'River Severn' from Poly-Olbion 

'River Severn' from Poly-Olbion, 1613
Michael Drayton (1563-1631)
Printed book
28 x 49 (cm)
Society of Antiquaries of London

Helgerson 1992, pp. 105-48; Parry 1995, pp. 108-12; Barbour 2003, pp. 59-117; London 2007, no. 5
full bibliography (pdf)
 Poly-Olbion is in some ways a versification of William Camden's Britannia. Its subtitle reads 'a Chorographicall Description of Tracts, Rivers, Mountains, Forests ... of Great Britain'. The title is a Greek confection meaning something like 'the Variety of Britain'. Drayton was a Warwickshire poet who produced a great deal of verse on pastoral themes and on English historical subjects. In Poly-Olbion he celebrated the beauties of the land of Albion and the historical and legendary scenes enacted there. Like Camden, he followed the course of the rivers of each county, and among the pleasures of his book are the illustrations by William Hole showing river nymphs disporting themselves in a variety of engaging poses on the county maps. In Glamorganshire, the nymphs of England and Wales are engaged in a musical contest across the Severn. A notable feature of the 1613 volume was the learned annotation by Drayton's friend John Selden, who brought a much more advanced view of antiquity to the book. Drayton was committed to 'The British History' as told by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and used the stories of the Trojan Brutus as the legendary background for his poem. Selden was sceptical about these stories, and took the opportunity to denounce the whole Trojan charade as an intolerable imposition on the modern reader. He did, however, provide interesting discourses on Druids and bards and the character of Ancient British society in his notes. Drayton did not invite him to comment on the second part of his poem, published in 1622.