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Stooping to Conquer: Heathen Idolatry and Protestant Humility in the Imperial Legend of Sir Francis Drake

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  • Musicology


The Muses seem to have neglected Sir Francis Drake. "It is curious," writes W. T. Jewkes, "that Drake's voyages and exploits have made such a small impact on major English literature, particularly in his own age."1 On one level, Jewkes is right; as Michael J. B. Allen has noted, there is nothing about Drake in English to compare with Luis de Camoens's brilliantly realized Os Lusiados, his national epic about the Portuguese mariner Vasco da Gama. So, says Allen, Drake's influence on English literature is only felt "gradually, obliquely, inconspicuously almost," in the imagery of The Tempest, in Donne's hymn in his sickness, in Marvell's ode on the Bermudas. "Drake's finest interpreter might have been Conrad," Allen suggests; but he laments that Conrad "left Drake unillumined by his intricate, musical prose."2

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