One of the more gruesome words to appear in Poly-Olbion, ‘spirtle’ is a verb used to describe the spattering of a porter’s viscera as he receives a blow to the head from Bevis of Southampton. After being raised as a shepherd, Bevis returns to Southampton to interrupt his mother’s marriage to Mordure, the man who killed his father, brutally slaying those standing in his way. The first recorded use of the word occurs in Drayton’s earlier poem, ‘His Defence Against The Idle Critick’ (1606), in which it carries the more figurative sense of being tainted by undesirable characteristics:
Madnesse and Ignorance,
I creepe behind the Time,
From spertling with their Crime,
And glad too with my Chance.
This is another instance of Drayton modifying an existing word, in this case the verb ‘spirt’, in order to keep the sense of his poetry fresh and immediate. He then re-uses his invented word with a different meaning to further make its sense dependent on the context in which he uses it.