Part 7 out of 13
helped Prince Henry to build a model ship, and the Prince asked
Raleigh's advice and talked over with him all his troubles. His
generous young heart grieved at the though of his friend's
misfortunes. "Who but my father would keep such a bird in such a
cage," he said with boyish indignation.
And it was for this boy friend that Raleigh began the book by
which we know him best, his History of the World. Never has such
a great work been attempted by a captive. To write the history
of even one country must mean much labor, much reading, much
thought. To write a history of the world still more. And I have
told you about Raleigh because with him begins an interest in
history beyond the bounds of our own island. Before him our
historians had only written of England.
It gives us some idea of the large courage of Raleigh's mind when
we remember that he was over fifty when he began this tremendous
piece of work for the sake of a boy he loved. Raleigh labored at
this book for seven years or more. He was allowed to have his
own books in prison. Sir Robert Cotton lent him others, and
learned friends came to talk over his book with him and help him.
And so the pile of written sheets grew. But the book was never
finished, for long before the first volume was ready the brave
young prince for whom it was written died.
To Raleigh, this was the cruelest blow fate ever dealt him, for
with the death of Prince Henry died his hope of freedom. In
spite of his long imprisonment, Raleigh had never lost hope of
one day regaining his freedom. Prince Henry just before his
death had wrung an unwilling promise from the King his father
that Raleigh should be set free. But when the Prince died the
King forgot his promise.
"O eloquent, just and mighty death!" Raleigh says in the last
lines of his book, "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 stretching greatness, all
the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it all over
with these two narrow words Hic Jacet.
"Lastly, whereas this book by the title it hath, calls itself,
the first part of The General History of the World, implying a
second and third volume, which I also intended and have hewn out,
besides many other discouragements, persuading my silence, it
hath pleased God to take that glorious prince out of the world,
to whom they were directed; whose unspeakable and never enough
lamented loss hath taught me to say with Job, my heart is turned
to mourning and my organ into the voice of them that weep."
Raleigh begins his great book with the Creation and brings it
down to the third Macedonian war, which ended in 168 B.C. So you
see he did not get far. But although when he began he had
intended to write much more, he never meant to bring his history
down to his own time. "I know that it will be said by many," he
writes in his preface, "that I might have been more pleasing to
the reader if I had written the story of mine own times, having
been permitted to draw water as near the well-head as another.
To this I answer that whosoever in writing a modern history,
shall follow truth too near the heels, it may haply strike out
Raleigh feels it much safer to write "of the elder times." But
even so, he says there may be people who will think "that in
speaking of the past I point at the present," and that under the
names of those long dead he is showing the vices of people who
are alive. "But this I cannot help though innocent," he says.
Raleigh's fears were not without ground and at one time his
history was forbidden by King James "for being too saucy in
censuring princes. He took it much to heart, for he thought he
had won his spurs and pleased the King extraordinarily," He had
hoped to please the King and win freedom again, but his hopes
At last, however, the door of his prison was opened. It was a
golden key that opened it. For Raleigh promised, if he were set
free, to seek once more the fabled Golden City, and this time he
swore to find it and bring home treasure untold to his master the
So once more the imprisoned sea-bird was free, and gathering men
and ships he set forth on his last voyage. He set forth bearing
with him all his hopes, all his fortune. For both Raleigh and
his wife almost beggared themselves to get money to fit out the
fleet, and with him as captain sailed his young son Walter.
A year later Raleigh returned. But he returned without his son,
with hopes broken, fortune lost. Many fights and storms had he
endured, many hardships suffered, but he had not found the Golden
City. His money was spent, his ships shattered, his men in
mutiny, and hardest of all to bear, his young son Walter lay dead
in far Guiana, slain in a fight with Spaniards. How Raleigh
grieved we learn from his letter to his wife, "I was loath to
write," he says, "because I knew not how to comfort you; and, God
knows, I never knew what sorrow meant till now. . . . Comfort
your heart, dearest Bess, I shall sorrow for us both, I shall
sorrow less because I have not long to sorrow, because not long
to live. . . . I have written but that letter, for my brains are
broken, and it is a torment for me to write, and especially of
misery. . . . The Lord bless and comfort you that you may bear
patiently the death of your most valiant son."
Raleigh came home a sad and ruined man, and had the pity of the
King been as easily aroused as his fear of the Spaniards he had
surely been allowed to live out the rest of his life in peaceful
quiet. But James, who shuddered at the sight of a drawn sword,
feared the Spaniards and had patched up an imaginary peace with
them. And now when the Spanish Ambassador rushed into the King's
Chamber crying "Pirates! Pirates!" Raleigh's fate was sealed.
Raleigh had broken the peace in land belonging to "our dear
brother the King of Spain" said James, therefore he must die.
Thus once again, Raleigh found himself lodged in the Tower. But
so clearly did he show that he had broken no peace where no peace
was, that it was found impossible to put him to death because of
what he had done in Guiana. He was condemned to death,
therefore, on the old charge of treason passed upon him nearly
fifteen years before. He met death bravely and smiling. Clad in
splendid clothes such as he loved, he mounted the scaffold and
made his farewell speech to those around.
