London: printed [by R. Young] for Iohn Smethwick, 1637.
Duodecimo: 13.8 x 8.4 cm. , 487,  p. Collation: A-X12 (engraved t.p. is leaf A2)
The last edition of this collection of poems, first printed in 1605 and often re-printed.
Bound in 19th c. polished, gold-ruled blond calf, with gilt turn-ins and the spine richly tooled in gold, with green morocco labels. Text in fine condition throughout, a.e.g. Complete with engraved t.p. by William Marshall and the first leaf (blank except for sig. mark). "Englands heroicall epistles" and "The legends …" have separate dated title pages; “Idea” with drop-title and decorative head-piece incorporating the royal arms; pagination and register are continuous.
A fine copy of the poems of the poet and playwright Michael Drayton, who wrote verse under three monarchs: Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I. This collection comprises some of Drayton’s earliest and most popular compositions: “Idea: the Shepheards Garland”(1593), “Peirs Gaveston, Earle of Cornwall”(1593), “Matilda: the Faire and Chaste Daughter of the Lord Robert Fitzwater”(1594), “The Tragicall Legend of Robert, Duke of Normandy”(1596), “Englands Heroicall Epistles”(1597), “The Barrons Wars” (1603), and “The Legend of Great Cromwel”(1607). It is dedicated to Sir Walter Aston, who, upon being knighted, had made Drayton one of his esquires (a title that Drayton proudly uses on the title page).
“In 1593 came ‘Idea: the Shepheards Garland’, nine eclogues dedicated to young Robert Dudley and modelled on Spenser's ‘Shepheardes Calender’. Drayton later revised them, smoothing their diction and metre. The fourth laments the death of Sir Philip Sidney at the battle of Zutphen in 1586.
“In 1593 Drayton also published the first of his historical poems in the complaint mode made famous by ‘The Mirror for Magistrates’: ‘Peirs Gaveston, Earle of Cornwall’. This was followed in 1594 by ‘Matilda: the Faire and Chaste Daughter of the Lord Robert Fitzwater’, and both poems, revised, were reissued in 1596 with ‘The Tragicall Legend of Robert, Duke of Normandy’ and dedicated to the countess of Bedford.
“The year 1596 saw ‘Mortimeriados’ (on the civil wars during the reign of Edward II), a brief quasi-epic republished in 1603, with many alterations and informative marginalia, as ‘The Barrons Wars’. An address to the reader in 1603 explains that 'the cause of this my second greater labour was the insufficient and carelesse handling of the first'; ‘Mortimeriados’ is in rhyme royal, but for the ‘Barrons Wars’ Drayton reworked these stanzas into ottava rima, a pattern the prefatory epistle calls 'of all other the most complete and best proportioned'. Many more revisions followed before ‘The Barrons Wars’ saw its final shape.
“’Englands Heroicall Epistles’ (1597) was to be among the most popular of Drayton's works. Modelled on Ovid's ‘Heroides’, at least in terms of genre but with more focus on history than on remote legend, it comprises paired epistles between famous lovers. Later editions added more lovers. As though to stress the historical nature of these mostly English lovers, Drayton appends notes to each epistle and dedicates most to some distinguished aristocrat; that so many of his narratives involve the fall of princes doubtless increased their political interest. The letters themselves show Drayton's interest in imagining his way into other people's interests and outlooks; half of the letters, after all, voice what he takes to be a female subjectivity.”
The “Legend of Thomas Cromwell” (1607) was the fourth and last of Drayton’s tragical legends. The poet’s main sources for this controversial choice were Foxe’s “Actes and Monuments”. It was incorporated into the 1610 edition of the “Mirror for Magistrates”.
“Drayton fretted when not recognized as Britain's laureate bard, and he rightly sensed that his interests and manner were remote from the cavalier poets on the one hand, whatever the lyric lightness he could summon, and from the metaphysicals on the other, whatever the witty compression that often strengthens his lines. Even his acidity can seem a reversion to a tone more suiting late Elizabethan satire. In a common if not wholly useful or valid taxonomy, he is a late 'Spenserian' poet. Yet he had distinguished friends and drew praise from such fellow poets as Richard Barnfield, Thomas Lodge, Joshua Sylvester, Sir William Alexander, Francis Beaumont, and William Browne…
“In the small theatre world he would have known Shakespeare, although no written evidence for this remains except an implausible note made around 1662 by John Ward, vicar of Stratford upon Avon, that mentions a 'merry meeting' at which Shakespeare, Drayton, and Jonson 'dranke too hard, for Shakespear died of a feaver there contracted'. Drayton's epistolary friendship with Drummond brought him great pleasure…
“Writing in an array of genres, Drayton can move from Neoplatonic flights to pastoral retreats free of royal neglect and the sad need to scramble for funds; to grieved witness of Time's hungry destruction of women and walls; to ironic visions of court life; and to an image of the British landscape in which rivers with excellent historical memories, boastful hills that look down on equally voluble valleys, rivers that run on at the mouth, self-assured towns, and lively fauna leave scant room for monarchy as the Stuarts conceived it. Drayton will seldom excite the enthusiasm many feel for Spenser, Donne, or Jonson: sensing himself estranged from his own age, he may still remain too much of it. Yet he repays the reader, especially one looking less for the stolid moralism or simple patriotism with which he has been too often identified than for sardonic melancholy, political resistance, airy delicacy, and access to realms invisible to the merely well born or rich. Any poet who can, in the poem ‘Robert, Duke of Normandie’, have Fortune tell Memory, with a savage pun, that 'Written with Bloud, thy sad Memorials lye' deserves attention.”(Prescott, ODNB).
ESTC S109927; STC (2nd ed.), 7225