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Idea, The Legend of Robert Duke of Normandy, of Matilda, and Pierce Gaveston ; 1613, 8vo“. Poems, 1619, folio, and without date, &vo. 14. The Battle of Agincourt ; 1627, fol. 15. The Muses Elizium, lately discovered, by a new Way over Parnassus ; 1630, 4to.
In addition to these, Mr. Ritson mentions some poems inserted in England's Helicon, 1600; and a poem signed M. D. before Marley's Ballets, 1600, probably by Drayton, who has also commendatory verses before Middleton's Legend of D. Humphrey, 1600; Murray's Sophonisba, 1611; Davies's Holy Roode, 1609; Chapman's Hesiod, 1618; Vicars's Menuduction, 1622 ; sir John Beaumont's poems, 1629; in Annalia Dubrensia, 1636 ; and before Holland's Posthume, 1626. The supposition that he wrote a play called The Merry Devil of Edmonton has been satisfactorily refuted by the editor of the Biographia Dramatica; but in the Censura Literaria the following is attributed to his pen, Ideas Mirrour Amours in quatorzains, che suve e tace assair domanda, 4to. 1594. These stanzas are dedicated, in a poetical address, to “ the deare chyld of the Muses, and his ever kind Mæcenas, Antony Cooke, esq.”—A collection of his principal works was printed in a folio volume in 1748, and a more complete, but still imperfect one, in 1753, in four volumes, 8vo. In 1788 the late Mr. Hurdis republished his Heroic Epistles with notes and illustrations, 8vo.
Few men appear to have been more highly respected by his contemporaries, and there is reason to think he associated on very familiar terms with Jonson, Shakspeare, Selden, and other men of the first eminence for literary character and personal worth. Meres, a divine and poet of considerable note in his time, informs us that Drayton, “among scholars, soldiers, poets, and all sorts of people, was helde for a man of virtuous disposition, honest conversation, and well-governed carriage, which,” he adds, “is almost miraculous among good wits in these declining and corrupt times.” And an anonymous dramatic writer introduces his name in a piece entitled The Return from Parnassus, or the Scourges of Symony, with this character: “ He wants one true note of a poet of our times, and that is this: he cannot swagger it well at a tavern, or domineer in a hot-house." Mr. Warton introduces this encomium in his analysis of Hall's Satires, with the following remarks: “Our poets, too frequently the children of idleness, too naturally the lovers of pleasure, began now to be men of the world, and affect to mingle in the dissipationis and debaucheries of the metropolis. To support a popularity of character, not so easily attainable in the obscurities of retirement and study, they frequented taverns, became libertines and buffoons, and exhilarated the circles of the polite and the profligate. Their way of life gave the colour to their writings : and what had been the favourite topic of coave yon was sure to please, when recommended by the graces of poetry. Add to this, that (poets now began to write for hire, and a rapid sale was to be obtained at the expense of the purity of the reader's mind.”
Drayton's character appears to have been perfectly free from censures of this kind; but the testimonies to his merit as a poet are yet more copious, and deserve to accompany every edition of his works. If they have no other value, they serve to illustrate the history of taste, and the instability of fame. By Fitz Geoffry, a divine and poet who flourished at the latter end ot queen Elizabeth's reign, he is styled, “ the golden-mouthed poet, for the purity and preciousness of his phrase.” Allot, in his England's Parnassus, is no less partial to his writings; and Robert Tofte, the translator of Ariosto's Satires, speaks of him as “not unworthily bearing the pame of the chief archangel (Michael) singing after his
• This edition is not noticed by Mr, Ritson. C.
soul-ravishing manner.” Burton, the historian of Leicestershire, asserts that he may be compared with Dante, Petrarch or Boccace, Marinella, Pignatello or Stigliano; but why, he exclaims, “ should I go about to commend him, whose own works and worthiness have sufficiently extolled to the world :" Drummond of Hawthornden commends the Poly-olbion, as being one of the smoothest poems he had seen in English, and said he should dare to compare some pieces in it with the best transmarine poems. To these testimonies we may add the no less liberal praises of Bolton, Bodenham, sir John Beaumont, and Alexander, earl of Sterling.
Phillips, who is supposed to speak sometimes the sentiments of his illustrious relation, Milton, remarks that Drayton in his time (Drayton's) was not much inferior to Spenser and sir Philip Sydney for fame and renown in poetry: “ however, he seems somewhat antiquated in the esteem of the more curious of these times, especially in his Poly-olbion, the old fashioned kind of verse? whereof, seems somewhat to diminish that respect which was formerly paid to the subject, as being both pleasant and elaborate, and thereupon thought worthy to be commented upon by that once walking library of our nation, Selden; his England's Heroical Epistles are more generally liked; and to such as love the pretty chat of nymphs and shepherds, his Nymphals, and other things of that nature, cannot be unpleasant."
Notwithstanding this decline, an attempt was made to revive Drayton about half a century ago, by Oldys“, who obtained subscriptions for a folio edition of his works, and this, as already noticed, was followed by another in octavo. To each was prefixed an Historical Essay on the author's life and writings, almost a continued panegyric, but insisting chiefly on points unconnected with the character of genuine poetry. The deductions, indeed, must be many when we find that the highest praise is paid, not to the inventive powers of the poet, but to the fidelity of the historian, and the accuracy of the topographer. In these respects we are assured that Drayton may yet be consulted with advantage; we have the authority of Mr. Gough that the Poly-olbion contains many particulars which escaped Camden's notice; but when in this, or in his Barons' Wars and Legends, we look for the beauties of imagination, the search, although it does not always end in disappointment, must be allowed to be too painful for common curiosity. Drayton was certainly not destitute of genius. His Pastorals and his Nymphidia may be advanced in proof of a more than common share of original fancy, and his descriptions are sometimes very striking; but the pains he took to be accurate, and the bistorical terms of " the truth and nothing but the truth,” which he imposed on his Muse, left no scope for imagination, and made invention appear almost a crime. As he wrote with such views and such a taste, it is impossible to blame the present age for not being easily reconciled to yo through his works, unless as a task.
