1687 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas May

William Winstanley, Lives of the Most Famous English Poets (1687) 164.



Thomas May was one in his time highly esteemed, not only for his Translation of Virgils Georgicks, and Lucans Pharsalia into English, but what he hath written Propria Miverva, as his Supplement to Lucan, till the Death of Julius Caesar: His History of Henry the Second in Verse; besides what he wrote of Dramatick, as his Tragedies of Antigone, Agrippina, and Cleopatra; The Heir, a Tragi-Comedy; The Old Couple, and The Old Wives Tale, Comedies; and the History of Orlando Furioso; of these his Tragi-Comedy of The Heir is done to the life, both for Plot and Language; and good had it been for his Memory to Posterity, if he had left off Writing here; but taking disgust at Court for being frustrated in his Expectation of being the Queens Poet, for which he stood Candidate with Sir William Davenant, who was preferred before him, out of meer Spleen, as it is thought for his Repulse, he vented his Spite in his History of the Civil Wars of England; wherein he shews all the Spleen of a Male-contented Poet, making thereby his Friends his Foes, and rendring his Fame odious to Posterity; such is the Nature of Malice, that as the Poet saith,

Impoison'd with the Drugs of cruel Hate,
Draw on themselves an unavoided Fate.