sends
To Iddle for her aid, by whom she recommends
And clip her till she grace great Humber with her fall.
When Sherwood somewhat back the forward Muse doth call;
For she was let to know, that Soare had in her song So chanted Charnwood's worth, the rivers that along, Amongst the neighbouring nymphs there was no other lays,
But those which seem'd to sound of Charnwood, and her praise:
Which Sherwood took to heart, and very much disdain'd,
(As one that had both long, and worthily maintain'd The title of the great'st and bravest of her kind) To fall so far below one wretchedly confined Within a furlong's space, to her large skirts compared:
Wherefore she, as a nymph that neither fear'd nor cared
For ought to her might chance, by others love or hate,
With resolution arm'd against the power of fate,
How he hath cousen'd them, that him would have betray'd;
How often he hath come to Nottingham disguised,
When setting to their lips their little beugles shrill The warbling echoes waked from every dale and hill: Their bauldricks set with studs, athwart their shoulders cast,
To which under their arms their sheafs were buckled fast,
A short sword at their belt, a buckler scarce a span,
They not an arrow drew, but was a cloth yard long.
Their arrows finely pair'd, for timber, and for feather,
The loose gave such a twang, as might be heard a mile. And of these archers brave, there was not any one, But he could kill a deer his swiftest speed upon, Which they did boil and roast, in many a mighty wood,
Sharp hunger the fine sauce to their more kingly food. Then taking them to rest, his merry men and he Slept many a summer's night under the greenwood
From wealthy abbots' chests, and churls' abundant store,
What oftentimes he took, he shared amongst the poor:
To him before he went, but for his pass must pay :
Was sovereign of the woods, chief lady of the game: Her clothes tuck'd to the knee, and dainty braided hair,
With bow and quiver arm'd, she wander'd here and there
Amongst the forests wild; Diana never knew
[David and Goliah.]
And now before young David could come in,
Suiting to these he wore a shepherd's scrip,
Which when Goliah saw, Why, boy,' quoth he,
'Uncircumcised slave,' quoth David then,
With a fair comely gait ; nor doth he run,
Now the Philistines, at this fearful sight,
When straightway Saul his general, Abner, sent
The jolly peacock spreads not half so fair
Her twenty-coloured bow, through clouds of rain:
[Rinaldo at Mount Olivet and the Enchanted Wood.] It was the time, when 'gainst the breaking day, Rebellious night yet strove, and still repined, For in the east appear'd the morning grey, And yet some lamps in Jove's high palace shined, When to Mount Olivet he took his way, And saw, as round about his eyes he twined, Night's shadows hence, from thence the morning's shine, This bright, that dark; that earthly, this divine. Thus to himself he thought how many bright And 'splendent lamps shine in heaven's temple high! Day hath his golden sun, her moon the night, Her fix'd and wand'ring stars the azure sky; So framed all by their Creator's might, That still they live and shine, and ne'er will die, Till in a moment, with the last day's brand They burn, and with them burn sea, air, and land. Thus as he mused, to the top he went, The celebrated translation of Tasso's Jerusalem, And there kneel'd down with reverence and fear; by EDWARD FAIRFAX, was made in the reign of His eyes upon heaven's eastern face he bent; Queen Elizabeth, and dedicated to that princess, His thoughts above all heavens uplifted were— who was proud of patronising learning, but not very The sins and errors which I now repent, lavish in its support. The poetical beauty and free-of iny unbridled youth, O Father dear, dom of Fairfax's version has been the theme of Remember not, but let thy mercy fall almost universal praise. Dryden ranked him with And purge my faults and my offences all. Spenser as a master of our language, and Waller Thus prayed he; with purple wings up-flew, said he derived from him the harmony of his num- In golden weed, the morning's lusty queen, bers. Collins has finely alluded to his poetical and Begilding with the radiant beams she threw, imaginative genius— His helm, the harness, and the mountain green : Upon his breast and forehead gently blew The air, that balm and nardus breath'd unseen; And o'er his head, let down from clearest skies, A cloud of pure and precious dew there flies. the natural son of Sir Thomas Fairfax of Denton, in The heavenly dew was on his garments spread, Yorkshire, and spent his life at Fuystone, in the To which compar'd, his clothes pale ashes seem, forest of Knaresborough, in the enjoyment of many And sprinkled so that all that paleness fled, blessings which rarely befall the poetical race-comAnd thence of purest white bright rays outstream: petence, ease, rural scenes, and an ample command So cheered are the flowers, late withered, of the means of study. He wrote a work on Demon-With the sweet comfort of the morning beam; ology, which is still in manuscript, and in the pre- And so return'd to youth, a serpent old face to it he states, that in religion he was neither Adorns herself in new and native gold. a fantastic Puritan, nor a superstitious Papist.' He also wrote a series of eclogues, one of which was The lovely whiteness of his changed weed published in 1741, in Cooper's Muses' Library, but it The prince perceived well and long admired ; is puerile and absurd. Fairfax was living in 1631, Toward the forest march'd he on with speed, Resolv'd, as such adventures great required: but the time of his death has not been recorded. Thither he came, whence, shrinking back for dread Of that strange desert's sight, the first retired; But not to him fearful or loathsome made That forest was, but sweet with pleasant shade. Forward he pass'd, and in the grove before, He heard a sound, that strange, sweet, pleasing was ; There roll'd a crystal brook with gentle roar, There sigh'd the winds, as through the leaves they pass; There sang the swan, and singing died, alas ! There lute, harp, cittern, human voice he heard, And all these sounds one sound right well declared.
Prevailing poet, whose undoubting mind
Believed the magic wonders which he sung!
[Description of Armida and her Enchanted Girdle.]
The twisted flow'rets smil'd, and her white breast