Michael Drayton – Ode: To the Virginian Voyage

Drayton wrote this ode to celebrate the expedition of 1606 which established Jamestown. It’s a Horatian ode, meaning it is written in short regular stanzas, as opposed to the Pindaric ode, whose stanzas are rather long and irregular. Horace used four-line stanzas, but Drayton uses six-liners. The poem begins with extolling the travellers bravery, encouraging others to follow their suit. The poet predict optimistically safe journey. When they arrive on Virginia’s shore, they are going to see the land of plenty. This description seems to me strongly redolent to that of Amadas and Barlowe’s. The land is still in its Golden Age and the trees there grow vigorously, because they face no obstacles apart from a short winter. It took me some time to decipher this stanza, but I think Drayton’s “to whose” refers to the trees described in the previous stanza. Isn’t it interesting that he completely elides any native people? The whole poem is written in the future tense, as it were, although Drayton actually uses a lot of imperatives. When you arrive at the coast of Virginia, give thanks to God and rejoice, he says. Then build an empire and be prosperous, and since there are many laurels growing, you may choose to make a crown of them for a poet. The poem ends with asking “industrious Hakluyt” to record their voyages.


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