"'Tis a sharp medicine, but it is a sound cure for all diseases,"
he said smiling to the Sheriff as he felt the edge of the ax.
Then he laid his head upon the block.
"Thus," says the first writer of Raleigh's life, "have we seen
how Sir Walter Raleigh who had been one of the greatest scourges
of Spain, was made a sacrifice to it."
"So may we say to the memory of this worthy knight," says Fuller,
"'Repose yourself in this our Catalogue under what topic you
please, statesman, seaman, soldier, learned writer or what not.'
His worth unlocks our cabinets and proves both room and welcome
to entertain him . . . so dexterous was he in all his
undertakings in Court, in camp, by sea, by land, with sword, with
BOOKS TO READ
Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley may be read in illustration of
Chapter LII BACON--NEW WAYS OF WISDOM
WHEN we are little, there are many things we cannot understand;
we puzzle about them a good deal perhaps, and then we ask
questions. And sometimes the grown-ups answer our question and
make the puzzling things clear to us, sometimes they answer yet
do not make the puzzling things any clearer to us, and sometimes
they tell us not to trouble, that we will understand when we grow
older. Then we wish we could grow older quick, for it seems such
a long time to wait for an answer. But worst of all, sometimes
the grown-ups tell us not to talk so much and not to ask so many
The fact is, though perhaps I ought not to tell you, grown-ups
don't know everything. That is not any disgrace either, for of
course no one can know everything, not even father or mother.
And just as there are things which puzzle little folks, there are
things which puzzle big folks. And just as among little folks
there are some who ask more questions and who "want to know" more
than others, so among grown-ups there are some who more than
others seek for the answer to those puzzling question. These
people we call philosophers. The word comes from two Greek
words, philos loving, sophos wise, and means loving wisdom. In
this chapter I am going to tell you about Francis Bacon, the
great philosopher who lived in the times of Elizabeth and James.
I do not think that I can quite make you understand what
philosophy really means, or what his learned books were about,
nor do I think you will care to read them for a long time to
come. But you will find the life of Francis Bacon very
interesting. It is well, too, to know about Bacon, for with him
began a new kind of search for wisdom. The old searchers after
truth had tried to settle the questions which puzzled them by
turning to imaginary things, and by mere thinking. Bacon said
that we must answer these questions by studying not what was
imaginary, but what was real--by studying nature. So Bacon was
not only a lover of truth but was also the first of our
scientists of to-day. Scientist comes from the Latin word scio
to know, and Science means that which we know by watching things
and trying things,--by making experiments. And although Bacon
did not himself find out anything new and useful to man, he
pointed out the road upon which others were to travel.
It was upon a cold day in January in 1560 that Francis Bacon
"came crying into the world."* He was born in a fine house and
was the child of great people, his father being Sir Nicholas
Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. But although his father
was one of the most important men in the kingdom, we know little
about Francis as a boy. We know that he met the Queen and that
he must have been a clever little boy, for she would playfully
call him her "young Lord Keeper." Once too when she asked him
how old he was, he answered, "Two years younger than your
Majesty's happy reign." So if you know when Elizabeth began to
reign you will easily remember when Bacon was born.
Francis was the youngest of a big family, and when he was little
more than twelve years old he went to Trinity College, Cambridge.
Even in those days, when people went to college early, this was
For three years Bacon remained at college and then he went to
France with the English ambassador. While he was in France his
father died and Bacon returned home. At eighteen he thus found
himself a poor lad with his future to make and only his father's
great name and his own wits to help him. He made up his mind to
take Law as his profession. So he set himself quietly to study.
He worked hard, for from the very beginning he meant to get on,
he meant to be rich and powerful. So he bowed low before the
great, he wrote letters to them full of flattery, he begged and
Bacon is like a man with two faces. We look at one and we see a
kindly face full of pity and sorrow for all wrong and pain that
men must suffer, we see there a longing to help man, to be his
friend. We look at the other face and there we see the greed of
gain, the desire for power and place. Yet it may be that Bacon
only strove to be great so that he might have more power and
freedom to be pitiful. In spite of Bacon's hard work, in spite
of his flattery and begging, he did not rise fast. After five
years we find him indeed a barrister and a Member of Parliament,
but among the many great men of his age he was still of little
account. He had not made his mark, in spite of the fact that the
great Lord Burleigh was his uncle, in spite of the fact that
Elizabeth had liked him as a boy. Post after post for which he
begged was given to other men. He was, he said himself, "like a
child following a bird, which when he is nearest flieth away and
lighteth a little before, and then the child after it again, and
so in infinitum. I am weary of it."
But one friend at court he found in the Earl of Essex, the
favorite of Elizabeth, the rival of Raleigh. Essex, however, who
could win so much favor for himself, could win none for Francis
Bacon. Being able to win nothing from the Queen, on his own
account Essex gave his friend an estate worth about 1800 pounds.
