1622
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To my honor'd Friend Mr. Drayton.

The Second Part, or a Continuance of Poly-Olbion from the Eighteenth Song. Containing all the Tracts, Rivers, Mountaines, and Forrests: Intermixed with the most Remarkable Stories, Antiquities, Wonders, Rarities, Pleasures, and Commodities of the East, and Northerne Parts of this Isle, Lying Betwixt the Two Famous Rivers of Thames, and Tweed. By Michael Drayton, Esq.

William Browne of Tavistock


William Browne's fine tribute to Michael Drayton bewails the passing of Sidney, Spenser, and the Elizabethan age, hailing the poet of Poly-Olbion as keeper of the flame in the present bad times. Browne of Tavistock, who at one point seems to have considered becoming a professional poet himself, marvels at Michael Drayton's mighty labors in service to the English Muse in all its variety of kinds.

Browne appears to have all but given over poetry by this date, a decade after he was praised as the morning star of English verse.

W. T. Arnold: "Browne was fortunate in his friends. His life at the Inner Temple brought him into contact not only with his intimate friend Wither and Charles Brooke, but also with such a man as Selden, who wrote commendatory verses to the first book of his Pastorals. He was too, apparently, one of that knot of brilliant young men who called themselves the 'sons' of Ben Jonson, and there are some interesting verses, of warm yet not extravagant praise, prefixed by Ben Jonson to the second book of the same poem. With Drayton he appears to have been on cordial and intimate terms. Some verses by Browne are prefixed to the second edition of the Polyolbion, and some of the most charming commendatory verses that were ever written were penned by Drayton in honour of Britannia's Pastorals. Chapman too, 'the learned Shepherd of fair Hitching Hill,' was, as more than indication sufficiently proves, intimate with our poet, and Browne was not only familiar with his friend's Iliad and Odyssey, but also, we may be very sure, knew well that golden book of poetry, the 'Hero and Leander.' With such contemporary influences, and with the fullest knowledge of and reverence for such of predecessors as Sidney and Spenser, Browne had every advantage given to his genius, and every help to enable him to float in the full and central stream of poetic tradition" English Poets, ed. Ward (1880) 2:65.



Englands brave Genius, raise thy head, and see,
We have a Muse in this mortalitie
Of Vertue yet survives; All met not Death,
When we intoomb'd our dear Elizabeth.
Immortal Sydney, honoured Colin Clout,
Presaging what we feele, went timely out.
Then why lives Drayton, when the Times refuse,
Both Means to live, and Matter for a Muse?
Onely without Excuse to leave us quite,
And tell us, Durst we act, he durst to write.

Now, as the people of a famish'd Towne,
Receiving no Supply, seeke up and downe
For mouldy Corne, and Bones long cast aside,
Wherewith their hunger may bee satisfied:
(Small store now left) we are inforc'd to prie
And search the darke Leaves of Antiquitie
For some good Name, to raise our Muse againe,
In this her Crisis, whose harmonious straine
Was of such compasse, that no other Nation
Durst ever venture on a sole Translation;
Whilst our full language, Musical and hie,
Speakes as themselves their best of Poesie.

Drayton, amongst the worthi'st of all those,
The glorious Laurell, or the Cyprian Rose
Have ever crown'd, doth claime in every Lyne,
An equall honour from the sacred Nyne:
For if old Time could, like the restlesse Maine,
Roll himselfe backe into his Spring againe,
And on his wings beare this admired Muse,
For Ovid, Virgil, Homer, to peruse.
They would confesse, that never happier Pen,
Sung of his Loves, his Countrey, and the Men.

[Sig. A3]