Home  »  Volume IV: English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON  »  § 6. Warner’s Albion’s England

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

VII. Robert Southwell. Samuel Daniel

§ 6. Warner’s Albion’s England

This regret it was doubtless, which spurred him to the composition of his great epic, The Civil Wars. An interest in English history, manifested even more clearly in the dramatic Chronicles than in the printed poetry, was characteristic of the time. Even before the loss of the Spanish Armada, William Warner, sometime a student at Oxford and then an attorney, had published in 1586 a part of his long historical poem, Albion’s England, which began with the Flood, passed through Grecian mythology to the Trojan war, and so, by means of Brute, to England, the history of which he carried down to his own period, including even the execution of Mary queen of Scots. Warner’s poem is written in the old “fourteens,” rimed in couplets, which Drayton was afterwards to adopt for his Poly-Olbion. Albion’s England was very successful; and, as new editions were called for, the author continued to revise it, and to add recent events, including the loss of the Spanish Armada, to his story. Before his death in 1609, he had added three more books, in which he embarked on the history of Scotland and Wales. Often clumsy and sometimes dull, the poem contains a number of good stories, like that of the wooing of Argentile, daughter of Adelbright, king of Diria, and Curan, son of a Danish prince, or that of the murder of Turgesius the Norwegian conqueror of Ireland, by youths disguised as girls, all told with a brave simplicity. It delights in legend as much as does Poly-Olbion; but it lacks both the haunting regret which often inspires that protest against the inroads of time, and lacks, also, in its superficial, sturdy patriotism, the philosophic and humane intention of Daniel’s Civil Wars.