Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-4rdrl Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-22T07:34:46.067Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

10 - Speaking Water and Seeping Memory in Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 April 2024

Nicholas Helms
Affiliation:
Plymouth State University, New Hampshire
Steve Mentz
Affiliation:
St John's University, New York
Get access

Summary

Abstract

xThis chapter continues the treatment of Michael Drayton as early modern England's greatest ecopoet by attending to how his epic voices the memories of rivers. Poly-Olbion also comes alive when read through an ecofeminist lens, as female figures speak for the non-human world. For Drayton, water moves as the primal source through a network of rivers, which serve as our guides, our historians, and our opinion columnists leading us across his island. The connections between water and memory, and Drayton's innovative fusion of the chorography and the Tudor complaint poem, lay out an historically specific version of environmental awareness, touching on mountains and forests but offering most powerfully an example of hydropoesis, or a watery aesthetics.

Keywords: rivers, Michael Drayton, deep time, ecofeminism, posthumanism, complaint

Recent readers have argued convincingly that Michael Drayton (1563–1631) wrote with a unique and powerful ecological sensibility. Todd Borlik calls him “England's first environmentalist,” Andrew McRae calls Poly-Olbion “one of the most passionate expressions of environmental concern in the period,” and Sukanya Dasgupta says of the poem that “the ecopolitical resonances of the poetics permeate the entire text.” Poly-Olbion, the voluminous long poem, traditionally classified as chorography—a long description of place, which had a vogue of popularity following William Camden's Britannia in 1586—was published in two parts: eighteen books in 1612, and twelve more in 1622. We might see Poly-Olbion as either the last gasp of the chorographical moment or its crowning and most daring achievement. It dares in its ecopoetics, its formal innovations, its attention to human cognition as ecologically dependent, its deployment of gender, and its politics. But so far, most green readings of this poem have been connected with Drayton's passionate concerns for England's forests, and historical events surrounding deforestation, where he tells the story of the economic changes that were leading to massive environmental change in early seventeenth-century England. In short, our Green Drayton has been a Woody Drayton.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2024

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×