Michael Drayton

A forest containing most part of Kent, Sussex and Surrey.

To seaward, from the seat where first our song began
Exhaled to the south by the ascending sun,
Four stately wood-nymphs stand on the Sussexian ground,
Great Andredsweld's sometime; who, when she did abound
In circuit and in growth, all other quite suppressed.
But in her wane of pride, as she in strength decreased.
Her nymphs assumed them names, each one to her delight,—
As, Water-Downe, so called of her depressed site:
And Ash-Downe, of those trees that most in her do grow.
Set higher to the Downs, as the other standeth low;
Saint Leonard's, of the seat by which she next is placed
And Whord, that with the like delighteth to be graced.
These forests, as I say, the daughters of the Weald
(That in their heavy breasts had long their griefs concealed).
Foreseeing their decay each hour so fast came on
Under the axe's stroke, fetched many a grievous groan.
When as the anvil's weight and hammer's dreadful sound
Even rent the hollow woods, and shook the queachy ground.
So that the trembling nymphs, oppressed through ghastly fear.
Ran madding to the Downs, with loose dishevelled hair.
The Sylvans that about the neighbouring woods did dwell,
Both in the tufty frith and in the mossy fell.
Forsook their gloomy bowers, and wandered far abroad,
Expelled their quiet seats, and place of their abode.
When labouring carts they saw to hold their daily trade,
Where they in summer wont to sport them in the shade.
Could we, say they, suppose that any would us cherish.
Which suffer (every day) the holiest things to perish?
Or to our daily want to minister supply?
These iron times breed none that mind posterity.
'Tis but in vain to tell what we before have been.
Or changes of the world that we in time have seen;
When, not devising how to spend our wealth with waste,
We to the savage swine let fall our larding mast.
But now, alas, ourselves we have not to sustain.
Nor can our tops suffice to shield our roots from rain.
Jove's oak, the warlike ash, veined elm, the softer beech,
Short hazel, maple plain, light aspe, the bending wych.
Tough holly, and smooth birch, must altogether burn:
What should the builder serve, supplies the forger's turn;
When under public good, base private gain takes hold.
And we poor woeful woods to ruin lastly sold.

Andredsweald was the ancient forest which covered much of South-East England. Ashdown Forest (Ash-Downe in Michael Drayton's poem) is one of the only remnants of this great forest.