Drayton, Michael

England, (1563-1631)

Noah’s Ark

  1. AND now the beasts are walking from the wood,
  2. As well of ravine, as that chew the cud.
  3. The king of beasts his fury doth suppress,
  4. And to the ark leads down the lioness.
  5.  
  6. The bull for his beloved mate doth low,
  7. And to the ark brings on the fair-eyed cow;
  8. The stately courser for his mare doth neigh,
  9. And towards the new ark guideth her the way.
  10.  
  11. The wreathed-horned ram his safety doth pursue.
  12. And to the ark ushers his gentle ewe;
  13. The bristly boar, who with his snout up-ploughed
  14. The spacious plains, and with his grunting loud
  15.  
  16. Raised rattling echoes all the woods about,
  17. Leaves his dark den, and having scented out
  18. Noah’s new-built ark, in with his sow doth come,
  19. And stye themselves up in a little room.
  20.  
  21. The hart with his dear hind, the buck, and doe,
  22. Leaving their wildness, bring the tripping roe
  23. Along with them; and from the mountain steep
  24. The clambering goat and coney, used to keep
  25.  
  26. Amongst the cliffs, together get, and they
  27. To this great ark find out the ready way;
  28. Th’ unwieldy elk, whose skin is of much proof,
  29. Throngs with the rest to attain this wooden roof;
  30.  
  31. The unicorn leaves off his pride, and close
  32. There sets him down by the rhinoceros;
  33. The elephant there cometh to embark,
  34. And as he softly getteth up the ark,
  35.  
  36. Feeling by his great weight his body sunk,
  37. Holds by his huge tooth and his nervy trunk;
  38. The crook-backed camel climbing to the deck
  39. Draws up himself with his long sinewy neck;
  40.  
  41. The spotted panther, whose delicious scent
  42. Oft causeth beasts his harbour to frequent,
  43. But, having got them once into his power,
  44. Sucketh their blood and doth their flesh devour,
  45.  
  46. His cruelty hath quickly cast aside,
  47. And waxing courteous, doth become their guide,
  48. And brings into the universal shop
  49. The ounce, the tiger, and the antelope;
  50.  
  51. By the grim wolf the poor sheep safely lay
  52. And was his care, which lately was his prey;
  53. The ass upon the lion leaned his head,
  54. And to the cat the mouse for succour fled;
  55.  
  56. The silly hare doth cast aside her fear,
  57. And forms herself fast by the ugly bear,
  58. At whom the watchful dog did never bark
  59. When he espied him clambering up the ark;
  60.  
  61. The fox, got in, his subtleties hath left,
  62. And, as ashamed of his former theft,
  63. Sits sadly there, as though he did repent,
  64. And in the ark became an innocent;
  65.  
  66. The fine-furred ermine, marten, and the cat
  67. That gives out civet, there together sat
  68. By the shrewd monkey, babian, and the ape,
  69. With the hyaena (much their like in shape),
  70.  
  71. Which by their kind are ever doing ill,
  72. Yet in the ark sit civilly and still;
  73. The skipping squirrel of the forest free,
  74. That leaped so nimbly betwixt tree and tree,
  75.  
  76. Itself into the ark then nimbly cast,
  77. As ’twere a ship-boy come to climb the mast.
  78. The little dormouse leaves her leaden sleep,
  79. And with the mole up to the ark doth creep;
  80.  
  81. With many other which were common then
  82. (Their kind decayed), but now unknown to men;
  83. For there was none that Adam e’er did name
  84. But to the ark from every quarter came;
  85.  
  86. By two and two the male and female beast,
  87. From swift’st to slow’st, from greatest to the least;
  88. And as within the strong pale of a park,
  89. So were they all together in the ark.

The Poets Highway, Book III. Elizabeth D’oyley, ed. London: Edward Arnold and Company (1926).

About the Poet:

Michael Drayton (1563-1631) was an English poet. He was born during the reign of Elizabeth and came to prominence as a poet in the Elizabethan era, but he lived and wrote through the Jacobean and into the Caroline periods as well. He wrote primarily historical epic poems, crafted in didactic verse, but is also remembered for his spiritual poems, pastorals and sonnets of love’s sorrows.

An intellectual and humanist, Drayton believed in the tradition of bonae litterae and envisioned the poet as a spokesman for public values. For Drayton, the humanist poetic tradition, and its assumption that epic poetry grounded in the history of a nation, towered over all other genres.

Humanism is a world view that focuses on human values and concerns, attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Drayton’s legacy of work is a valiant effort to realize the humanist ideal of the poet as spokesman for public values. [DES-03/12]

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