To Master William Ieffreys, Chaplaine To The Lord Ambassadour In Spaine

A poem by Michael Drayton

My noble friend, you challenge me to write
To you in verse, and often you recite,
My promise to you, and to send you newes;
As 'tis a thing I very seldome vse,
And I must write of State, if to Madrid,
A thing our Proclamations here forbid,
And that word State such Latitude doth beare,
As it may make me very well to feare
To write, nay speake at all, these let you know
Your power on me, yet not that I will showe
The loue I beare you, in that lofty height,
So cleere expression, or such words of weight,
As into Spanish if they were translated,
Might make the Poets of that Realme amated;
Yet these my least were, but that you extort
These numbers from me, when I should report
In home-spunne prose, in good plaine honest words
The newes our wofull England vs affords.
The Muses here sit sad, and mute the while
A sort of swine vnseasonably defile
Those sacred springs, which from the by-clift hill
Dropt their pure Nectar into euery quill;
In this with State, I hope I doe not deale,
This onely tends the Muses common-weale.
What canst thou hope, or looke for from his pen,
Who liues with beasts, though in the shapes of men,
And what a poore few are we honest still,
And dare to be so, when all the world is ill.
I finde this age of our markt with this Fate,
That honest men are still precipitate
Vnder base villaines, which till th' earth can vent
This her last brood, and wholly hath them spent,
Shall be so, then in reuolution shall
Vertue againe arise by vices fall;
But that shall I not see, neither will I
Maintaine this, as one doth a Prophesie,
That our King Iames to Rome shall surely goe,
And from his chaire the Pope shall ouerthrow.
But O this world is so giuen vp to hell,
That as the old Giants, which did once rebell,
Against the Gods, so this now-liuing race
Dare sin, yet stand, and Ieere heauen in the face.
But soft my Muse, and make a little stay,
Surely thou art not rightly in thy way,
To my good Ieffrayes was not I about
To write, and see, I suddainely am out,
This is pure Satire, that thou speak'st, and I
Was first in hand to write an Elegie.
To tell my countreys shame I not delight.
But doe bemoane 't I am no Democrite:
O God, though Vertue mightily doe grieue
For all this world, yet will I not beleeue
But that shees faire and louely, and that she
So to the period of the world shall be;
Else had she beene forsaken (sure) of all,
For that so many sundry mischiefes fall
Vpon her dayly, and so many take
Armes vp against her, as it well might make
Her to forsake her nature, and behind,
To leaue no step for future time to find,
As she had neuer beene, for he that now
Can doe her most disgrace, him they alow
The times chiefe Champion, and he is the man,
The prize, and Palme that absolutely wanne,
For where Kings Clossets her free seat hath bin
She neere the Lodge, not suffered is to Inne,
For ignorance against her stands in state,
Like some great porter at a Pallace gate;
So dull and barbarous lately are we growne,
And there are some this slauery that haue sowne,
That for mans knowledge it enough doth make,
If he can learne, to read an Almanacke;
By whom that trash of Amadis de Gaule,
Is held an author most authenticall,
And things we haue like Noblemen that be
In little time, which I haue hope to see
Vpon their foot-clothes, as the streets they ride
To haue their hornebookes at their girdles ti'd.
But all their superfluity of spite
On vertues hand-maid Poesy doth light,
And to extirpe her all their plots they lay,
But to her ruine they shall misse the way,
For his alone the Monuments of wit,
Aboue the rage of Tyrants that doe sit,
And from their strength, not one himselfe can saue,
But they shall tryumph o'r his hated graue.
In my conceipt, friend, thou didst neuer see
A righter Madman then thou hast of me,
For now as Elegiack I bewaile
These poor base times; then suddainely I raile
And am Satirick, not that I inforce
My selfe to be so, but euen as remorse,
Or hate, in the proud fulnesse of their hight
Master my fancy, iust so doe I write.
But gentle friend as soone shall I behold
That stone of which so many haue vs tould,
(Yet neuer any to this day could make)
The great Elixar or to vndertake
The Rose-crosse knowledge which is much like that
A Tarrying-iron for fooles to labour at,
As euer after I may hope to see,
(A plague vpon this beastly world for me,)
Wit so respected as it was of yore;
And if hereafter any it restore,
It must be those that yet for many a yeare,
Shall be vnborne that must inhabit here,
And such in vertue as shall be asham'd
Almost to heare their ignorant Grandsires nam'd,
With whom so many noble spirits then liu'd,
That were by them of all reward depriu'd.
My noble friend, I would I might haue quit
This age of these, and that I might haue writ,
Before all other, how much the braue pen,
Had here bin honoured of the English men;
Goodnesse and knowledge, held by them in prise,
How hatefull to them Ignorance and vice;
But it falls out the contrary is true,
And so my Ieffreyes for this time adue.

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