Michael Drayton
Field: Poet
Location in the Abbey: South transept, poets corner
Type of memorial: Bust
Type of material: Marble; alabaster

In Poets' Corner Westminster Abbey is a monument of alabaster and black marble to poet Michael Drayton (or Draiton). The monument is by sculptor Edward Marshall and was erected by the Countess of Dorset. A bust with a laurel wreath is shown, with decoration of fruit, and a shield of arms and crest either side of the inscription. The inscription was said to have been composed by Ben Jonson:

"Michaell Draiton Esqr. a memorable poet of this age, exchanged his laurell for a crowne of glorye, Ad.1631. Doe pious marble let thy readers know what they and what their children owe to Draiton's name; whose sacred dust wee recommend unto thy trust: protect his memry, and preserve his storye: remaine a lastinge monument of his glorye; and when thy ruines shall disclame to be the treas'rer of his name; his name, that cannot fade, shall be an everlasting monument to thee."

The arms are "guttee, a Pegasus, volant" (teardrops, with a flying horse) and the crest shows the Cap of Mercury within the beams of the sun. However Drayton's fame did not last as poet Oliver Goldsmith, visiting the Abbey just a century later, exclaimed "Drayton! I never heard of him before".

Drayton was born in Warwickshire in 1563, possibly a son of William Drayton. He was a servant to a local family but then moved to London. In 1591 his first work was published and several historical poems followed, of which the best known are probably Poly-Olbion and Endymion and Phoebe. His Odes of 1606 include the 'Ballad of Agincourt' beginning with the lines 'Fair stood the wind for France'. He died in London in 1631 and was buried in the Abbey although he is not recorded in the burial register.

A photo of the monument can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

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