Michael Drayton, 1563-1631

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Biographical note

Poet, born in Warwickshire, was in early life page to a gentleman, and was possibly at Cambridge or Oxford His earliest poem, The Harmonie of the Church, was destroyed. His next was The Shepherd’s Garland (1593), afterwards reprinted as Eclogues. Three historical poems, Gaveston (1593), Matilda (1594), and Robert, Duke of Normandie (1596) followed, and he then appears to have collaborated with Dekker, Webster, and others in dramatic work. His magnum opus, however, was Polyolbion (1613?), a topographical description of England in twelve-syllabled verse, full of antiquarian and historical details, so accurate as to make the work an authority on such matters. The rushing verse is full of vigour and gusto. Other poems of Drayton are The Wars of the Barons (1603), England’s Heroical Epistles (1598) (being imaginary letters between Royal lovers such as Henry II. and Rosamund), Poems, Lyric and Heroic (1606) (including the fine ballad of “Agincourt”), Nymphidia, his most graceful work, Muses Elizium, and Idea’s Mirrour, a collection of sonnets, Idea being the name of the lady to whom they were addressed. Though often heavy, Drayton had the true poetic gift, had passages of grandeur, and sang the praises of England with the heart of a patriot.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]

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