1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Michael Drayton

Anna Brownell Jameson, in Loves of the Poets (1829; 1857) 200-01.



The voluminous Drayton has left a collection of sonnets under the fantastic title of his IDEAS. Ideas they may be, — but they have neither poetry, nor passion, nor even elegance; — a circumstance not very surprising, if it be true that he composed them merely to show his ingenuity in a style which was then the prevailing fashion of his time. Drayton was never married, and little is known of his private life. He loved a lady of Coventry, to whom he promises an immortality he has not been able to confer.

How many paltry, foolish, painted things
That now in coaches trouble every street,
Shall be forgotten, whom no poet sings,
E'er they be well wrapp'd in their winding-sheet;
While I to thee eternity shall give,
When nothing else remaineth of these days,
And Queens hereafter shall be glad to live,
Upon the alms of thy superfluous praise;
Virgins and matrons reading these my rhymes,
Shall be so much delighted with thy story,
That they shall grieve they liv'd not in these times?
To have seen thee, their sex's only glory:
So thou shalt fly above the vulgar throng,
Still to survive in my immortal song.

There are fine nervous lines in this sonnet: we long to hail the exalted beauty who is announced by such a flourish of trumpets, and are proportionably disappointed to find that she has neither "a local habitation nor a name." Drayton's little song,

I pr'ythee, love! love me no more;
Take back the heart you gave me!

stands unique, in point of style, among the rest of his works, and is very genuine and passionate.