Michael Drayton adds a preface to the third version of his pastorals (originally published as the Shepherds Garland in 1593) declaring that Spenser is "the prime pastoralist of England." Compare Alexander Pope's similar Discourse on Pastoral written a almost exactly a century later: Pope allows Spenser the same stature but proves a less generous emulator.
Edmund Gosse: "In a bold new preface to his Eclogues, Drayton promises something new; but these pastorals are not to be distinguished from Elizabethan work of the same kind, except by the fine lyrics which are introduced in the course of them. Of these the best is the very remarkable birthday ode to Beta in the third eclogue" The Jacobean Poets (1894) 96.
Oliver Elton: "Thirteen years later, in 1606, Drayton re-edited these pastorals thoroughly, and did them good, although he inserted new enigmas.... The improvements of this version show the unabated sway of Spenser and his perennial power to ennoble Drayton's language" Michael Drayton: a Critical Study (1905) 35-36.
Herbert E. Cory: "It remained for Michael Drayton to imitate effectually his master's most spirited melodies. To the formal eclogue he brought an English yeoman's temperament and something of Chaucer's sly sense of humour. He began in 1593 with the Shepheards Garland, Fashioned in nine Eglogs, the first elaborate imitation of the Calender. He reprinted a carefully polished version in 1606, with an added eclogue; and in 1619 he again brought forth the ten under the title Pastoralls Containing Eglogues, still further, though only slightly, revised. It does not seem to me that his revisions lessened his indebtedness to Spenser. But they did spoil some good poetry in favor of decorous commonplace lines. Happily, while he was enervating his eclogues, he was creating, in such works as The Muses Elysium, a type of pastoral that was brimfull of youth. The eclogues in 1619 were introduced by an entertaining preface" "Spenserian Pastoral" PMLA 25 (1910) 245-46.
James Edmund Congleton: "Drayton and his group brought the Spenserian eclogue to the climax of its development. Never, perhaps, was the pastoral more Spenserian or more English. Drayton's terse comments can hardly be overvalued, for they afford a clear conception of the late Renaissance pastoral" Theories of Pastoral Poetry (1952) 49.
Tillotson and Newdigate: "The general removal of archaisms in language (except in the ballad of Dowsabel and in the 7th eclogue) and also of the two or three verbal reminiscences of Chaucer, might suggest that Drayton was moving away from the influence of Spenser; he has, however, several added borrowings from Spenser, and he has captured the spirit of Spenserian pastoral more successfully here than in the Garland. Though much pastoral verse had been published since 1593, Spenser remains the predominating influence on Drayton; but it is now the poet of Colin Clouts come Home Again (1595) as well as of the Shepheardes Calender" Works of Drayton, ed. Hebel (1961) 5:182.
Somewhat is to be said, by way of generall preparative, touching the name, and nature of Pastorall Poesie, before I give thee my Pastorals. Pastorals, as they are a Species of Poesie, signifie fained Dialogues, or other speeches in Verse, fathered upon Heardsmen, whether Opiliones, bubulci, &c. that is to say, Shepheards, Neat-heards, &c. who are ordinarie persons in this kind of Poeme, worthily therefore to be called base, or low. This, as all other formes of Poesie (excepting perhaps the admirable Latine Piscatories of that Noble Neapolitan, SANAZARA) hath been received from the Greekes, and as at the second hand, from the Romanes. The subject of Pastorals, as the language of it ought to be poor, silly, and of the coursest Woofe in appearance. Neverthelesse, the most High, and most Noble Matters of the World may bee shaddowed in them, and for certaine sometimes are: but he who hath almost nothing Pastorall in his Pastorals, but the name (which is my Case) deales more plainly, because dectracto velamine, he speakes of most weightie things. The Greek Pastorals of THEOCRITUS, have the chiefe praise. Whether VIRGIL in his Bucolicks, hath kept within Pastorall humblenesse, let SCALIGER, and the Nation of Learned Censors dispute: the Blessing which came in them to the testimoniall Majestie of the Christian Name, out of SIBYLS Moniments, cited before Christ's Birth, must ever make VIRGIL venerable with me: and in the Angels Song to Shepheards at our Saviours Nativitie Pastorall Poesie seemes consecrated. It is not of this time and place, to shew the Originals of this Invention: let it here suffice to have pointed out the best, and them so old, as may serve for prescription. The chiefe Law of Pastorals is the same which is of all Poesie, and of all wise carriage, to wit, DECORUM, and that not to be exceeded without leave, or without at least faire warning. For so did VIRGIL, when he wrote,
Paula maiora canamus.
Master EDMUND SPENSER had done enough for the immortalitie of his Name, had he only given us his Shepheards Kalender, a Master-piece if any. The Colin Clout of SKOGGAN, under King HENRY the Seventh, is prettie: but BARKLEY'S Ship of Fooles hath twentie wiser in it. SPENSER is the prime Pastoralist of England. My Pastorals bold upon a new strain, must speake for themselves, and the Taber striking up, if thou hast in thee any Country-Quicksilver, thou hadst rather be at the sport, then heare thereof. Farewell.