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SIR WALTER RALEIGH. 1552-1618.
SIR WALTER RALEIGH, one of the most remarkable men England has produced, was born in the parish of Budley in Devonshire, in 1552. About the year 1568 he entered Oxford, where he continued but a short time, for in the following year he was in France, where Hooker says "he spent good part of his youth in wars and martial exercises." He escaped the massacre of St. Bartholomew, (August, 1572,) by taking refuge with Sir Philip Sidney in the house of the English ambassador. In 1579 he accompanied his half brother, Sir Henry Gilbert, in a voyage to Newfoundland: the expedition proved unfortunate, but it doubtless had an influence in leading him to engage in subsequent expeditions which have made his name famous. He soon ingratiated himself with the queen, who, in 1584, granted him a patent to discover such remote heathen and barbarous lands, not actually possessed by any Christian prince, as to him might seem good." Two ships were soon after fitted out by Raleigh, which arrived on the coast of Carolina in July. They were commanded by Philip Amidas and Arthur Barlow, who took possession of the country in the name of the Virgin Queen, and called it Virginia. In 1585 he projected a second voyage, and seven vessels were sent out, which arrived at Roanoke, an island in Albemarle Sound. But the colonists failed in their object, and in July 27, 1586, returned to England, carrying with them, for the first time, that nauseous weed, tobacco, instead of diamonds and gold. In 1594 he matured the plan of his first voyage to Guiana-a voyage memorable in his history, as it was eventually the cause of his destruction. This expedi tion he attended in person, and returned to England in the summer of 1595, when he published a work, entitled "Discovery of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empire of Guiana."
But his fortune fell with the death of the queen. "A prince from the north, with the meanness of soul which has no parallel, and a narrow subtilty of intellect which is worse than folly, ascended the British throne, and changed the face and character of the court and the nation. King James frowned upon Raleigh, and within three months entertained a charge against him for high treason," of conspiring to dethrone the king, of exciting sedition, and of endeavoring to establish popery by the aid of foreign powers. After a trial, perhaps the most disgraceful in the annals of English jurisprudence, he was condemned to lose his head. He was reprieved, however, by the king, but his estates were taken from him, and he was sent to the Tower for twelve years a period the best employed of any in his life, as he there composed the great work on which his literary fame chiefly rests- The History of the World." In the year 1615 he was liberated by the king, who wanted him to plan and conduct an expedition to Guiana, and in 1617 he sailed with twelve vessels. But the expedition failed, and Sir Walter's death was determined Finding no present grounds against him, his enemies proceeded on the old sentence, and he was beheaded on the 29th of October, 1618, dying with the same dauntless resolution he had displayed through his life. "Who is there," exclaims Sir Egerton Brydges, "that will not read with a heart first expanding with admiration, and afterwards wrung with resentment and sor
1 Read-a memoir of Raleigh in that most fascinating of books, Sir Egerton Brydges's “Imaginative Biography;" also, the biography preceding the edition of his poems, by the same author, who has done so much for English literature.
row, the story of Raleigh, though a thousand times told? If there were no other blots on James's reign, Raleigh's death alone would render it intolerable to every generous and reflecting mind."
Sir Walter Raleigh is no less distinguished as a literary character than as an experienced navigator and a valorous knight. For extent of knowledge and variety of talent, he was undoubtedly the first man of his age. The work on which his fame chiefly rests is his "History of the World," which begins with the Creation, and ends with the downfall of the Macedonian Empire, 168 B. C. Of this work Hume remarks, "it is the best model of that ancient style, which some writers would affect to revive at present;" and Professor Tytler, the Scotch historian, commends it as "rigorous, purely English, and possessing an antique richness of ornament, similar to what pleases us when we see some ancient priory or stately manor-house, and compare it with our more modern mansions. It is laborious without being heavy, learned without being dry. Its narrative is clear and spirited, and the matter collected from the most authentic sources." The following is the concluding portion of this great work, a passage which, in the opinion of Warburton, has never been equalled, except by Milton :
THE FALL OF MIGHTY EMPIRES-THE FOLLY OF AMBITIONTHE POWER OF DEATH.
By this which we have already set down is seen the beginning and end of the first three monarchies of the world, whereof the founders and erectors thought that they could never have ended. That of Rome, which made the fourth, was also at this time almost at the highest. We have left it flourishing in the middle of the field, having rooted up or cut down all that kept it from the eyes and admiration of the world; but after some continuance it shall begin to lose the beauty it had; the storms of ambition shall beat her great boughs and branches one against another, her leaves shall fall off, her limbs wither, and a rabble of barbarous nations enter the field and cut her down.
