Michael Drayton

Michael Drayton

About Michael Drayton

Michael Drayton is an English poet born in 1563 in Hartshill, near Atherstone in Warwickshire, and died on December 23, 1631 in London. He published pastorals, elegies and songs, but his most famous work is the Poly-Olbion, a description of England and Wales in almost 15,000 Alexandrian verses, a poetic topographical description of England written in pair-rhyming Alexandrians, which had eighteen cantos (books) in 1613 and in 1622 - after finding a publisher - in an expanded edition to 30 cantos. The monumental, contrasting poetry of Drayton's extensive and ambitious opus magnum Poly-Olbion provides a powerful testimony to both the patriotism and historical-antiquarian interest of the age. The work describes the journey of the winged muse through the regions of England and is considered one of the last attempts 'to summarize the diverging elements of poetry and everyday life, of legend and history, of past and present'.
The breadth and variety of Drayton's work identify him as an author who, not least for financial reasons, adapted to the prevailing taste of the time and tried his hand at numerous literary forms. Edmund Spenser was the greatest influence on his work, but his elaborate style rarely reached Drayton. With regard to his poetic Platonism, however, Drayton proves to be more consistent and rigid than Spenser.
He is also the author of about twenty plays. His first published work was a collection of religious poetry dedicated to Lady Jane Devereux: The Harmony of the Church (1591), a rather dry, alliterative treatment of various songs and prayers from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. His version of the Song of Salomon is considered one of the most beautiful poems in this collection. The book was confiscated (except for 40 copies) by government order and, according to an entry in the Stationers' Register of 1591, given to a Mr. Bishop, possibly the then Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, for destruction.
In 1593 Dayton published various pastoral poetry in Idea: The Shepherd's Garland (revised 1606), a collection of nine classic pastoral eclogues in the tradition of Edmund Spenser, in which he celebrates his own lovesickness under the poetic name Rowland. In 1594 Drayton expanded the basic idea in a cycle of 64 sonnets, which he first published in 1594 under the title of Idea's Mirror and then revised eleven times, each time under the title Idea.
His first historical epic, The Legend of Piers Gaveston and the epic poem Matilda, was probably also published around 1594. These two works mark the beginnings of historical poetry central to Drayton's body of work. Drayton wrote an extremely extensive opus with numerous, now largely forgotten individual works, which included poetic-historical and topographical poetry, epistles and pastoral poetry as well as a wide range of pieces such as eclogues, odes, elegies, sonnets, religious writings and satirical verse poetry.
With Endymion and Phoebe Drayton participated in 1595 in the contemporary fashion of the verse epyllies; A revised version appeared in 1606 under the title The Man in the Moon. In 1596 he published his elaborate and incomparably more important poem Mortimeriados, in which he draws on Christopher Marlowe's Edward II, among other things, and begins to make the Wars of the Roses poetic in the style of the then well-known Mirror for Magistrates. In 1603 Drayton expanded the poetic treatment of the civil war in England in the second half of the 15th century over the English throne in Mortimeriados and republished it under the title The Barons' Wars. The revision in The Barons' Wars primarily focuses on the emergence and consequences of the civil war.
In 1597 Drayton published England's Heroical Epistles, a poetic collection of letters from great lovers in English history, such as Henry II and Fair Rosamund or Richard II and Isabel. In his Heroicall Epistles, which reached thirteen editions, Drayton falls back on the model of Ovid's love poetry, as he expressed it in Heroides.
In 1627 he published another mixed volume of works The bataille of Agincourt; The Miseries of Queen Margaret; Nimphidia; The Quest of Cinthia, The Shepherd's Sirena and The Moon Calf. Considered one of his best works is Nymphidia, or The Court of Fairy, a mock-heroic poem influenced by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The last of his extensive works appeared in 1630 The Muses' Elizium.
Drayton is buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

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