Michael Drayton

Biographical Information


Michael Drayton (1563-1631) is known to have one of the longest and most prolific careers as a poet; he published 2,000 pages and four volumes of poetry between 1591 until 1630. During his career, he often revised and reissued poems. A couple perfect examples of this are the sonnet sequences Idea and Idea’s Mirror. Published in 1594, Idea’s Mirror contained fifty-one sonnets. After a revision, he reissued the same sequence under the title Idea which added eight new poems. The work was eventually expanded to include sixty-four sonnets, published in Poems in 1619.

An ambitious youth, Drayton became a page to Sir Henry Goodeere of Polesworth who likely educated him and introduced him to his daughter Anne. It is widely believed that she is the inspiration behind Drayton’s sonnet sequence “Idea.” Though generally not accepted as Drayton’s best work (that title belongs to “England’s Historical Epistles”) it is still regarded for its use of Petrarchan elements such as self-absorption and impatience.


“The madness he professes in Idea IX is not inappropriate: a poetic, not an erotic, madness. For though Drayton can be human and heartfelt when he pleases, his imagery of voyage, phoenix, star, and river (he was enamoured of rivers all his life) mediates something, not inconsistent with human passion, but going beyond it.” -C.S. Lewis


"Beauty sometime in all her glory crowned": This poem follows the more conventional Petrarchan form as seen in the rhyme scheme. This poem is an allegory of Beauty drowning in the Beloved's eyes. Again we see eyes playing an important role in what is needed to be considered beautiful; Astrophil and Stella have multiple sonnets dedicated to Stella's eyes.

"To the Reader of These Sonnets": This poem begins Drayton's Ideas. The goal of this poem is similar to other introductory poems by poets of this time period: to prepare the reader for what will be happening in the poems to come. It's a blunt beginning: "At this first sight here let him lay them by/And seek elsewhere, in turning other books/Which better may his labor satisfy" (2-4). Drayton is simply saying this book might not be for every reader and he's okay with that.

"Whilst thus my pen strives to eternize thee": Once again we see the similarities between Drayton's poems and other poems of his time. The theme of immortalization is woven throughout the entire poem. The poets of this time enjoyed writing about women they admired from afar. They told these women the poems, which are about the women, will be immortalized and kept young. Battling with time was a common theme, and the poets took comfort in knowing their poems would live on even once they died. Lines 10-11 clearly show this idea: "To keep thee from oblivion and the grave/Ensuing ages yet my rhymes shall cherish" (10-11). This poems ends with Drayton saying not only will the beautiful women live on but his name: "shall mount upon eternity" (14).

"There's nothing grieves me...": This blazon poem is different than traditional beauty poems of this period. It's different because the woman's attributes are described when she is older. Drayton is saying he wants to see her when she has aged because he will still find her beautiful. This is definitely a new take because often blazons and other poems discourage, aging claiming younger women are the more beautiful ones.

Suggested Further Readings

Lewis, C.S. “English Literature in the 16th Century, Excluding Drama”. Gloucestershire, UL: Clarendon Press, 1954. Print.


1. Abrams et. al., The Norton Anthology of English Literature;
2. Jokinen, Anniina. "Life of Michael Drayton." Luminarium. 5 Feb 2007. <http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/draybio.htm>.
3. "Michael Drayton (1563-1631)." Sixteenth-Century Poetry: An Annotated Anthology. Gordon Braden. Blackwell Publishing , 2005. Print.
4. http://woodwose.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/michaeldrayton.jpg
5. Poems from: Luminarium.org. < http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/draybib.htm>.

Back to Directory of Poets