Endimion And Phoebe Michael Drayton

(1595) As with many of his poems, Michael Drayton fashioned the theme of his erotic pastoral, Endimion and Phoebe, on others' work, including the decade's most famous poets and playwrights, Christopher Marlowe (Hero and Leander) and William Shakespeare (Venus and Adonis). In form, however, it reflected influence by the playwright George Chapman. Drayton's version more closely resembled those of Marlowe and Chapman in the use of heroic couplets. According to the Drayton scholar Richard Hardin, he also manipulated their styles so they would allow his emphasis on his Platonic theme, "that the way to spiritual perfection begins in the study of the created universe." It reflects Marlowe's approach as it opens with a focus on the beauty of the pastoral setting, shaping an Arcadian paradise. Later, it reflects Chapman's philosophical style by focus on celestial matters. Hardin suggests that Drayton's poem offered something new to the world of poetry: "A philosophical epyllion: sexual love, the principal concern of earlier epyllions, is here a means to the end of communion with the beauty and truth of all nature."

Drayton's lengthy poem remains of interest in its sharp reflection of the traditions of the pastoral genre, which will be noted in description of a brief excerpt. The poem features as its pastoral hero Endimion, a young shepherd who lives an idyllic life, as tradition demanded. In the first few lines of the poem's iambic pentameter format, Drayton includes multiple mythological references, mixing the Greek with the Roman. Examples include the ubiquitous nymphs, lesser nature divinities; Pan, the Greek nature god; and Pan's Roman counterpart, Silvanus. Silvanus inspired the often-employed poetic descriptor sylvan, meaning of nature, and the corresponding name Sylvia. Drayton's poem is heavy with adjectives that appear pretentious to the 21st-century reader but in his era were necessary to the genre.

The poem opens with the introduction of the shepherd Endimion, who dwells on Latmus, also spelled in other references Latmos. Latmos was a mythological mountain where Diana, Roman goddess of the moon, protector of women, and the great mother goddess of nature, fell in love with Endimion.

The excerpt will preserve for the sake of reader experience the original italics and spelling, in which a symbol, called a glyph, which looks like the letter v, appears for the letter u, and vice versa, and in doubled uppercase form, VV substitutes for the modern English alphabet letter W. In addition, the vowel e appends to words that later dropped it, and words that would later include vowels, such as e, appear phonetically spelled. The lowercase letter y often substitutes for the more familiar letter i. Drayton also invented some terms, such as imparadize as a verb indicating conditions had been shaped as they were in Paradise, the perfect world. Lines 11-22 of Drayton's poem read:

Latmus, where young Endimion vsd to keepe His fairest flock of siluer-fleeced sheepe. To whom Siluanus often would resort, At barly-breake to see the Satyres sport; And when rude Pan his Tabret list to sound, To see the faire Nymphes foote it in a round, Vnder the trees which on this Mountaine grew, As yet the like Arabia neuer knew: For all the pleasures Nature could deuise, Within this plot she did imparadize; And great Diana of her speciall grace, With Vestall rytes had hallowed all the place:

In the next excerpt Drayton describes a grove of trees, including cedars and pines, whose branches met to form a bower, hidden from the sun's heat. In that bower Phoebus, an epithet for the Greek sun god, Apollo, visited the paradise, as did Venus, Roman goddess of beauty and love. Also present in this retreat at one time or another were Mars, Roman god of war; Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom and patroness of arts and trades; and Alcides, another name for Hercules, the Greek hero and son of Jupiter and Alcmena. Drayton references additional trees, such as the Olive, the weeping Myrtle, the Palm, and the Poplar. All of those trees represented ancient times, as well as temperate climates, suitable to a paradise. Drayton includes such details to emphasize the importance of setting in the pastoral in lines 23-36:

Vpon this Mount there stood a stately Groue, Whose reaching armes, to clip the Welkin stroue, of tufted Cedars, and the branching Pine, VVhose bushy tops themselues doe so intwine, As seem'd when Nature first this work begun, Shee then conspir'd against the piercing Sun; Vnder whose couert (thus diuinely made) Phxbus greene Laurell florisht in the shade: Faire Venus Mirtile, Mars his warlike Fyrre, Mineruas Oliue, and the weeping Myrhe, The patient Palme, which thriues in spite of hate,

The Popler, to Alcides consecrate;

VVhich Nature in such order had disposed,

And there withall those goodly walkes inclosed,

As is appropriate to pastoral, Drayton spends many lines preparing the reader for the romantic tale that will follow. He introduces Phoebe, who in Greek mythology was one of the original Titans, the enormous offspring of Uranus and Gaia. Apollo's grandmother, Phoebe was traditionally associated with the moon. She represents Drayton's second moon reference, emphasizing the celestial body that eventually became a symbol for woman. Phoebe wants to romance Endimion, as had her grandson, Apollo, who believed that because of Endimion's beauty, he must have been a nymph in shepherd disguise. Drayton's contemporary readers, all educated members of the aristocracy, would have recognized the many references and understood how focused on the sexual aspects of humans the deities remained. This prepared them for the erotic themes of Drayton's work.

