1801 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Michael Drayton

George Ellis, in Specimens of Early English Poets (1801; 1845) 2:298.



Michael Drayton was born in the county of Warwick, in 1563. He discovered, when extremely young, a remarkable propensity to study, and rose early to literary reputation, which he enjoyed during three successive reigns: he died in 1631. His Polyolbion is certainly a wonderful work, exhibiting, at once, the learning of an historian, an antiquary, a naturalist, and a geographer, and embellished by the imagination of a poet. But, perhaps, a topographical description of England is not much improved by such embellishment. Those who can best appreciate the merit of its accuracy will seldom search for information in a poem; and of the lovers of poetry, some are disgusted with the subject, and others with the Alexandrine metre, which Drayton has unfortunately adopted. His pastorals, which he published in 1593, under the quaint titled of Idea; the Shepherd's Garland, fashioned in nine Eclogues, &c., his Nymphidia, and, in general, all his smaller poems, are easy and pleasing. The Barons' Wars, and England's Heroical Epistles, have lost, and are not likely to recover, their ancient popularity.