Mr. Headley labours, with more than usual effort; to convince us that the neglect into which Drayton has fallen is owing to the discouragement which bis“ voluminousness” presents, and which induces most readers to skim his works superficially, without going deep enough to be real judges of his excellence. But when this amiable critic descends to particulars, he affords, perhaps, a better apology for those superficial readers. After giving all the merit due to the Poly-olbion, which entirely resolves itself into the use
* This old-fashioned kind of verse is very ably defended by an anonymous critic in Gent. Mag. Vol. LVI. p. 1059. C.
• I know not on what authority this is asserted. Oldys certainly wrote his Life in the Biog. Brit. C.
that may be made of it by antiquaries, he is compelled to allow," that his continual personifications of woods, mountains, and rivers, are tedious; and, on the whole, we must be satisfied to read rather for information than pleasure. In the Legends and Heroical Epistles, both the time and events are properly limited; the attention is gratified, but not satiated. In the Barons' Wars too extensive a subject is opened, and the province of the historian too far trespassed upon. In order to be introduced to good incident and reflection, we must toil through dry facts, listen with patience to the developement of uncertain primary causes, and at last, perhaps, are obliged to have recourse to a prose explanation in the notes.” Mr. Headley, however, has proved that while Drayton's works were sinking into oblivion, his poetical successors availed themselves of many of his thoughts and expressions. Milton, Rochester, and Pope, are supposed to have been considerably indebted to him.
The learned and elegant editor of Phillips's Theatrum appears to me to have appreciated the poetry of Drayton at its full value, when, at the same time that he thinks his taste less correct and his ear less harmonious than Daniel's, he asserts that “ his genius was more poetical, though it seems to have fitted him only for the didactic, and not for the bolder walks of poetry. The Poly-olbion is a work of amazing ingenuity; and a very large proportion exhibits a variety of beauties, which partake very strongly of the poetical character; but the perpetual personification is tedious, and more is attempted than is witbin the compass of poetry. The admiration in which the Heroical Epistles were once held, raises the astonishment of a more refined age. They exhibit some elegant images, and some musical lines. But in general they want passion and nature, are strangely flat and prosaic, and are intermixed with the coarsest vulgarities of ideas, sentiment, and expression. His Barons' Wars and other historical pieces are dull creeping narratives, with a great deal of the same faults, and none of the excellencies which ought to distinguish such compositions. His Nymphidia is light and airy, and possesses the features of true poetry.”
PREFACES, DEDICATIONS, AND SONNETS,
FROM THE OCTAVO EDITION OF HIS POEMS, 1613.
WHICH WAS AFTERWARDS ABRIDGED
cond, seeing none to whom I haue dedicated any ORIGINAL PREFACE
two epistles, but haue their states ouermatched by them, who are made to speake in the epistles, how euer the order is in dedication, yet in respect of
their degrees in my deuotion, and the cause before HEROICAL EPISTLES,
recited, I hope they suffer no disparagement, seeing euery one is the first in their particular interest, hauing in some sort, sorted the complexion of the epistles to the character of their judgements, to whom I dedicate them, excepting onely the blame
fuloesse of the persons passion, in those points TO THE READER.
wherein the passion is blamefull. Lastly, such EEING these Epistles are now to the world made manifest difference being betwixt euery one of
publique, it is imagined that I ought to be ac- them, where, or howsoeuer they be marshalled, countable of my priuate meaning, chiefly for mine how can I be iustly appeached of vnaduisement. Owne charge, lest being mistaken, I fall'in hazard For the third, because the worke might in truth be of a just and vniuersall reprehension, for,
iudged brainish, if nothing but amorous humor
were handled therein, I haue inter-wouen matters Hæ nugæ seria ducent
historicall, which vnexplaned, might defraud the In mala derisum semel exceptumque sinistre. mind of much content, as for example, in Queene
Margarites Epistle to William de-la-Poole: Three points are especially therefore to be explaned : first, why I entitle this worke Englands My daizie flower, which once perfum'd the aire. Heroicall Epistles; then, why I obserue not the Margarite in French signifies a daizie, which for persons dignitie in the dedication : lastly, why I the allusion to her name, this queene did giue for haue annexed notes to euery epistles end. For the her deuise; and this as others more, haue seemed first, the title I hope carieth reason in it selfe, for to me not worthy the explaining. that the most and greatest persons herein, were Now, though no doubt, I had need to excuse English, or else, that their loues were obtained in other things beside, yet these most especially, the England. And though (heroicall) be properly vn. rest I ouer-passe to eschew tedious recitall, or to derstood of demi-gods, as of Hercules and Æneas, speake as malicious enuie may, for that in truth I whose parents were said to be, the one cælestiall, louersee them. If they be as harmelessely taken, the other mortall, yet is it also transferred to as I meant them, it shall suffice to haue onely them, who for the greatnesse of minde come neere , touched the cause of the title of the dedications, to gods. For to be borne of a cælestiall incubus, and of the notes, whereby emboldned to publish is nothing else but to have a great and mightie the residue, (these not being accounted in mens spirit, farre aboue the earthly weakenesse of men; opinions relishlesse) I shall not lastly be afraid to in which sense Ouid (whose imitator I partly pro- beleeue and acknowledge thee a gentle reader. fesse to be) doth also vse heroicall. For the se