Abbildungen der Seite

either foes or strangers.' He has left upon lasting record, in a few brief, energetic linees, his warning to others, his grief and repentance; and, hastening back to obscurity, he prepared to earn that title to immortal fame, which will ever attend the author of the 'Faery Queen.' This great work appeared in 1589, with a preface addressed to Raleigh, and a considerable number of recommendatory poems; one of which, a sonnet of great elegance, is marked by die initials of that same patronizing friend.

"The premature death of Spenser, under circumstances of severe distress, now called forth the sympathy and bitter regrets of the friends of English literature. After witnessing the destruction of his whole property, including the plunder of his house, by the Irish rebels, he fled to England for shelter. The fifty pounds per annum, which he enjoyed as her majesty's poet laureate, being apparently his only resource, he took up his abode in an obscure lodging in London, and pined away in penury and despondence.

"The genius of this great poet, formed on the most approved models of the time, and exercised upon themes peculiarly congenial to its taste, received, in all its plenitude, that homage of contemporary applause, which has somelimes failed to reward the nobler masters of the lyre.

"The adventures of chivalry, and the dim shadowings of moral allegory, were almost equally the- delight of a romantic, a serious, and a learned age. It was also a point of loyalty to admire, in 'Gloriana,' 'Queen of Faery,' or in 'The Empress Mercilla,' the avowed types of the graces and virtues of her majesty; and she herself had discernment sufficient to distinguish between the brazen trump of vidgar flattery, with which her ear was sated, and the pastoral reed of antique frame, tuned sweetly to her praise by Colin Clout.

"Spenser was interred with great solemnity in Westminster Abbey, by the side of Chaucer; the generous Essex defraying the expences of the funeral, and walking himself as a mourner. That ostentatious but munificent woman, Ann, countess of Dorset, Pembroke, and Montgomery, erected a handsome monument to his memory, several years afterwards. The brother poets who attended his obsequies, threw elegies and sonnets into the grave; and, of the more distinguished votaries of the Muse in that day, there is scarcely one who has withheld his tribute to the memory of this beautiful author.

Shakspeare, in one of his sonnets, had already testified his high delight in his works.

"Joseph Hall, afterwards eminent as a bishop, a preacher, and a polemic, but, at this time, a young student at Emanuel College, has more than one complimentary allusion to the poems of Spenser, in his 'Toothless Satires,' printed in 1597."

"I think you mentioned, Sir," said Mrs. Spencer, "that it was in Ireland Sir Walter Raleigh first became acquainted with the illustrious bard. Did Sir Walter spend much of his time there? Perhaps you will oblige us by some account of him."

"Willingly," answered Mr. Wilmot. "Ireland, in particular, was the scene of several of the early exploits of that brilliant and extraordinary genius, Walter Raleigh; and it was out of his service in this country, that an occasion arose for his appearing at court, which he had the talent so to improve, as to make it the origin of all his favour and advancement.

"Raleigh was the poor youngest son, of a decayed but ancient family in Devonshire. His education at Oxford was yet incomplete, when the ardour of his disposition encouraged him to join a band of a hundred volunteers, led by his relation, Henry Champernon, in 1569, to the aid of the French protestants. Here he served a six years' apprenticeship to the art of war; after which, returning to his own country, he gave himself for awhile to the more tranquil pursuits of literature; for 'both Minervas claim'd him as their own.'

"In 1578 he resumed his arms, under general Norris, commander of the English forces in the Netherlands.' The next year, ambitious of a new kind of glory, he accompanied that gallant navigator, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, his half, brother, in a voyage to Newfoundland. This expedition proving unfortunate, he obtained, in 1580, a captain's commission in the Irish service; and, recommended by his vigour and capacity, rose to be governor of Cork.

"A quarrel with lord Grey put a stop to his promotion in Ireland; and, on following this nobleman to England, their difference was brought to a hearing before the privy council, when the great talents, and uncommon flow of eloquence, exhibited by Raleigh in pleading his own cause, by raising the admiration of all present, proved the means of introducing him to the presence of the queen. His comely person, fine address, and promp proficiency in the arts of a courtier, did all the rest; and he rapidly rose to such a height of favour, as to inspire with jealousy even him who had long stood foremost in the good graces of his sovereign.

"It is recorded of Raleigh, during the early days of his court attendance, when a few handsome suits of clothes formed almost the sum total of his worldly wealth, that, as he was accompanying the queen in one of her daily walks, she arrived at a miry spot, and stood in perplexity how to pass. With an adroit presence of mind, the courtier pulled off his cloak, and threw it on the ground to serve her for a footcloth. She accepted with pleasure an attention which flattered her; and it was afterwards quaintly said, that the spoiling of a cloak had gained him many good suits.

"As a soldier, a statesman, and a scholar, Raleigh was eminently distinguished through the whole reign of Elizabeth. He rendered her many important services; and she not only acknowledged them, but protected and encouraged him in the enterprises which he projected. He was the discoverer of Virginia, and took effectual measures for promoting its prosperity. His active enterprises against the Spaniards, both in Europe and South America, excited the particular enmity of the court of Spain, which used every means to effect his destruc

« ZurückWeiter »