Shakespeare’s prolific contemporary Michael Drayton (1563-1631) was a poet who habitually thought on a grand scale, his taste running to epics and long, linked sequences rather than individual lyrics. He often drew his inspiration from British history and geography. He wrote at length about the battle of Agincourt, the Wars of the Roses and Edward II’s favourite Piers Gaveston.
His most ambitious project, however, was Poly-Olbion, which in the mellifluous phrasing of the subtitle offers a ‘description of tracts, rivers, mountains, forests and other parts of this renowned Isle of Great Britain, with intermixture of the most remarkable stories, antiquities, wonders, rarities, pleasures and commodities of the same’. Written in rhymed couplets and stretching to more than 15,000 lines of iambic hexameter, it took many years to compose. The first part was published in 1613 and the second did not appear until 1622. Drayton intended a third instalment, dedicated to the wonders of Scotland, but he did not live to complete this plan.
Ref: Michael Drayton, Poly-Olbion, Frontispiece, London: Mathew Lownes et al, 1613, and Augustine Mathewes et al, 1622.