Extract: Song 1

The First Song

THE Argument

The sprightly Muse her wing displaie
And the French Ilands1 first survaies,
Beares-up2 with Neptune3, and in glory
Transcends proud Cornwalls Promontorie;
There crownes Mount-Michaell, and discries
How all those Riverets fall and rise;
Then takes in Tamer, as she bounds
The Corinth and Devonian grounds.
And whilst the Devonshire-Nymphes relate
Their loves, their fortunes, and estate,
Dert undertaketh to revive
Our Brute, and sings his first arrive;
Then North-ward to the verge shee bends,
And her first Song at Ax shee ends.

The Poem

Of Albions glorious Ile the Wonders whilftwhilst I write,
The sundry varying soyles, the pleasures infinite
(Where heate kills not the cold, nor cold expells the heat,
The calmes too mildly small, not winds too roughly great,
Nor night doth hinder day, nor day the night doth wrong,
The Summer not too short, the Winter not too long)
What helpe shall I invoke to ayde my Muse the while?

Thou Genius of the place (this most renowned Isle)
Which livedst long before the all-earth-drowning Flood,
Whilst yet the world did swarm with her Gigantic brood,
Go thou before me still thy circling shores about,
And in this wand’ring maze help to conduct me out :
Direct my course so right, as with thy hand to show
Which way thy Forests range, which way thy Rivers flow ;
Wise Genius, by thy help that so I may descry
I low thy fair Mountains stand, and how thy Valleys lie;


1. The French Ilands: The Channel Islands. William Hole’s accompanying map terms the body of water surrounding these islands ‘The French Sea’. Cf. Saxton’s ‘Oceanus Brittanicus’ and Camden’s ‘Mare Britannicum’.
2. Beares-up with Neptune: rises with the sea (as it approaches the land). Drayton perhaps uses the verb for its specific nautical resonances.; cf. Daniel’s description of a pirate in pursuit who ‘Works for the winds, plyes sayles, beares up a pace, / Out-runnes the clowdes, scoures after her that flyes’ (Aa2v).