Elizabethan Sonnet Month
Michael Drayton (1563-1631)
Michael Drayton was the son of a prosperous Warwickshire tradesman. He received a good education
as a page in the house of Sir Henry Goodere, but there is no record of his ever having studied at a
Drayton's first publication, The Harmony of the Church, a somewhat clumsy paraphrase of the Bible,
appeared in 1591, when he was 28. Succeeding publications exemplify a wide variety of genres. Idea,
the Shepherd's Garland (1593) is a collection of nine pastoral poems, celebrating ideal beauty, in
imitation of Edmund Spenser. Idea's Mirror (1594), a sonnet sequence, also portrays the poet's beloved
(probably Anne Goodere, the daughter of his patron), under the Platonic name of "Idea."
By 1593 Drayton had also written his first historical romance in verse, Piers Gaveston. Two heroic poems
followed, drawing on incidents in English history: Robert, Duke of Normandy and Mortimeriados, both
published in 1596. The latter, which portrays the evils of civil strife, was considerably revised and
republished as The Baron's Wars (1603). The most popular of Drayton's early works, England's Heroical
Epistles, was published in 1597. Written in imitation of Ovid's Heroides, it consists of a series of
verse letters between lovers famous in English history.
Drayton turned to the fashionable genre of satirical verse in two rather obscure works, The Owl (1604)
and The Man in the Moon (1606). Some of his most famous shorter works were published in Poems Lyric and
Pastoral (1606), including the patriotic "Battle of Agincourt" and the "Ode to the Virginian Voyage,"
which celebrates English discoveries in America. Drayton's ambitious Polyolbion (1612-1622), a long
topographical poem, describes region by region the beauties and traditions of England and attempts to
provide a legendary basis for the Stuart claim to the English throne. The most important of the poems of
Drayton's later years, his Nymphidia (1627), is a delicate mock-heroic tale of the fairy kingdom, peopled
with characters like those that appear in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.
Although Drayton often lacks dramatic power and intellectual depth, he has been rightly praised for his
versatility, narrative skill, and insight into character. He died in London in 1631 and was buried in
Idea. Complete Sonnet Sequence (1619
Sonnets I - X
To The Reader Of These Sonnets
INTO these Loves who but for Passion looks,
At this first sight here let him lay them by
And seek elsewhere, in turning other books,
Which better may his labour satisfy.
No far-fetched sigh shall ever wound my breast,
Love from mine eye a tear shall never wring,
Nor in Ah me's my whining sonnets drest,
A libertine, fantasticly I sing.
My verse is the true image of my mind,
Ever in motion, still desiring change ;
And as thus to variety inclined,
So in all humours sportively I range ;
My Muse is rightly of the English strain,
That cannot long one fashion entertain.
LIKE an adventurous seafarer am I,
Who hath some long and dangerous voyage been,
And, called to tell of his discovery,
How far he sailed, what countries he had seen.
Proceeding from the port whence he put forth,
Shews by his compass how his course he steered,
When East, when West, when South, and when by North,
As how the Pole to every place was reared,
What capes he doubled, of what Continent,
The gulfs and straits that strangely he had past,
Where most becalmed, where with foul weather spent,
And on what rocks in peril to be cast.
Thus in my love, Time calls me to relate
My tedious travels and oft-varying fate.
MY heart was slain, and none but you and I ;
Who should I think the murther should commit,
Since but yourself there was no creature by,
But only I, guiltless of murth'ring it ?
It slew itself ; the verdict on the view
Doth quit the dead, and me not accessary.
Well, well, I fear it will be proved by you,
The evidence so great a proofe doth carry.
But O, see, see, we need enquire no further,
Upon your lips the scarlet drops are found,
And in your eye the boy that did the murther ;
Your cheeks yet pale, since first he gave the wound.
By this I see, however things be past,
Yet Heaven will still have murther out at last.
