« AnteriorContinuar »
This was his great literary work; but his miscellaneous writings are so various that they have been classed under the heads of poetical, epistolary, military, maritime, geographical, political, philosophical, and historical. It was one of his intentions to write an English epic; but his busy life allowed him leisure only for some scattered and fragmentary efforts. These, however, are affluent of grace and tenderness, depth of sentiment and strength of imagination. Thus:
Passions are likened best to floods and streams;
That they are poor in that which makes a lover.'
• If all the world and love were young,
To live with thee and be thy love.'
of death and judgment, heaven and hell,
Who oft doth think, must needs die well.' And the noble pathos of the Soul's Errand : • Go, Soul, the body's guest,
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie. ...
Tell zeal it wants devotion;
Tell love it is but lust;
Tell time it is but motion;
Tell fortune of her blindness;
Tell nature of decay;
Tell friendship of unkindness;
Tell justice of delay:
And if they will reply,
Then give them all the lie.' Style.— Easy, vigorous, elevated, as a whole; seldom low, never affected; often ornate, with an antique richness of imagery; showing, when most careful, the artificial structure of Sidney and Hooker. In poetry, simple, sweet, melodious and strong. Spenser called him “the summer's nightingale.'
Rank.-In that brilliant constellation of the great which adorned his period, one of the most distinguished of those who added eminence in letters to eminence in action. Conspicuous in an era prodigal of genius, as a soldier, a statesman, a navigator, and a writer, a valorous knight, and the most splendid of adventurers. An orator whom the Queen, we are told, took for a kind of oracle.' An experimentalist in natural phenomena, seeking the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life. In political economy, he anticipated the modern doctrine of Free Trade; in metaphysics, Stewart's fundamental laws of human belief. He is the pioneer in the department of dignified historical writing, and, could he have tamed the wild fire of his erratic dreams, would have won a foremost place among the famous poets of his day.
Character.-A genius versatile as ambitious. What strikes us most forcibly is his restless and capacious intellect,- his various efficiency, and his prompt aptitude for whatever absorbed him at the moment; his superabundant physical and mental vitality, which displays itself equally in literature and in action. Haughty in prosperity, base in humiliation. With vision of the moral heights, he could creep in crooked politics, or intrigue in dark labyrinths, and was an adept in the arts of bribery and of flattery. It was thus, when a prisoner for his love-treason, that he gallantly raved of the Queen, aged sixty:
'I was wont to behold her riding like Alexander, hunting like Diana, walking like Venus; the gentle wind blowing her fair hair about her pure cheeks like a nymph; sometime sitting in the shade like a goddess, sometime singing like an angel.' His principal defect, even when his ends were patriotic and noble, was unscrupulousness as to the means. But we will re
member that, with boundless desires, he was thrown from the
his own resources. He was in a sense to be the architect of his own destinies, and was in a measure to be the creature of circumstances. It was his fate to make headway through subtle and plotting factions.
A courtier holding the glass of fashion,' a daring child of fortune, he was also a recluse thinker, equally renowned for his contemplative and his active powers. It was in misfortune, after all, that his noble self was asserted, — never more grandly than when, the night before he was beheaded, he wrote:
‘Even such is time, that takes in trust
My God shall raise me up, I trust!' His wits were, on all occasions, equal to his reputation. "Traitor, monster, viper, spider of hell!' cried the Attorney-General, ‘I want words to express thy viperous treasons.'—“True,' said Raleigh quietly, 'for you have spoken the same thing half a dozen times over already.' Dauntless in life, reflection had taught him how to die. On the scaffold, after vindicating his conduct in a manly speech to the spectators, he desired to see the axe. When the headsman hesitated, he said: 'I pray thee, let me see it; dost thou think that I am afraid of it ?'-As he ran his fingers over its keen edge, he smilingly remarked: This is a sharp medicine, but it will cure all diseases.' When he had extended himself for the stroke, he was requested to turn his head. "So the heart be right,' he replied, it is no matter which way the head lieth. When he had forgiven the executioner and had prayed, the signal was made, which not being followed immediately by the stroke, he said: “Why dost thou not strike? Strike, man!'
Influence. — He contributed to that passion for adventure and discovery which gave at this period an unusual impetus to the mind of man. His exploring captains discovered a virgin soil – Virginia. His attempts at colonization were indeed fruitless in their ostensible aim, but were instrumental to others more successful and permanent; just as this man plays with the light
ning and brings nothing to pass, while his son after him flashes
"Then like a bird, it sits and sings,
Who, like a copious river, pour'd his song
We must not fear to assert, with the best judges of this and former ages, that Spen. ser is still the third name in the poetical literature of our country, and that he has not been surpassed, except by Dante, in any other.-Hallam.
Biography.--Born in London in 1552; his parents poor but of ancient fame; educated at Cambridge, where he imbued himself with the noblest philosophies; quit the university to live as a tutor in the North, where in obscure poverty he passed through a deep and unfortunate passion; driven again southward by the scorn of the fair · Rosalind'; wanted to dream, and sought, with ceaseless importunity, the patronage of wealth, that he might live in the free indulgence of his tastes; was sent as an envoy to France; was a guest of the chivalrous Sidney, in the castle where the Arcadia was produced; gained the favor of the Queen, but obtained only inferior employment; went to Ireland as a private secretary; there remained, with appointments more honorable than lucrative, on a grant of forfeited estate, in a lonely castle, from which the view embraced a beautiful lake, an amphitheatre of mountains, and three thousand acres of barren solitude; received a visit from Raleigh, who
" 'Gan to cast great liking to my lore,
Into that waste where I was quite forgol; was created poet laureate, and decreed a pension of fifty pounds; visited England at intervals to publish poems, or to find a situation in his native home, still the persistent court-suitor moving round the interminable circle of "hope deferred'; tells us how on a summer's day,
'I, whose sullen care,
Along the shore of silver-treaming Thames's banished, as he said, to his undesired and savage locality as often as he sued to leave it, whence a rebellion expelled him, after his