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There were numerous other collections of the same sort. In most cases although the composer of the music can be identified, the composer of the words remains unknown to this day. The high quality of the verse, however, proves that our country must have been at that time truly "a nest of singing birds", and that more men were moved by the poetical spirit then, than at any time earlier or later in the annals of our literature.
Such favourite and well-known songs as "Since first I saw your face", "The Three Ravens", "We be Three Poor Mariners", are to be found in one or other of these Elizabethan song-books.
II. Warner, Daniel, and Drayton: the Patriotic Poets.
These poets, filled with the spirit of patriotism, gloried in England's greatness and in her queen, and were moved to write poems in praise of their country, or to relate in verse the history of and their land.
William Warner (1558-1609) published, in 1586, a long poem in fourteen-syllabled verse entitled Albion's England, dealing with the history of our country from the time of the Deluge until Warner's own day. Meres, in his Palladis Tamia (Wit's Treasury), published in 1598, says of Warner, with the exaggeration of an admiring contemporary, "I have heard him termed of the best wits of both our universities, our English Homer". The poem contains stirring passages.
Samuel Daniel, a Somersetshire man, born in 1562, and educated at Oxford, was a poet of sterner stuff, and of a more versatile talent. Soon after 1590 he became tutor to William Herbert, afterwards Earl of Pembroke.2 Later he held offices at court under James, but he always declared that he preferred to live with his books and a few congenial friends at his own house and garden in the city of
London. He is the author of two verse tragedies in the manner of Seneca, Cleopatra (1594) and Philotas (1605) (the latter is dedicated to Prince Henry, in whom so many writers of that time recognized an appreciation and. love of literature and learning); of a masque, Hymen's Triumph (1615); of a volume of love sonnets entitled Delia; and of a long patriotic and historical poem in eight books about the Wars of the Roses.
In his sonnets Daniel used the same form as Shakespeare and Sidney. The following is an example of his finest manner:
Care-charmer Sleep, son of the sable Night,
The volume of Delia included, besides the sonnets, The Complaint of Rosamond, a historical poem, something after the style of the "Complaints" in the Mirror for Magistrates.
Daniel's most important contribution to literature is the Civil Wars between the Two Houses of Lancaster and York. In singing
The civil wars, tumultuous broils,
And bloody factions of a mighty land,
Daniel had a purpose. All through Elizabeth's reign
men's minds were troubled with the thoughts of a
disputed succession after her death, and it seemed well to Daniel to emphasize the distresses suffered by the country on former occasions of a like disaster. The first four books appeared in 1595, the rest in 1599 and 1602. The poem is written in octave rime. Daniel sketched rapidly the events of English history from the Conquest to the accession of Richard II., at which point he begins to treat the subject more fully. In the dedication he says that he intends to go down as far as the glorious union of Henry VII., but he did not accomplish so much; the poem ends with the marriage of Edward IV. to Elizabeth Woodville. Wordsworth admired Daniel, and often quoted him.
Daniel also wrote prose. He answered Campion's declaration that the English language is not suited to rime in an excellent little treatise, The Defence His prose of Rhyme. In 1618 he published A History writings. of England from the Conquest to the Reign of Edward III. As history it is not perhaps very notable, but it takes high rank as a piece of English prose. Daniel's chief characteristic, and perhaps his best title to fame, is the purity of his style and language. This seems to have been recognized by his contemporaries. Browne calls him "well-languaged Daniel", and Spenser has a word of praise for him. Hallam, after praising his style, says that "a vein of good sense" was "more the characteristic of his mind, both in verse and prose, than any commanding vigour". Daniel died in 1619.
By far the greatest of the group was Michael Drayton. He was born in 1563 in Warwickshire. early education we know little, but he tells us himself, in an epistle to a friend, that from his cradle he "was still1 inclined to noble poesie”, and that very early he had the ambition to become a poet. He commenced author in 1591 with the Harmonie of the Church, a volume of sacred poetry, chiefly versions of the famous songs of Scripture, such as those of Moses,
Deborah and Solomon. For some unknown reason the book was condemned and ordered to be burnt; forty copies, however, of which only one now remains, escaped destruction. In 1593 Drayton produced a book of Eclogues. Next year came Gaveston and Matilda, his first historical poems, and also a collection of love-sonnets, Ideas Mirror.
Drayton, like so many of his contemporaries, excelled in the sonnet. As an example, let us take the sonnet "To his Fair Idea ".
In pride of wit, when high desire of fame
Where, the full praise I freely must confess,
As though to me it nothing did belong
No public glory vainly I pursue,
All that I seek, is to eternize you.
The fine sonnet beginning
Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part,
though printed among Drayton's poems, so differs from Drayton's manner, and so closely resembles that of Shakespeare, as to be attributed by some critics to the greater poet.
Mortimeriados: the Lamentable Civil Wars of Edward II. and the Barons, a long historical poem, with Roger "The Barons' Mortimer for hero, was first published in Wars." 1596. It is generally called The Barons' Wars, and was republished in a greatly altered form in 1603. In six cantos Drayton relates the history of the
reign of Edward II., ending with the imprisonment and death of Mortimer by Edward III. It is a tale of love and war, and acquires a certain artistic unity from the fact that the events centre in one hero. Drayton began to write the poem in Chaucer's seven-lined stanzas, but soon abandoned that form for the octave rime as better suited to the dignity of his subject.
England's Heroical Epistles are letters in verse, dramatically attributed to persons whose love affairs are recorded in history; the idea of the book was borrowed from Ovid's Heroical Epistles. The lovers each write a letter: for instance, Fair Rosa- Epistles". mond, with whom the series begins, writes to Henry II., and Henry II. replies to her. This book, which was published in 1597, proved the most popular of Drayton's works, and was continually reprinted. The measure employed is the rimed couplet of Chaucer's Prologue; the verse is fluent and polished, and the work altogether of a high quality.
His most considerable poem was Polyolbion1, a poetical description of England, of the wonders of "Albion's glorious isle"; each county is introduced The "Polyby a song, accompanied by a quaint map. olbion". Eighteen books were published in 1612, and the remaining twelve in 1622. The poem contains about 30,000 lines, all, with some few exceptions, alexandrines. Drayton is perhaps at his best in describing his native county:
Brave Warwick; that abroad so long advanc'd her Bear,
1 The name means "rich in many ways".