Michael Drayton


'Doe pious marble let thy readers know what they and what their children owe to Draiton's name; whose sacred dust wee recommend unto thy trust: protect his memry, and preserve his storye: remaine a lastinge monument of his glorye; and when thy ruines shall disclame to be the treas'rer of his name; his name, that cannot fade, shall be an everlasting monument to thee'


Michael Drayton is buried in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London, England.

Tomb of Michael Drayton

Portrait of MIchael Drayton by Sylvester Harding

Drayton was born at Hartshill near Nuneaton in Warwickshire. However, little is known about his early life - though he may have spent time in the service of Sir Henry Goodere of Polesworth. He may also have studied at Oxford but again this is not known for certain. He moved to London in 1591.

His first book The Harmonie of the Church appeared in 1591 - followed by The Shepheards Garland in 1593 which was a series of eclogues in the style of Spenser: the third of which praised Queen Elizabeth and the fourth lamented the death of Sir Philip Sidney. A sonnet sequence entitled Ideas Mirrour followed in 1594 which included the famous sonnet: 'Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part'. (See below.)

Drayton found favour at the court of Queen Elizabeth but did not fare so well under James I when a poem, written to celebrate the king's accession, was ridiculed.

Like many poets of his age, Drayton also wrote for the theatre - collaborating with others to produce plays for Philip Henslowe. Only one of his (23) plays survives today and is entitled Sir John Oldcastle (Part 1). It is not very characteristic of Drayton's style - again suggesting a collaborative project.

Drayton's most famous line comes from his historical poem The Battaile of Agincourt (1627): 'Fayre stood the winde for France/ When we our sails advaunce.'

Drayton definitely corresponded with Ben Jonson and may have been a friend of Shakespeare. It is alledged that the three writers engaged in a heavy drinking session shortly before Shakespeare contracted a fever and died.

Drayton was a prolific poet - writing religious, love and historical verse. His most ambitious project was Poly-Olbion, completed in 1622, which was an epic topographical poem about England. He died in poverty but Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Dorset paid for his monument.  The memorial lines are atrributed to Ben Jonson and the monument was made by Edward Marshall. (Lady Anne Clifford also paid for Spenser's original monument.)

Since there's no help, come, let us kiss and part,
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have giv'n him over,
From death to life thou might'st him yet recover.

(from Idea)





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