This is a production which Drayton thought fit wholly to suppress; for the few lines he inserted from it in his Man in the Moon, some years afterwards, cannot be said to contradict the general statement, that after the first appearance of Endimion and Phoebe, he never acknowledged it as one of his works.
He dedicated it in a sonnet, subscribed with his name at length, "To the excellent and most accomplisht Ladie, Lucie Countesse of Bedford;" and although he rejected the poem it introduced, he did not suppress this sonnet, which appeared among the pieces he collected and printed in 1605. At the back of the sonnet is a laudatory effusion of the same kind with the initials E. P., (which we cannot satisfactorily assign,) and there Drayton is addressed by his poetical name of Rowland. It begins—
Rouland, when first I read thy stately rymes
In Sheepheards weedes, when yet thou liv'dst unknown,
Not scene in publique in those former tymes,
But unto Ankor tund'st thy Pype alone,
I then beheld thy chaste Ideas fame, &c.,
clearly referring to his Idea. The Shepheards Garland, of 1593. The poem before us has no date, but it must have been printed in 1594, because it is not only alluded to, but quoted by Thomas Lodge in his Fig for Momus, which came out in 1595.
The sonnet by E. P. is succeeded by one entitled "To Idea," to which the initials S. G. are appended; and there is no writer of that period to whom they can be appropriated but Stephen Gosson, who continued a miscellaneous poet until 1595 and 1596, and who may then have been one of Drayton's admirers. S. G. says of Drayton,
Borne to create good thoughts by thy rare woorth,
Whom Nature with her bounteous store doth blesse,
More excellent then Art can set thee forth,
Happy in more then praises can expresse.
The body of the poem, which is in couplets, (like Marlow's Hero and Leander, written probably before Drayton began to print, although not published until 1598,) commences on the next leaf, marked with the signature B, thus:
In I-onia whence sprang old Poets fame,
From whom that Sea did first derive her name,
The blessed bed whereon the Muses lay,
Beauty of Greece, the pride of Asia;
Whence Archelaus, whom times historifie,
First unto Athens brought Phylosophie;
In this faire Region, on a goodly Plaine,
Stretching her bounds unto the bordring Maine,
The Mountaine Latmus over-lookes the Sea, &c.
We soon arrive at a passage which Drayton would, perhaps, never have written, had not Spenser printed something even better in Canto 12 of Book II. of his Fairy Queen, st. 70 and 71. Drayton's lines are beautiful, and refer to the various songs of the birds:—
The Nightingale, woods Herauld of the Spring,
The whistling Woosell, Mavis carroling,
Tuning theyr trebbles to the waters fall,
Which made the musicque more angelicall;
Whilst gentle Zephyre murmuring among
Kept tyme, and bare the burthen to the song.
It is quite needless to follow the story in which, in general, Drayton more imitates the style of Marlow than of Spenser. He seems, almost expressly, to avoid anything like a resemblance to Shakspeare, whose Venus and Adonis, it will be remembered, had come out in stanzas in the preceding year, and whose Lucrece, also in stanzas though of a different form, was printed in the same year as Drayton's Endimion and Phoebe. The following begins an account of a meeting between the two:—
And comming now to her Endimion,
Whom heavy sleepe had lately ceas'd upon,
Kneeling her downe, him in her arms she clips,
And with sweet kisses sealeth up his lips,
Whilst from her eyes teares, streaming downe in showrs,
Fell on his cheekes like dew upon the flowrs,
In globy circles like pure drops of Milk
Sprinckled on Roses, or fine crimson silk.
Touching his brow, this is the seate (quoth she)
Where Beauty sits in all her Maiestie!
She calls his eye-lids those pure christall covers,
Which do include the looking glasse of Lovers:
She calls his lips the sweet delicious folds
Which rare perfume and precious incense holds:
She calls his soft smooth Allablaster skin
The Lawne which Angels are attyred in.
We have already stated that Lodge in his Fig for Momus, 1595, expressly cites Endimion and Phoebe; and the Epistle where he does so is addressed "to Master Michael Drayton," whom he has also called Rowland in an Eclogue between Wagrin and Golde, — Golde being only the letters of Lodge transposed. The most interesting part of Endimion and Phoebe, on some accounts is the latter end, where Drayton bestows high praise upon Lodge, by the name of Goldey, upon Spenser, by the name of Collin, and upon Daniel, by reference to his Delia. It may be thought somewhat singular that he does not speak of Shakspeare; but he also omits Marlow, who was then recently dead, and of whose Hero and Leander Drayton's effusion most reminds us. His address to Spenser, Daniel, and Lodge runs thus:—
Dear Collin, let my Muse excused be,
Which rudely thus presumes to sing by thee,
Although her straines be harsh untun'd and ill,
Nor can attayne to thy divinest skill.
And thou, the sweet Museus of these times,
Pardon my rugged and unfiled rymes,
Whose scarce invention is too meane and base,
When Delias glorious Muse dooth come in place.
And thou, my Goldey, which in Sommer dayes
Hast feasted us with merry roundelayes;
And, when my Muse scarce able was to flye,
Didst imp her wings with thy sweete Poesie.
The last line would indicate that Lodge, being an older poet than Drayton, had lent him some assistance by imping, or mending, the wings of his poesy. Lodge was certainly a writer ten years before we hear of Drayton, and perhaps the latter was indebted to the former for improvements introduced into his Harmony of the Church, 1591, or into his Idea. The Shepherds Garland, 1593. Daniel, who is referred to in the preceding quatorzain, had (as we have seen, p. 210) published his Delia, with great applause, in 1592. Spenser's Pastorals had been before the world about fifteen years, and the first portion of his Fairy Queen about four years.
But a single perfect copy of Drayton's Endimion and Phoebe remains to us; but an exemplar, wanting the title-page, has been long in the possession of the editor. It is said in Lowndes's Bibl. Man. edit. 1858, p. 672, that "a unique copy is in the Bridgewater Collection": this is a mistake. The error arose out of the fact that the editor of the Bridgewater Catalogue, 4to, 1837, mentioned Endimion and Phoebe only by way of illustration. The only copy he then knew of was his own, wanting the title-page; but he has since discovered another, which is quite perfect. Various works are, in the same manner, mentioned in the Bridgewater Catalogue which were not, and are not, in the Earl of Ellesmere's library.