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Short poem

Michael Drayton (1563-1631)

Ode to the Virginian Voyage

              1You brave heroic minds,
              2Worthy your country's name,
              3That honour still pursue,
              4Go and subdue!
              5Whilst loit'ring hinds
              6Lurk here at home with shame.

              7Britons, you stay too long;
              8Quickly aboard bestow you,
              9And with a merry gale
            10Swell your stretch'd sail,
            11With vows as strong
            12As the winds that blow you!

            13Your course securely steer,
            14West and by south forth keep;
            15Rocks, lee-shores, nor shoals,
            16When Æolus scowls,
            17You need not fear,
            18So absolute the deep.

            19And cheerfully at sea
            20Success you still entice
            21To get the pearl and gold,
            22And ours to hold
            24Earth's only paradise!

            25Where nature hath in store
            26Fowl, venison, and fish,
            27And the fruitful'st soil,
            28Without your toil,
            29Three harvests more,
            30All greater than your wish.

            31And the ambitious vine
            32Crowns with his purple mass,
            33The cedar reaching high
            34To kiss the sky,
            35The cypress, pine,
            36And useful sassafras;

            37To whose the golden age
            38Still nature's laws doth give;
            39No other cares that tend
            40But them to defend
            41From winter's age,
            42That long there doth not live.

            43When as the luscious smell
            44Of that delicious land,
            45Above the seas that flows,
            46The clear wind throws,
            47Your hearts to swell
            48Approaching the dear strand.

            49In kenning of the shore,
            50Thanks to God first given,
            51O you, the happiest men,
            52Be frolic then!
            53Let cannons roar
            54Frighting the wide heaven.

            55And in regions far
            56Such heroes bring ye forth,
            57As those from whom we came;
            58And plant our name
            59Under that star
            60Not known unto our north.

            61And, as there plenty grows
            62Of laurel everywhere,
            63Apollo's sacred tree,
            64You may it see
            65A poet's brows
            66To crown, that may sing there.

            67Thy voyages attend,
            68Industrious Hakluyt,
            69Whose reading shall enflame
            70Men to seek fame,
            71And much commend
            72To after-times thy wit.


1] The patent for the Virginian expedition was sealed in April 1606, and in December the Sarah Constance, the Goodspeed, and the Discovery left England, carrying over one hundred and forty people. Drayton's interest in Virginia was probably kindled by a reading of Hakluyt (see poem's final stanza). The voyages of 1584-86 are recalled in the poem. Hakluyt was one of the patentees of the Virginian voyage. An account of it was added to his great collection in Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his Pilgrimes, 1625.

16] Æolus: god of the winds.

29-36] These lines contain several close allusions to Hakluyt's account of earlier voyages.

36] sassafras: a small North American tree, whose bark was used medicinally.

49] kenning: discerning, viewing.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Michael Drayton, Poems (W. Stansby for J. Swethwicke, 1619). STC 7222. Facs. edn.: Scolar Press, 1969. PR 2255 A1 1619A.
First publication date: 1606
RPO poem editor: F. D. Hoeniger
RP edition: 3RP 1.132.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/8

Rhyme: abccab

Other poems by Michael Drayton