Ode to the Virginian Voyage

Original Text: 
Michael Drayton, Poems (W. Stansby for J. Swethwicke, 1619). STC 7222. Facs. edn.: Scolar Press, 1969. PR 2255 A1 1619A.
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,
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,
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,
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.
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. Back to Line
16] Æolus: god of the winds. Back to Line
29] These lines contain several close allusions to Hakluyt's account of earlier voyages. Back to Line
36] sassafras: a small North American tree, whose bark was used medicinally. Back to Line
49] kenning: discerning, viewing. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
F. D. Hoeniger
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.132.