Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday poetry - Michael Drayton

I've always loved this poem, Farewell to Love, by Michael Drayton. Not much is known about Drayton's personal life apart from his dates, 1563-1613, his association with writers such as Ben Jonson & William Drummond, & his death in reduced circumstances. He had one powerful friend & patron though because Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Dorset, paid for his burial & monument in Westmimnster Abbey. The portraits of Drayton I've seen aren't terribly inspiring so I've used Isaac Oliver's miniature of Lord Herbert of Cherbury (from instead. I can imagine this young man spurning a lover in just these terms of hurt pride but hoping that she might, at the very last, change her mind.

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part;
Nay I have done, you get no more of me;
And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free;
Shake hands for ever, cancel all my vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of love's latest breath,
When his pulse failing, passion speechless lies,
When faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And innocence is closing up his eyes,

Now if thou would'st, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might'st him yet recover.


  1. This is one of my absolute favorite poems. Thanks.

  2. This is my favourite non-Shakespearian poem from this period. What a nice way to start a Sunday

  3. It's interesting that this meets with such female approval because this appears to me to be a very typical male attitude to the end of a relationship. There is a strong sense of all or nothing about it. Fine, he says, if you've decided it is over, I want to completely erase all memory of the whole thing. Oh, and by the way, he adds, unless you change your mind my life is over. Is there a threat of suicide there? Or is it just the end of life having meaning to which he alludes?

    The other thought that sprung to my mind was to speculate as to what brought them to this pass in the first place? We would presumably be less sympathetic to the speaker if we knew that it was infidelity on his part that had caused the crisis?

  4. I've always loved this one, but hadn't known anything about the poet himself. David, I refuse to let you spoil it for me! :) 'Cancel all my vows'... I think SHE was unfaithful to HIM! I always think it's sad to see people who once meant a great deal to each other behaving as if they mean nothing to each other...

  5. David, I've always thought it was the death of love he's talking about rather than his own death. That's why I think the last two lines are hinting that his love could be revived if he was given any encouragement at all. The beginning is brave but hiding hurt feelings so maybe she's played with his emotions? I think that's why I feel the ending expresses his love although he's too proud to offer himself again outright, he's afraid of rejection. It's the kind of poem that has the kernel of a novel within it. Or maybe a play, given the period! I'm enjoying rereading all these favourite poems. I'm glad I allowed myself to be distracted from the dusting!

  6. Thanks for sharing it, Lyn. I am woefully lacking in my knowledge and true emotional understanding of poetry, so thanks to you and other commenters for furthering my education.

    Penny, I'm so glad you put that :) on your comment. I would hate to spoil anyone's love of anything (provided it is legal and decent). I may have given the wrong impression because I was really impressed by it. I think you have a good point in suggesting the woman may have been the unfaithful party. As Lyn says, there is so much going on here it is almost "the kernal of a novel".

  7. A purely light-hearted comment, David! :o) I so often wish we could ask poets of the past, 'What DID you mean by this?' One of the things I enjoyed with my children (we home-educated) was a programme where living poets (lacking a medium, they had to be! :o) ) discussed their work and what they meant to convey by it. If only we could ask Shakespeare et al!