When Dee moves on from bards to the druids, Drayton finds himself depending ever more heavily on conjecture.
Wye goes on to assert Roman ignorance of British annals and failure to learn and preserve them, reflecting Drayton's desire to forward a notion of "privileged information." Caesar "never understood" any aspects of British life, including "our tongue," the heroic songs "which our great bards did sing," and "our former state, beginning, our descent, / The warres we had at home, the conquests where we went" (320-27).
We have also seen in examining the two defenses that bards and druids are an integral part of the problem; it is they who comprise Drayton's best evidence for continuity, though they also present an impenetrable mystery by keeping the secrets of the past to themselves for eternity.
That Drayton identified personally with bards, as Hiller argues, is beyond question.
But bards were vital not only to Drayton's self-image, but also to his monumental purposes: bards were linked to the idea of continuity because they represented victory over time.
The first statement on bards virtually opens the entire poem, as Drayton devotes his invocation to them: "Yee sacred Bards, that to your Harps melodious strings / Sung th'ancient Heroes deeds (the monuments of Kings) / And in your dreadfull verse ingrav'd the prophecies, / The aged worlds descents, and Genealogies" (1.31-34).
In Song 4, Drayton's second major treatment of bards describes the institution as it existed in Wales (171-90).
Bards get their third extended treatment in the middle of Wye's speech in Song 6 (252-74).
And yet the poet deflates these three encomia to the bards by following each one of them with a reminder that the notion of an uncorrupted bardie historical tradition was quite suspicious.(15) After the invocation in Song 1, when next we hear of the bards they are blamed for our lack of knowledge about such heroes as Arthur: "justlie I may charge those ancient Bards of wrong, / So idly to neglect his [Arthur's] glorie in their Song.
Two important factors in Drayton's pondering of this question were Taliesin and Merlin; Drayton shows himself quite interested in the two - or, more properly, three - bards. Taliesin and the two Merlins were developed as a result of Geoffrey of Monmouth's other, lesser known work, the Vita Merlini.
For sixteenth-century monumental historians such as John Bale, John Leland, David Powel, Humphrey Lhuyd, and Thomas Churchyard,(18) these three bards presented an opportunity; named as poet/prophets, they could be reconceptualized into historians.