To the Virginian Voyage

michael drayton

Michael Drayton never came to the New World.  In 1606 he wrote this ode “To the Virginian Voyage,” in honour of Sir Walter Raleigh’s first expedition to plant a permanent settlement of English people in North America.  The poem illustrates the culture out of which the first Southerners came and almost uncannily anticipates the South that was soon to be founded.

TO  THE  VIRGINIAN  VOYAGE
You brave heroic minds,
Worthy your country’s name,
That honor still pursue,
Go, and subdue,
Whilst loit’ring hinds
Lurk here at home, with shame.

Britons, you stay too long;
Quickly aboard bestow you,
And with a merry gale
Swell your stretched sail,
With vows as strong
As the winds that blow you.

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

And cheerfully at sea,
Success you still entice,
To get the pearl and gold,
And ours to hold,
Virginia,
Earth’s only paradise,

Where nature hath in store
Fowl, venison, and fish,
And the fruitful’st soil
Without your toil
Three harvests more,
All greater than your wish.

And the ambitious vine
Crowns with his purple mass,
The cedar reaching high
To kiss the sky,
The cypress, pine,
And useful sassafras.

To whose the golden age
Still nature’s laws doth give,
No other cares that tend,
But them to defend
From winter’s age,
That long there doth not live.

When as the luscious smell
Of that delicious land,
Above the seas that flows,
The clear wind throws,
Your hearts to swell
Approaching the dear strand,

In kenning of the shore,
Thanks to God first given,
O you, the happi’st men,
Be frolic then,
Let cannons roar,
Frighting the wide heaven.

And in regions far
Such heroes bring ye forth
As those from whom we came,
And plant our name
Under that star
Not known unto our north.

And as there plenty grows
Of laurel everywhere,
Apollo’s sacred tree,
You it may see
A poet’s brows
To crown, that may sing there.

Thy voyages attend,
Industrious Hakluÿt,
Whose reading shall enflame
Men to seek fame,
And much commend
To after times thy wit.

You might also enjoy these articles...