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“I WILL here set down the worth he has left us. Changing taste and of a poet (as of that sweet muse of the lapse of years have made his his) who not unworthily beareth once famous historical
unthe name of the chiefest Arch- satisfying and even wearisome; but angel Michael, and singeth after the charm remains in his more that soule-ravishing manner." fanciful verse, an innocent freshwe read in Robert Tofte's “Blazon ness lingers in it, and here and of Jealousy," and, it may be, pause there, from among a mass of conto wonder on the faded fame of the ceited tawdriness, we pick out some poet that nearly every contem- rare jewel of song-still pure and porary writer loads with eulogy. bright, with an exquisite simplicity Ben Jonson, Beaumont, Greene,
of style. and Heywood, Davies the epigram- Occasionally we single out a matist, Selden the antiquary, passage
wonderful vigour, William Browne, and many others, touched with all the picturesque praise “the soul-rapping strains of vividness of the time; but as a that all-lovéd poet,” as Drayton's rule vigour is not a special quality poems are styled in “Britannia's of Drayton. He seems, in escaping Pastorals.” Perhaps there lies an the coarseness that soils the work explanation in the quaint personal of other Elizabethan poets, to have adjective, for we hear fully as much also left behind much of the grasp of Drayton's sweet nature, dignified of character, richness of ideas and conversation and purity of life, as lyrical variance, that are their of the renown of his verses. Such chiefest glory. And yet his songs virtue (says Mere in his “Wit's have an indefinable charm of their Academy ") was almost miraculous own; perhaps we may express it in so good a wit. It seems to us roughly as a combination of playthat this charm of character must fulness and irritability. This playunconsciously have done a great
fulness which lights up many of deal to widen Drayton's influence his shorter poems is never absoamong his fellow poets, and to lutely merry or joyful, and is so build up a renown for which we delicate and rare in kind, that any should find it hard to account on name we find for it gives the effect purely critical grounds. But per- of exaggeration. Nothing could haps after all the secret lies in the be further removed from wit, and difference of his aim from theirs, in satire it certainly is not; for the fact that in an essentially dra- Drayton's satire is of the clumsiest matic age he dared to vary and and the heaviest. There is a tender “th' old lyrick kind revive." humorousness in it, although we
Drayton's songs and pastorals cannot call it humour, and it is are by far the most valuable legacy certainly easier to feel than to explain the delight of its gay wist- wildernesses, seem to have inspired fulness.
him with a Greek distaste. His ode The irritability is more plainly written in the Peak is full of ludi. apparent. All his personal poems crous discomfort at the cold air, are touched by it; there, and not and the “grim and horrid caves, only there, we hear a little too whose looks affright the day;" it is keenly the note of a disillusioned quite in vain that he strives to conand embittered nature. With the sole himself for his exile from the actual world, with its ignoble south by what of all things in strifes and disappointments, Dray- Derbyshire he admired the mostton has little sympathy; fame and the baths of Buxton. Even the death must dignify its heroes and thought that at least the muse is heroines before he will adopt them everywhere cannot cheat him into for his own, and the nymphs and satisfaction. It is better not to shepherds of his non-historical imagine how uncomfortable he poems are frankly and plainly would have felt in Switzerland. unreal. His longest poem has Drayton was born at Hartshull, neither hero nor heroine, and no near Atherstone, in Warwickshire, relation to purely human interests ; in 1563; that is to say, one year woods, streams, and mountains are before Shakespeare. His parents the personages of the Polyolbion. belonged to an old and honourable
For Nature of a certain kind family, but were not rich, it would Drayton had a very real and en- seem, since Michael owed a great during sentiment, but the scenery part of his education to the genethat he admires must be well- rosity of Sir Henry Goodeere, himwooded, pastoral, and (to use one self a poet and the friend of poets, of his favourite adjectives) neat. by whom a not very interesting elegy He never allows us to forget that on the death of Prince Henry is to he was born in Warwickshire, and be found in Silvester's collection. seldom wrote better than when he We may fancy that the kindly sang the quiet pleasures of its Mæcenas was attracted by the meadow-lands and coppices. It
poetic promise of this dreamy and may be that his life-long taste for scholarly lad, who had set his the pastoral can be traced to these ambition on becoming a poet while early associations, for it would he was quite a child. We find a seem that Drayton was of a nature charming account of his early longsingularly simple and sincere ; he ing after laurels in one of Drayton's never appears to have quarrelled versified letters written
to his with an old friend or an early friend, Henry Reynolds : opinion, neither did he weary of bis native lanes and woods. In
For from my cradle you must know that I
Was still inclin'd to noble Poesie, the thirteenth song of the Poly- And when that once Pueriles I had read, olbion there is a description of the And newly had my Cato construéd, Forest of Arden, almost pathetic In my small self I greatly wondered then in its inability to comprehend that Among all other, what strange kind of such is not the highest kind of
These poets were, and pleased with the natural beauty, and in an earlier
name, sonnet he exclaims :
To my mild tutor merrily I came, Fair Arden, thou my Tempé art alone,
(For I was then a proper goodly page, And thou, sweet Ankor, art
Much like a pigmy, scarce ten years of Helicon;
Clasping my slender arms about his thigh but rugged mountains and hurry- "Oh, my dear Master, cannot you (quoth I) ing torrents, wild cliffs and barren Make me a poet ?"