Because Phoebe does not want to frighten Endimion with her Titan attributes, she assumes a disguise in order to pursue their romance. The next excerpt begins with line 81, which references Phoebe's plan to visit Endimion and concludes with line 92. New mythological references include dancing fairies, naked as befitting the innocent tone of the pastoral. Also included are satyrs, hairy, hooved goatmen, lesser deities of the woods and fields, whose heads sprouted short horns. Because they, like Apollo, were male, their enthrallment with the beautiful youth introduces an element of homosexuality as well as bestiality. But because shepherd boys featured in pastorals were innocents, such references did not carry a negative moral connotation. This passage also provides examples of the cloying sensory imagery abundant to pastoral in its comparison of Endimion's breath to nectar so sweet that those who kissed him might fall into a death swoon:

Endimion, the louely Shepheards boy, Endimion, great Phxbes onely ioy, Endimion, in whose pure-shining eyes, The naked Faries daunst the heydegies. The shag-haird Satyrs Mountain-climing race, Haue been made tame by gazing in his face. For this boyes loue, the water Nymphs haue wept

Stealing oft times to kisse him whilst he slept: And tasting once the Nectar of his breath, Surfet with sweet, and languish vnto death;

By line 100 the reader observes Pheobe's transformation from a figure so bright that no mortal eye could bear to look on her to a nymphlike being. Drayton includes the abundant overwrought detail appropriate to his tale, including focus on Phoebe's azure mantle, or garment, using the figurative language of simile to compare it to a boat's sail. Composed of silk, the garment bears embossed rainbows as well as streamers as white as milk. The garments are lifted by gentle breezes to produce a romantic effect, and to set off Phoebe's necklace, composed of 20 gold chain loops with rubies around her neck. Finally, garment is pleated to emphasize her breasts, the image that closes line 119:

But like a Nymph, crown'd with a flowrie twine,

And not like Phrebe, as herself diuine. An Azur'd Mantle purfled with a vaile, Which in the Ayre puft like a swelling saile,

Embosted Rayne-bowes did appeare in silk, With wauie streames as white as mornings Milk:

Which euer as the gentle Ayre did blow, Still with the motion seem'd to ebb and flow: About her neck a chayne twise twenty fold, of Rubyes, set in lozenges of gold; Trust vp in trammels, and in curious pleats, With spheary circles falling on her teats.

Drayton extends Phoebe's description through line 131 and at 132 describes Endimion. As a shepherd should, he plays the popular pipe music of the roundelay, a song with a regularly recurring refrain, later called simply a round:

Thus came shee where her loue Endimion lay, VVho with sweet Carrols sang the night away; And as it is the Shepheards vsuall trade, oft on his pype a Roundelay he playd.

Next is more description of Endimion, appropriately compared to a lamb with dainty snow-white hands ironically untouched by the challenges of physical work. A fortunate swain indeed, he has a sheep hook that is not the normal wooden affair, but instead is silver gilded, studded with exotic coral, bearing a black ebony tip:

As meeke he was as any Lambe might be, Nor neuer lyu'd a fayrer youth then he: His dainty hand, the snow it selfe dyd stayne, Or her to whom Ioue showr'd in golden rayne: From whose sweet palme the liquid Pearle dyd swell,

Pure as the drops of Aganippas Well: Cleere as the liquor which fayre Hebe spylt; Hys sheephooke siluer, damask'd all with gilt. The staffe it selfe, of snowie Iuory, Studded with Currall, tipt with Ebony

Lines 146 through 151 include further physical description of the shepherd boy whose "tresses" shine black like those of ravens in curls that straggle "along his manly back." His eyes are "balls" that "nature . . .

had set / Lyke Diamonds inclosing Globes of Jet." They "sparkled" beneath "milky lids out-right," fit to be compared to the constellation of "orions heaven-adorning light."

This excerpt barely introduces readers to Drayton's subject, but curious readers may learn of the lovers' adventures online. Long in the public domain, Endi-mion and Phoebe may be found in its entirety at the Renascence Editions Web site, sponsored by the University of oregon. As the notice at the Web site states, it bases its version on the 1595 edition, transcribed as closely as possible to the original.

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