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Some of Drayton's most delightful work is to be found in his shorter poems, in the playful pastoral of Dowsabel1, in the fairy poem of Nymphidia, and in the stirring ballad of
Nymphidia, the Court of Fairy, published for the first time in a volume of miscellaneous poems in 1627, is a delightful fairy poem telling of Oberon's jealousy of Pigwiggin, a fairy knight, who has sent Queen Mab a bracelet made of emmets' eyes, and has asked her to meet him at midnight in a fair cowslip flower". Her palace "standeth in the air”.
The walls of spiders' legs are made
It was the master of his trade
Queen Mab prepares to keep the appointment.
Her chariot ready straight is made,
Four nimble gnats the horses were,
Fly Cranion, her charioteer.
The chariot was made of "a snail's fine shell", the seat, of "the soft wool of the bee", the cover, of the "wing of a pied butterfly", "the wheels composed of crickets' bones", and for fear Oberon should hear their rattling on the stones,
With thistle down they shod it.
When Oberon learns the queen's flight, in mad rage and jealousy he sets out in pursuit; with an acorn cup for his club, he lays on all he meets. He does not succeed in finding the queen, and as a consequence of all this trouble, Pigwiggin challenges Oberon to fight him. The description of his arming is delightful fooling:
1 douce et belle, i.e. gentle and lovely.
And quickly arms him for the field,
Yet could it not be pierced :
His spear a bent both stiff and strong,
And put him on a coat of mail,
That when his foe should him assail,
Yet scarce he on his back could get,
So oft and high he did curvet
Ere he himself could settle:
He made him turn, and stop, and bound,
To gallop, and to trot the round,
He scarce could stand on any ground,
In the end, at Mab's request, Proserpina causes the combatants to drink of Lethe water, and straightway all is forgotten and everything as it was before.
Equally fine in a different way is the stirring Ballad of Agincourt, a poem that deservedly takes rank "Ballad of among the greatest of our war-songs. Agincourt."
In 1630, the year before his death, Drayton published a delightful pastoral poem, The Muses' Elizium. The "Muses' The description of the preparations for the Elizium". wedding of the nymph Tita, who married "a noble
fay", and her song, are full of sprightly fancy and charm.
Drayton died in 1631, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Ben Jonson wrote a poem in his praise, and it is said his epitaph also.
III. Imitators of Spenser: Giles and Phineas Fletcher.
The form and treatment of the subject of Giles Fletcher's (1549?-1611) religious poem Christs Victory, Giles published in 1610, were directly inspired by Fletcher: an imitator of Spenser's Faery Queen. Fletcher makes use Spenser. of a stanza that for the first five lines follows Spenser's exactly, and then ends with three lines all riming, the last an alexandrine. The poem is an allegory treating of such subjects as "Christ's Victory in Heaven"; "Christ's Victory on Earth"; "Christ's Triumph over Death"; "Christ's Triumph after Death". The finest parts, such as the Cave of Despair and the Garden of Vain Delights, are palpably an imitation of Spenser. Fletcher in his turn exercised considerable influence on Milton.
a follower of
Phineas Fletcher's (1582-1650) Purple Island, an allegorical description of the human body, though written Phineas long before, was not published until 1633Fletcher also Like his brother he directly imitated Spenser, Spenser. and used a seven-lined stanza, modelled on his, though falling far below it in beauty. The poem opens with praise of Spenser. Quarles called Phineas Fletcher "the Spenser of this age". But the taste for allegory was dying out, and the works of these men fall very far below those of their master, Spenser. They give little pleasure to the modern reader, and are chiefly interesting as examples of imitation by inferior minds of a great poet.1
1 Cf. Lydgate and Occleve, imitators of Chaucer, vol. i. pp. 71-73.
IV. Drummond of Hawthornden, and Alexander,
Although Drummond was a native of the Scottish Lowlands, he wrote his verses in the purest Drummond English, and therefore takes his place among of Hawthe English poets of his day.
William Drummond was born at Hawthornden, a beautifully situated house in the wooded valley of the Esk, not far from Edinburgh, in 1585.
Early years. was educated first at the High School, and later at the University of Edinburgh. Choosing the law for a profession, he went abroad to study. On his way to the Continent, where he stayed three years, he visited London. He was on the point of settling down in Edinburgh to practise his profession, when his father's sudden death put him in possession of means to lead the life best suited to his studious tastes. He at once retired, as an old biographer says, "to his own house at Hawthornden, a sweet and solitary seat, and very fit and proper for the Muses, and fell again to the studying the Greek and Latin authors". At the age of twenty-four he thus describes himself:
Content with my books and the use of my eyes, I learnt even from my boyhood to live beneath my fortune; and, dwelling by myself as much as I can, I neither sigh nor seek aught that is outside me.
Drummond's first publication was an elegy entitled Tears on the Death of Meliades, i.e. Prince Henry (1613). In 1616 he published a collection of poems, which entitle him to the high rank he holds among our poets. They show, both in the descriptions and in the choice of words, the sense of beauty for which the great Elizabethans are remarkable, and are full of the seriousness, and the pensive contemplation of life, that characterised poetry after the close of the great period of Elizabethan activity. The His growing
fame of Drummond's poetry reached London, where Ben Jonson was the ruler of the literary world.
Drummond corresponded with Drayton, though the two poets never met. Those of their letters that have reached us consist chiefly of praise of each other's poetry. Ben Jonson's Ben Jonson visited Scotland in the winter of 1618-1619, and, as has been said, spent a fortnight with Drummond at Hawthornden. Drummond's notes of their conversations were first printed in 1842.
Another volume of poems appeared in 1623. Through the troubles of the civil war Drummond was a staunch royalist. He died in 1649.
His greatest work is to be sought in his sonnets, which Hazlitt declared to be "in the highest degree The sonnets. elegant, harmonious, and striking”. following gives a good representation of his method and his skill in the use of the sonnet-form:
If crost with all mishaps be my poor life,
If being born I was but born to die;
Why seek I to prolong these loathsome days?
Drummond was also the author of several prose works. Two of them call for remark. In the volume of poems, Drummond's published in 1623, will be found a prose prose works. essay called A Cypress Grove. It is mainly a meditation on death, and is of high merit as regards both style and matter. In 1655 appeared the History of Scotland under the Five Jameses. Drummond was drawn to the subject by the fact that Annabella Drummond,