The wise tutor tasked his pupil's that he celebrated
that he celebrated under this perseverance by a steady course
Bound up with these were of classics, but “ to it hard went I,” several eclogues, the outcome of says Drayton, who soon mastered his early studies, afterwards rehis Ovid and Virgil. We can
printed as Pastorals. The sonnets imagine him wandering, Latin concern us chiefly. Though often classic-book in hand, under those spoiled by the tiresome conceits branches of green Arden that have and laboured fantasies of the overhung so many poets. Those
Those period, there are several among woods were then, as now, full of long them so strong, so vigorous, that grass, and all kinds of wild flowers, these alone should be able to with here and there little natural maintain their author's reputation arbours made by the twining as a poet. They are all in praise branches of honeysuckle or dog- of the same lady, of whom nothing berry bushes, where one may lie more certain is mentioned than down on cowslips and lady smocks, that her birthday fell on the and listen all day long to the songs fourth of August and was celeof the birds. Here Michael Dray- brated at Mich-Park in Coven. ton must often have come to read, try. From a passage in the Polylaying the base of the solid learn- olbion we may, however, infer that ing and delicate love of nature Drayton, like Donne, had fallen that distinguished him in after- deeply in love with the daughter life; the green trees, the plashing of his patron, with Anne Goodeere, Ankor, and the live things that of Powlesworth Abbey. From the inhabit the wood seem to have sonnets in her honour, we learn grown a part of his nature. Doubt- that for many years the lovers less he would often forget his kept up an intercourse, but that Æneid to watch frolicsome some unexplained fatality finally squirrel, and Dido's sorrow would separated them for ever. From take a sweeter voice when he heard the tone
of several poems, it his favourite nightingale break appears likely that Anne would through the daylight twitter of not risk the displeasure of her mated birds, like death in life. relations. The sonnets that in But Drayton was not long satisfied conjunction with later verses reto remain a listener; he began veal this love story, are written in versifying in the grand style; he a manner so guarded, so purposely tells us that:
obscure, that we might almost Methought I straight had mounted Pegasus,
believe that they celebrate an idea And in his full career could make him stop, and no more. But Drayton cautions And bound upon Parnassus by-clift top, us earnestly against this view, I scorned your ballet then.
beseeching us not to judge the We hear nothing of more boyish strength of his love by such loose pleasures; his books seem to have trifling, for (he says) as some men been his best companions. As he are most humorous in the
presence outgrew the learning of his earlier of danger, so the passion that tutors, Sir Henry Goodeere sent wrings tears from others can only him to graduate at the University force him to laugh of fortune of Oxford.
though he die jesting. Indeed, to In 1593 Drayton published his those who perceive in Drayton's first book with a dedication to this poetry the evidence of a singularly good-hearted patron. It is called sensitive nature (whose very irrita“Idea,” and contains sixty-three bility, like that of Molière's Alceste, sonnets in the praise of a lady was produced by the discord between