Thursday, 14 December 2006

More on our man Drayton

First off, after practically accusing him of being a one-hit wonder, I thought it only fair to post Drayton's finest hour, the afore-mentioned Since There's No Help. I think Don Paterson hits the nail right on the head in the notes to the Faber anthology of sonnets he edited, when he points out that its timeless appeal is down to the fact it's a very human poem. That said, it's technically pretty dazzling too, which rather makes you wonder why he wasted so much time on vast, unreadable epics like Polyolbion. Anyway, here it is...

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part;
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart
That thus so cleanly I myself can free;
Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life, thou mightst him yet recover.

Incidentally, that book, 101 Sonnets, is worth buying for Paterson's very perceptive notes alone, although the selection's a good one too. I bought it earlier in the year, in a bookshop in Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, which rather inexplicably had four secondhand copies of it. It's not a book I'd be in a hurry to part with.
I've been to Drayton's birthplace, Polesworth, a handful of times, but there's no trace of him there. It's a sleepy enough little place, despite its proximity to Birmingham, but can claim to have got a mention in 80s pop star turned acid casualty turned alt rock legend turned megalith-hugger Julian Cope's excellent (though barking mad) song Reynard The Fox. He grew up nearby, as detailed in his autobiography Head On, just about the best rock 'n' roll book I've ever read.
See? Told you I'd end up rambling.

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