« PrejšnjaNaprej »
THE duke's stout presence, and courageous looks,
Merlin laughs out aloud, instead of crying;
Good manners doth make answer unto passion.
Are sharp, and need not whetting by my words,
The child (for children see what should be
This man no part hath in the child he sorrows,
RICHARD BEFORE THE BATTLE OF BOSWORTH.
which no copy is known to be extant; Bosworth Field; and a variety of small original and translated pieces. Bosworth Field may be compared with Addison's Campaign, without a high compliment to either. Sir John has no fancy, but there is force and dignity in some of his passages; and he deserves notice as one of the earliest polishers of what is called the heroic couplet*.
And if I now in action teach the same, [name.
[* The commendation of improving the rhythm of the couplet is due also to Sir John Beaumont, author of a short poem on the Battle of Bosworth Field. In other respects it has no pretensions to a high rank."-HALLAM S Lit. Hist., vol. iii. p. 499.
The poem, though a posthumous publication, was not without its prefatory commendations:
This book will live; it hath a genius; this
[Born, 1570? Died, 1681.]
MICHAEL DRAYTON was born in the parish of Atherston, in Warwickshire. His family was ancient, but it is not probable that his parents were opulent, for he was educated chiefly at the expense of Sir Godfrey Godere. In his childhood, which displayed remarkable proficiency, he was anxious to know what strange kind of beings poets were, and on his coming to college he importuned his tutor, if possible, to make him a poet. Either from this ambition, or from necessity, he seems to have adopted no profession, and to have generally owed his subsistence to the munificence of friends. An allusion which he makes, in the poem of "Moses's Birth and Miracles," to the destruction of the Spanish Armada, has been continually alleged as a ground for supposing that he witnessed that spectacle in a military capacity; but the lines, in fact, are far from proving that he witnessed it at all. On the accession of King James the First, he paid his court to the new sovereign, with all that a poet could offer, his congratulatory verses. James, however, received him but coldly, and though he was patronised by Lord Buckhurst and the Earl of Dorset *, he obtained no situation of independence, but continued to publish his voluminous poetry amidst severe irritations with his booksellers t. Popular as Drayton once was in comparison of the present neglect of him, it is difficult to conceive that his works were ever so profitable as to allow the bookseller much room for peculation. He was known as a poet many years be death of Queen Elizabeth Poly-olbion, which the learned Selden honoured with notes, did not appear till 1613. In 1626 we find him styled poet laureate; but the title at that time was often a mere compliment, and implied neither royal appointment nor butt of canary. The Countess of Bedford supported him for many years. At the close of his life we find him in the family of the Earl of Dorset, to whose magnanimous countess the Aubrey MSS. ascribe the poet's monument over his grave in Westminster Abbey.
The language of Drayton is free and perspiWith less depth of feeling than that which occasionally bursts from Cowley, he is a less excruciating hunter of conceits, and in harmony of expression is quite a contrast to Donne. A tinge of grace and romance pervades much of his poetry and even his pastorals, which
[* Lord Buckhurst and the Earl of Dorset,-the poet and lord high treasurer,-are one and the same person.]
[ He received a yearly pension of ten pounds from Prince Henry, to whom he dedicated his Poly-olbion.]
exhibit the most fantastic views of nature, sparkle with elegant imagery. The Nymphidia is in his happiest characteristic manner of airy and sportive pageantry. In some historic sketches of the Barons' Wars he reaches a manner beyond himself the pictures of Mortimer and the Queen, and of Edward's entrance to the castle. are splendid and spirited. In his Poly-olbion, or description of Great Britain, he has treated the subject with such topographical and minute detail as to chain his poetry to the map; and he has unfortunately chosen a form of verse which, though agreeable when interspersed with other measures, is fatiguing in long continuance by itself: still it is impossible to read the poem without admiring the richness of his local associations, and the beauty and variety of the fabulous allusions which he scatters around him. Such indeed is the profusion of romantic recollections in the Poly-olbion, that a poet of taste and selection might there find subjects of happy description, to which the author who suggested them had not the power of doing justice; for Drayton started so many remembrances, that he lost his inspiration in the effort of memory. In the Barons' Wars, excepting the passages already noticed, where the
Purpureus latè qui splendeat unus et alter, Assuitur pannus,
we unhappily exchange only the geographer for the chronicler. On a general survey, the mass of his poetry has no strength or sustaining spirit adequate to its bulk. There is a perpetual play of fancy on its surface; but the impulses of passion, and the guidance of judgment, give it no strong movements nor consistent course. In scenery or in history he cannot command selected views, but meets them by chance as he travels over the track of detail. His great subjects have no interesting centre, no shade for uninteresting things. Not to speak of his dull passages, his description is generally lost in a flutter of whimsical touches. His muse had certainly no strength for extensive flights, though she sports in happy moments on a brilliant and graceful wing*.
[*"Drayton's Poly-olbion is a poem of about 30,000 lines in length, written in Alexandrine couplets, a measure, from its monotony, and perhaps from its frequency in doggrel ballads, not at all pleasing to the ear. It contains a topographical description of England, illustrated with a prodigality of historical and legendary erudition. Such a poem is essentially designed to instruct, and speaks to the understanding more than to the fancy. The powers displayed in it are, however, of a high cast. Yet perhaps no English poem, known as well by name, is so little known beyond its name."-HALLAM, Lit. Hist., vol. iii. p. 496-7.
MORTIMER, EARL OF MARCH, AND THE QUEEN, SURPRISED BY EDWARD III.
IN NOTTINGHAM CASTLE.
FROM "THE BARONS' WARS," BOOK VI.
When, by that time, into the castle-hall
Whilst youthful Nevil and brave Turrington,
When, as from snow-crown'd Skidow's lofty cliffs, Some fleet-wing'd haggard, tow'rds herpreying hour, Amongst the teal and moor-bred mallard drives, And th' air of all her feather'd flock doth scow'r, Whilst to regain her former height she strives, The fearful fowl all prostrate to her power:
Such a sharp shriek did ring throughout the vault, Made by the women at the fierce assault.
NYMPHIDIA, THE COURT OF FAIRY.
With such poor trifles playing:
But that they must be saying.
Then since no muse hath been so bold,
Which lie from others' reading; My active muse to light shall bring The court of that proud Fairy King, And tell there of the revelling:
Jove prosper my proceeding. And thou Nymphidia, gentle Fay, Which meeting me upon the way, These secrets didst to me bewray, Which now I am in telling: My pretty light fantastic maid, I here invoke thee to my aid, That I may speak what thou hast said, In numbers smoothly swelling.