Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
To the Virginian Voyage
By Michael Drayton (1563–1631)
YOU 1 brave heroic minds
  Worthy your country’s name,
    That honour still pursue;
    Go and subdue!
Whilst loitering hinds        5
  Lurk here at home with shame:
Britons, you stay too long:
  Quickly aboard bestow you,
    And with a merry gale
    Swell your stretch’d sail        10
With vows as strong
  As the winds that blow you.
Your course securely steer,
  West and by south forth keep!
    Rocks, lee-shores, nor shoals        15
    When Eolus scowls 2
You need not fear;
  So absolute the deep.
And cheerfully at sea
  Success you still entice        20
    To get the pearl and gold,
    And ours to hold
  Earth’s only paradise.
Where nature hath in store        25
  Fowl, venison, and fish,
    And the fruitfull’st soil
    Without your toil
Three harvests more,
  All greater than your wish.        30
And the ambitious vine
  Crowns with his purple mass
    The cedar reaching high
    To kiss the sky,
The cypress, pine,        35
  And useful sassafras.
To whom the Golden Age
  Still nature’s laws doth give,
    No other cares attend,
    But them to defend        40
From winter’s rage,
  That long there doth not live.
When as the luscious smell
  Of that delicious land
    Above the seas that flows        45
    The clear wind throws,
Your hearts to swell
  Approaching the dear strand;
In kenning of the shore
  (Thanks to God first given)        50
    O you the happiest men,
    Be frolic then!
Let cannons roar,
  Frighting the wide heaven.
And in regions far,        55
  Such heroes bring ye forth
    As those from whom we came;
    And plant our name
Under that star
  Not known unto our North.        60
And as there plenty grows
  Of laurel everywhere—
    Apollo’s sacred tree—
    You it may see
A poet’s brows        65
  To crown, that may sing there.
Thy Voyages attend,
  Industrious Hakluyt, 3
    Whose reading shall inflame
    Men to seek fame,        70
And much commend
  To after times thy wit.
Note 1. Of this ode, Mr. Oliver Elton (Michael Drayton, A Critical Study, new ed., 1905) says: “Often it has the true music, as of the harp speeding a vessel that is launched with colours flying to win some new continent of odourous tropic fruits and illimitable gold. The Virginian Voyage has some wonderful words, sassafras, Hackluit, that make the fortune of their rhymes, and the relief is heightened by the subtle—not really prosaic—soberness of their epithets: industrious Hackluit, useful sassafras, like words almost in the ordinary pitch interjected in a chant. This ode runs more easily than the others in spite of the lacework of its rhymes:
  You brave heroic minds,
  Worthy your country’s name,
    That honour still pursue,
    Go, and subdue,
Whilst loitering hinds
  Lurk here at home for shame.
The oars plash to the loud and hopeful thrumming of the player, as he faces outward to where beyond the Pillars a far world awaits him, one day to be populous with poets and heroes, the descendants of the high-hearted voyagers.” [back]
Note 2. Where Eolus scowls: Æolus, the deity of the winds. [back]
Note 3. Industrious Hakluyt: “The Collection of Voyages, which was published by Hakluyt in 1582, disclosed the vastness of the world itself, the infinite number of the races of mankind, the variety of their laws, their customs, their religions, their very instincts. We see the influence of this new and richer knowledge of the world, not only in the life and richness which it gave to the imagination of the time, but in the immense interest which from this moment attached itself to man.” (Green’s England, vol. ii., bk. vi., p. 462.) [back]

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