Drayton indicates his joint topographical and historical purpose by dual invocations. He calls on the local genius of the island to guide his Muse in her travels.
Then he asks for an infusion of the spirit of the ancient British bards, the first preservers of history on the island. The topographical survey begins with the miscellaneous island possessions of England in the seas to the south and then proceeds to Cornwall and Devonshire at the southwestern corner of England.
The first personified natural objects to speak are St. Michael's Mount (lamenting changes in nature and in human affairs) and the impudent Hayle River (boasting her beauties).
There follows the first long survey of rivers and countryside, which contains brief references to the death of King Arthur on the shores of the Camel and to the peculiar skills of Cornish wrestlers.
The career of Brutus, legendary founder of Britain, is narrated by the Dart River, for Brutus supposedly landed at Totnes in the mouth of the Dart. Since this episode supposedly inaugurates the civilized history of England, the narrative reaches back to the first of the series of events that brought Brutus to Albion: the burning of Troy and Aeneas' escape.
Brutus was the great-grandson of Aeneas, and through a series of misfortunes and glorious achievements he brings a band of Trojans to the giant-inhabited island. His captain, Corineus, overcomes in single and decisive combat the greatest giant and is named first Duke of Cornwall.
A chorus of rivers (whose names are listed) praises Dart for the recital of these events.