TAKING my pen, with words to cast my woe,
Duly to count the sum of all my cares,
I find my griefs innumerable grow,
The reckonings rise to millions of despairs ;
And thus dividing of my fatal hours,
The payments of my love I read and cross,
Subtracting, set my sweets unto my sours,
My joy's arrearage leads me to my loss ;
And thus mine eye's a debtor to thine eye,
Which by extortion gaineth all their looks ;
My heart hath paid such grievous usury
That all their wealth lies in thy beauty's books,
And all is thine which hath been due to me,
And I a bankrupt, quite undone by thee.
BRIGHT star of beauty, on whose eyelids sit
A thousand nymph-like and enamoured Graces,
The Goddesses of Memory and Wit,
Which there in order take their several places ;
In whose dear bosom sweet delicious Love
Lays down his quiver, which he once did bear,
Since he that blessed Paradise did prove,
And leaves his mother's lap to sport him there.
Let others strive to entertain with words,
My soul is of a braver metal made ;
I hold that vile which vulgar wit affords,
In me's that faith which Time cannot invade.
Let what I praise be still made good by you ;
Be you most worthy, whilst I am most true.
NOTHING but No, and Aye, and Aye, and No ?
How falls it out so strangely you reply ?
I tell ye, fair, I'll not be answered so,
With this affirming No, denying Aye.
I say “I love,” you slightly answer Aye ;
I say “you love,” you pule me out a No ;
I say “I die,” you echo me an Aye ;
“Save me,” I cry, you sigh me out a No ;
Must woe and I have nought but No and Aye ?
No I am I, if I no more can have ;
Answer no more, with silence make reply,
And let me take myself what I do crave.
Let No and Aye with I and you be so;
Then answer No, and Aye, and Aye and No.
HOW many paltry, foolish, painted things,
That now in coaches trouble every street,
Shall be forgotten, whom no Poet sings,
Ere they be well wrapt in their winding-sheet !
Where I to thee eternity shall give,
When nothing else remaineth of these days,
And Queens hereafter shall be glad to live
Upon the alms of thy superfluous praise.
Virgins and matrons, reading these my rhymes,
Shall be so much delighted with thy story
That they shall grieve they lived not in these times,
To have seen thee, their sex's only glory.
So shalt thou fly above the vulgar throng,
Still to survive in my immortal song.
LOVE in a humor played the prodigal
And bade my Senses to a solemn feast ;
Yet, more to grace the company withal,
Invites my Heart to be the chiefest guest.
No other drink would serve this glutton's turn
But precious tears distilling from mine eyne,
Which with my sighs this epicure doth burn,
Quaffing carouses in this costly wine ;
Where, in his cups o'ercome with foul excess,
Straightways he plays a swaggering ruffian's part,
And at the banquet in his drunkenness
Slew his dear friend, my kind and truest Heart.
A gentle warning, friends, thus may you see
What 'tis to keep a drunkard company.
THERE'S nothing grieves me, but that Age should haste,
That in my days I may not see thee old,
That where those two clear sparkling eyes are placed
Only two loop-holes then I might behold ;
That lovely, arched, ivory, polished brow
Defaced with wrinkles that I might but see ;
Thy dainty hair, so curl'd and crisped now,
Like grizzled moss upon some aged tree ;
Thy cheek, now flush with roses, sunk and lean ;
Thy lips with age as any wafer thin ;
Thy pearly teeth out of thy head so clean,
That, when thou feed'st, thy nose shall touch thy chin.
These lines that now thou scorn'st, which should delight thee,
Then would I make thee read but to despite thee.
AS other men, so I myself do muse
Why in this sort I wrest invention so,
And why these giddy metaphors I use,
Leaving the path the greater part do go.
I will resolve you : I am lunatic ;
And ever this in madmen you shall find,
What they last thought of when the brain grew sick
In most distraction they keep that in mind.
Thus talking idly in this bedlam fit,
Reason and I, you must conceive, are twain ;
"Tis nine years now since first I lost my wit ;
Bear with me then, though troubled be my brain.
With diet and correction men distraught
(Not too far past) may to their wits be brought.
TO nothing fitter can I thee compare
Than to the son of some rich penny-father,
Who, having now brought on his end with care,
Leaves to his son all he had heaped together ;
This new rich novice, lavish of his chest,
To one man gives, doth on another spend,
Then here he riots, yet among the rest
Haps to lend some to one true honest friend.
