1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Michael Drayton

C. H. Timperley, in Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:483.



1631, Dec. 23. Died, MICHAEL DRAYTON, a very voluminous author, but throughout the whole extent of his writings, shows the fancy and feeling of a true poet. He was born in Warwickshire, in the year 1563. In 1593, he published a collection of pastorals, entitled the Shepherd's Garland; which was followed by his Poems of the Baron's Wars, and England's Heroical Epistles. In 1613, he published his Polyolbion, to which Mr. Selden wrote notes. It is constructed in an uncommon measure of twelve syllables, and is a work entirely unlike any other in English poetry, both in its subject, and the manner in which it is written. It is full of topographical and antiquarian details, with innumerable allusions to remarkable events and persons, as connected with various localities; yet such is the poetical genius of the author, so happily does he idealize almost every thing he touches on, and so lively is the flow of his verse, that we do not readily tire in perusing this vast mass of information. He seems to have followed the manner of Spenser in his unceasing personifications of natural objects, such as hills, rivers, and woods. His works were reprinted in 1748, in one volume folio; and 1753, in ten volumes, 8vo. He was buried in Westminster abbey.

The following lines are a good specimen of his style:

THE SOUL.
To show her powerful deity,
Her sweet Eodymion more to beautify,
Into his soul the goddess doth infuse
The fiery nature of a heavenly muse;
Which the spirit labouring by the mind,
Partaketh of celestial things by kind:
For why the soul being divine alone,
Exempt from gross and vile corruption,
Of heavenly secrets incomprehensible,
Of which the dull flesh is not sensible,
And by one only powerful faculty,
Yet governeth a multiplicity,
Being essential uniform in all
Not to be severed or dividual;
But in her function holdeth her estate
By powers divine in her ingenerate;
And so by inspiration conceiveth,
What heaven to her by divination breatheth.