Now these great kings and conquering nations have been the subject of those ancient histories which have been preserved, and yet remain among us; and withal of so many tragical poets, as, in the persons of powerful princes and other mighty men, have complained against infidelity, time, destiny, and most of all against the variable success of worldly things, and instability of fortune. To these undertakings the greatest lords of the world have been stirred up, rather by the desire of fame, which plougheth up the air, and soweth in the wind, than by the affection of bearing rule, which draweth after it so much vexation and so many cares. And certainly, as fame hath often been dangerous to the living, so it is to the dead of no use at all, because separate from knowledge. Which were it otherwise, and the extreme ill bargain of buying this lasting discourse understood by them which are dissolved,
1 Battle of Pydna.
they themselves would then rather have wished to have stolen out of the world without noise, than to be put in mind that they have purchased the report of their actions in the world by rapine, oppression, and cruelty; by giving in sport the innocent and laboring soul to the idle and insolent, and by having emptied the cities of the world of their ancient inhabitants, and filled them again with so many and so variable sorts of sorrows.
If we seek a reason of the succession and continuance of this boundless ambition in mortal men, we may add to that which hath been already said, that the kings and princes of the world have always laid before them the actions, but not the ends of those great ones which preceded them. They are always transported with the glory of the one, but they never mind the misery of the other, till they find the experience in themselves. They neglect the advice of God, while they enjoy life or hope it; but they follow the counsel of death upon his first approach. It is he that puts into man all the wisdom of the world, without speaking a word, which God, with all the words of his law, promises, or threats, doth not infuse. Death, which hateth and destroyeth man, is believed; God, which hath made him and loves him, is always deferred. It was death which opened the conscience of Charles V., made him enjoin his son Philip to restore Navarre; and King Francis I. of France, to command that justice should be done upon the murderers of the Protestants in Merindol and Cabrieres, which till then he neglected. It is therefore death alone that can suddenly make man to know himself. He tells the proud and insolent that they are but abjects, and humbles them at the instant, makes them cry, complain, and repent, yea, even to hate their forepast happiness. He takes the account of the rich and proves him a beggar, a naked beggar, which hath interest in nothing but the gravel that fills his mouth. He holds a glass before the eyes of the most beautiful, and makes them see therein their deformity and rottenness, and they acknowledge it.
O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world, and despised; thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it over with these two narrow words-HIC JACET.
Besides his great work, Sir Walter wrote a large number of tracts and treatises upon various subjects: such as "Maxims of State, a Compendium of Government:" "The Cabinet Council, containing the Chief Arts of Empire, &c.;" on the "Invention of Ships, Anchors, Compass, &c.;" "Journal of a Second Voyage to Guiana;" a "Treatise on Mines and Minerals;" and between thirty and forty others on divers subjects. Such were the literary labors of this extraordinary man; and most truthfully has it been remarked, that as
"an historian, a navigator, a soldier, and a politician, he ranks with the first characters of his age and country; and his life furnishes the most unequivocal proof that, amid the distractions of an active and adventurous life, leisure may always be found for the cultivation of letters."
But Sir Walter Raleigh did not confine himself to prose; he courted the Muses, and he is a votary of whom the Muses cannot but be proud. The poetry he has left is but little: it is sufficient, however, to discover that, had he made it a serious pursuit, he would have equally excelled in that, as he has in other departments of learning. Spenser, who had a high opinion of his poetical abilities, styles him "the Summer's Nightingale.". The following pieces richly merit any encomium:
A DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTRY'S RECREATIONS.
Quivering fears, heart-tearing Cares,
Anxious Sighs, untimely Tears,
Fly, fly to courts;
Fly to fond worldlings' sports,
Where strain'd Sardonic smiles are glosing still,
And sorrows only real be!
Fly from our country pastimes! fly,
Sad troop of human misery;
Clear as the crystal brooks,
Or the pure azured heaven, that smiles to see
Peace and a secure mind,
Which all men seek, we only find.
Abused mortals! did you know
Where joy, heart's-ease, and comforts grow;
And seek them in these bowers,
Where winds sometimes our woods perhaps may shake,
But blustering Care could never tempest make,
Nor murmurs e'er come nigh us,
Here's no fantastic masque, nor dance,
Unless upon the green
Two harmless lambs are butting one the other,
Which done, both bleating run, each to his mother;
And wounds are never found,
Save what the plough-share gives the ground
1 "Do I pronounce Raleigh a poet? Not, perhaps, in the judgment of a severe criticism. In his better days he was too much occupied in action to have cultivated all the powers of a poet, which require solitude and perpetual meditation. He possessed not perhaps the copious, vivid, and creative powers of Spenser, but still we can perceive in him some traits of attraction and excellence, which perhaps even Spenser wanted. If less diversified than that gifted bard, he would, I think, have been more forcible and sublime. His images would have been gigantic, and his reflections more daring."-Sir Egerton Brydges.
Congeals upon each little spire of grass,
Which careless shepherds beat down as they pass;
And gold ne'er here appears,
Save what the yellow Ceres bears.
Blest silent groves! O may ye be
For ever pitch their tents
Upon these downs, these meads, these rocks, these mountains, And peace still slumber by these purling fountains!
Which we may every year
Find when we come a fishing here!
THE NYMPH'S REPLY TO THE PASSIONATE SHEPHERD.1
If all the world and Love were young,
But fading flowers in every field,
Thy gown, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy belt of straw, and ivy-buds,
But could Youth last, could Love still breed;
1 See the invitation of the Shepherd by Marlow, p. 87.