1831 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Michael Drayton

Robert Southey, "Michael Drayton" in British Poets, Chaucer to Jonson (1831) 596.



The family from which this poet sprung derived their name from a town in Leicestershire; but his parents having removed into Warwickshire, he was born at Harshul in the year 1563. Very little is known of his life, scarcely, indeed any thing more than that in boyhood he was placed as a page with some honourable person; that he studied at Oxford; that early in his life, Sir Henry Goodere, of Polesworth in Warwickshire, was his patron; and that in his latter days, Sir Walter Aston, of Tixall in Staffordshire, loved his company, and liberally befriended him. He is one of the poets to whom the title of laureate was given in that age, not as holding the office, but as a mark of honour to which they were entitled. His contemporaries bear witness to the virtuous and honourable tenour of his life, and his works contain abundant proofs of erudition and genius.

He died in 1631, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The Countess of Dorset is said to have erected his monument, as she did those of Spenser and Daniel; and his epitaph has been variously ascribed to Ben Jonson and to Quarles; it is more in Jonson's manner.

Do, pious marble, let thy readers know
What they and what their children owe
To Drayton's name, whose sacred dust
We recommend unto thy trust.
Protect his memory, and preserve his story;
Remain a lasting monument of his glory.
And when thy ruins shall disclaim
To be the treasure of his name,
His name, that cannot fade, shall be
An everlasting monument to thee.

Drayton took for himself a most fantastic coat of arms; Pegasus rampant in a shield of azure gutty d'eau from Helicon, with the cap of Mercury for crest, amid sunbeams proper.