Thy gifts thou in obscurity dost waste,
False friends thy kindness, born but to deceive thee,
Thy love that is on the unworthy placed,
Time hath thy beauty, which with age will leave thee ;
Only that little which to me was lent
I give thee back, when all the rest is spent.
Sonnets XI - XX
YOU not alone, when you are still alone,
O God, from you that I could private be !
Since you one were, I never since was one ;
Since you in me, my self since out of me,
Transported from my self into your being ;
Though either distant, present yet to either,
Senseless with too much joy, each other seeing,
And only absent when we are together.
Give me my self and take your self again,
Devise some means but how I may forsake you ;
So much is mine that doth with you remain,
That, taking what is mine, with me I take you ;
You do bewitch me ; O, that I could fly,
From my self you, or from your own self I !
Sonnet XII To the Soul
THAT learned Father, who so firmly proves
The Soul of man immortal and divine,
And doth the several offices define,
Gives her that name, as she the Body moves ;
Then is she Love, embracing charity ;
Moving a Will in us, it is the Mind ;
Retaining knowledge, still the same in kind ;
As intellectual, it is Memory ;
In judging, Reason only is her name ;
In speedy apprehension it is Sense ;
In right or wrong they call her Conscience ;
The Spirit, when it to Godward doth inflame.
These of the Soul the several functions be,
Which my Heart, lightened by thy love, doth see.
Sonnet XIII To the Soul
LETTERS and lines we see are soon defaced,
Metals do waste and fret with canker's rust,
The diamond shall once consume to dust,
And freshest colours with foul stains disgraced ;
Paper and ink can paint but naked words,
To write with blood of force offends the sight ;
And if with tears I find them all too light,
And sighs and signs a silly hope affords,
O sweetest shadow, how thou serv'st my turn,
Which still shalt be, as long as there is sun,
Nor, whilst the world is, never shalt be done,
Whilst moon shall shine or any fire shall burn ;
That everything whence shadow doth proceed
May in my shadow my love's story read.
IF he from Heaven that filched that living fire
Condemn'd by Jove to endless torment be,
I greatly marvel how you still go free
That far beyond Prometheus did aspire.
The fire he stole, although of heavenly kind,
Which from above he craftily did take,
Of lifeless clods us living men to make,
He did bestow in temper of the mind ;
But you broke into Heaven's immortal store,
Where Virtue, Honour, Wit, and Beauty lay,
Which taking thence you have escaped away,
Yet stand as free as e'er you did before ;
Yet old Prometheus punished for his rape.
Thus poor thieves suffer when the greater 'scape.
Sonnet XV His Remedy For Love
SINCE to obtain thee nothing will me stead,
I have a medicine that shall cure my love,
The powder of her heart dried, when she is dead,
That gold nor honour ne'er had power to move,
Mixt with her tears, that ne'er her true-love crost
Nor at fifteen ne'er longed to be a bride,
Boiled with her sighs in giving up the ghost,
That for her late deceased husband died ;
Into the same then let a woman breathe,
That, being chid, did never word reply,
With one thrice-married's prayers, that did bequeath
A legacy to stale virginity.
If this receipt have not the power to win me,
Little I'll say, but think the Devil's in me.
Sonnet XVI An Allusion to the Phoenix
'MONGST all the creatures in this spacious round
Of the birds' kind, the Phoenix is alone,
Which best by you of living things is known ;
None like to that, none like to you is found.
Your beauty is the hot and splend'rous sun,
The precious spices be your chaste desire,
Which being kindled by that heavenly fire,
Your life so like the Phoenix's begun ;
Yourself thus burnèd in that sacred flame,
With so rare sweetness all the heavens perfuming,
Again increasing as you are consuming,
Only by dying born the very same ;
And, winged by fame, you to the stars ascend,
So you of time shall live beyond the end.
Sonnet XVII To Time
STAY, speedy Time, behold, before thou pass,
From age to age what thou hast sought to see,
One in whom all the excellencies be,
In whom Heaven looks itself as in a glass.
Time, look thyself in this tralucent glass,
And thy youth past in this pure mirror see,
As the world's beauty in his infancy,