1719 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas May

Giles Jacob, in Poetical Register: or the Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets (1719) 178-80.



A Gentleman of a good Family in Sussex, who liv'd in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. He was some Years a Fellow-Commoner of Sidney-College in Cambridge, from whence he remov'd to London, and attending the Court, he contracted an Intimacy with Endymion Porter, Esq; and other eminent Persons; but not meeting with the Encouragement he expected from the Great Men in Power, and being Candidate with Sir William D'avenant for the Preferment of Queen's Poet, but losing it, he retir'd into the Country very much disgusted. He writ five Plays.

I. The Heir; a Comedy, acted by the Company of Revels, 1620. This play was acted with great Applause, and was very much comended in a Copy of Verses by Mr. Carew.

II. CLEOPATRA, Queen of Egypt; a Tragedy, acted in the Year 1626. Dedicated to Sir Kenelm Digby. The Story from Appian de Bello Civ. L. Florus lib. 4. Suetonius in Vit. August. and Plutarch's Life of M. Anthony, Callimachus's Epig. on Timon, &c.

III. ANTIGONE, the Theban Princess; a Tragedy, 1631. Dedicated to the Honourable Endymion Porter, Esq. The Plot is borrow'd from the Antigone of Sophocles, Seneca's Thebais, &c.

IV. The Old Couple; a Comedy, 1651. This Play had a very good Reputation.

V. AGRIPPINA, Empress of Rome; a Tragedy. The Author has followed Xiphilinus, Tacitus, and Suetonius in the Designing this Tragedy, and has translated part of Petronius Arbiter's Satyricon, beginning,

O hem jam totum victor Romanus habebat, &c.

And concluding with,

—Siculo Scarus aequore mersus
Ad mensam vivus perducitur—

This Play and Antigone are usually bound together. Mr. May has likewise publish'd, 1. A Translation of Lucan's Pharsalia, and continu'd it down to the Death of Julius Caesar, in Eight Books, 1635.

He died suddenly in the Year 1652, in the 55th Year of his Age, and was buried on the West Side of the North Isle of Westminster-Abbey, near the Great Mr. Cambden. The following Inscription was made upon him, by one of the Cavalier Party, which he had abus'd.

Adasta, Viator, & Poetam legas
Lucani Interpretem,
Quem ita feliciter Anglicanum fecerat,
Ut Mayus simul & Lucanus videretur,
Et sane credas Metempsuchosin:
Nam uterque ingratas Principis sui Proditor;
Hic Neronis Tyranni, ille Caroli Regum optimi,
At fata plane diversa;
Lucanum enim ante obitum poenitentem legis,
Mayus vero repentina morte occubuit,
Ne forsan poeniteret.
Parliamenti Rebellis tam pertinax adstipulator,
Ut Musarum, quas olim religiose coluerat,
Sacrilegus Hostis evaserit.
Attamen fingendi artem non penitus amisit,
Nam gesta eorum scripsit & typis mandavit
In prosa mendax Poeta.
Inter tot Heroas Poetarum, Nobiliumque,
Quod tam indigni sepeliantur Cineres,
Videntur flere marmora.
Nec tamen mirere eum hic Rebelles posuisse,
Qui tot sacras Aedes, & Dei delubra,
Equis fecere stabula.