“Queens hereafter shall
be glad to live
Upon the alms of thy superfluous praise.”
A late writer holds that years have falsified this prophecy. It is true that Lamb valued Drayton chiefly as the panegyrist of his native earth, and we would hardly venture to predict the future of our sonneteer; but the fact remains that now three hundred years after his time, his lifelong devotion to the prototype of Idea constitutes, as he conventionally asserted it would, his most valid claim to interest, and that the sonnets where this love has found most potent expression mount the nearest to the true note of immortality.
TO THE READER OF THESE SONNETS
Into these loves who but for
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;
To choice of all variety inclined,
And in all humours sportively I range.
My muse is rightly of the English strain,
That cannot long one fashion entertain.
Like an adventurous sea-farer
Who hath some long and dang’rous 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,
Shows 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 murder should commit?
Since but yourself there was no creature by
But only I, guiltless of murdering it.
It slew itself; the verdict on the view
Do quit the dead, and me not accessary.
Well, well, I fear it will be proved by you,
The evidence so great a proof doth carry.
But O see, see, we need inquire no further!
Upon your lips the scarlet drops are found,
And in your eye the boy that did the murder,
Your cheeks yet pale since first he gave the wound!
By this I see, however things be past,
Yet heaven will still have murder out at last.