But although that may have been some comfort to Bacon, it did not
win for him greatness in the eyes of the world, the only greatness
for which he longed. As to the Queen, she made use of him when
it pleased her, but she had no love for him. "Though she cheered
him much with the bounty of her countenance," says an early
writer of Bacon's life, his friend and chaplain,* "yet she never
cheered him with the bounty of her hand." It was, alas, that
bounty of the hand that Bacon begged for and stooped for all
through his life. Yet he cared nothing for money for its own
sake, for what he had, he spent carelessly. He loved to keep
high state, he loved grandeur, and was always in debt.
* William Rawley.
Essex through all his brilliant years when the Queen smiled upon
him stuck by his friend, for him he spent his "power, might,
authority and amity" in vain. When the dark hours came and Essex
fell into disgrace, it was Bacon who forgot his friendship.
You will read in history-books of how Essex, against the Queen's
orders, left Ireland, and coming to London, burst into her
presence one morning before she was dressed. You will read of
how he was disgraced and imprisoned. At first Bacon did what he
could for his friend, and it was through his help that Essex was
set free. But even then, Bacon wrote to the Earl, "I confess I
love some things much better than I love your lordship, as the
Queen's service, her quiet and contentment, her honour, her
favour, the good of my country, and the like. Yet I love few
persons better than yourself, both for gratitude's sake, and for
your own virtues."
Set free, Essex rushed into passionate, futile rebellion. Again
he was made prisoner and tried for high treason. It was then
that Bacon had to choose between friend and Queen. He chose his
Queen and appeared in court against his friend. To do anything
else, Bacon told himself, had been utterly useless. Essex was
now of no more use to him, he was too surely fallen. To cling to
him could do not good, but would only bring the Queen's anger
upon himself also. And yet he had written: "It is friendship
when a man can say to himself, I love this man without respect of
utility. . . . I make him a portion of my own wishes."
He wrote that as a young man, later he saw nothing in friendship
The trial of Essex must have been a brilliant scene. The Earl
himself, young, fair of face, splendidly clad, stood at the bar.
He showed no fear, his bearing was as proud and bold as ever,
"but whether his courage were borrowed and put on for the time or
natural, it were hard to judge."* The Lord Treasurer, the Lord
High Steward, too were there and twenty-five peers, nine earls,
and sixteen barons to try the case. Among the learned counsel
sat Bacon, a disappointed man of forty. There was nothing to
single him out from his fellows save that he was the Earl's
friend, and as such might be looked upon to do his best to save
As the trial went on, however, Bacon spoke, not to save, but to
condemn. Did no memory of past kindliness cross his mind as he
likened his friend to "Cain, that first murderer," as he
complained to the court that too much favor was shown to the
prisoner, that he had never before heard "so ill a defense of
such great and notorious treasons." The Earl answered in his own
defense again and yet again. But at length he was silent. His
case was hopeless, and he was condemned to death. He was
executed on 25th February, 1601.
Perhaps Bacon could not have saved his friend from death, but had
he used his wit to try at least to save instead of helping to
condemn, he would have kept his own name from a dark blot. But a
greater betrayal of friendship was yet to follow. Though Essex
had been wild and foolish the people loved him, and now they
murmured against the Queen for causing his death. Then it was
thought well, that they should know all the blackness of his
misdeeds, and it was Bacon who was called upon to write the story
Even from this he did not shrink, for he hoped for great rewards.
But, as before, the Queen used him, and withheld "the bounty of
her hand"; from her he received no State appointment. He did
indeed receive 1200 pounds in money. It was scarcely as much as
Essex had once given him out of friendship. To Bacon it seemed
too small a reward for his betrayal of his friend, even although
it had seemed to mean loyalty to his Queen. "The Queen hath done
somewhat for me," he wrote, "though not in the proportion I
hoped." And so in debt and with a blotted name, Bacon lived on
until Queen Elizabeth died. But with the new King his fortunes
began to rise. First he was made Sir Francis Bacon, then from
one honor to another he rose until he became at last Lord High
Chancellor of England, the highest judge in the land. A few
months later, he was made a peer with the title of Baron Verulam.
A few years later at the age of sixty he went still one step
higher and became Viscount St. Albans.
Bacon chose the name of Baron Verulam from the name of the old
Roman city Verulamium which was afterwards called St. Albans. It
was near St. Albans that Bacon had built himself a splendid
house, laid out a beautiful garden, and planted fine trees, and
there he kept as great state as the King himself.
He had now reached his highest power. He had published his great
work called the Novum Organum or New Instrument in which he
taught men a new way of wisdom. He was the greatest judge in the
land and a peer of the realm. He had married too, but he never
had any children, and we know little of his home life.
It seemed as if at last he had all he could wish for, as if his
life would end in a blaze of glory. But instead of that in a few
short weeks after he became Viscount St. Albans, he was a
disgraced and fallen man.
He had always loved splendor and pomp, he had always spent more
than he could afford. Now he was accused of taking bribes, that
is, he was accused of taking money from people and, instead of
judging fairly, of judging in favor of those who had given him
most money. He was accused, in fact, of selling justice. That
he should sell justice is the blackest charge that can be brought
against a judge. At first Bacon could not believe that any one
would dare to attack him. But when he heard that it was true, he
sank beneath the disgrace, he made no resistance. His health
gave way. On his sick-bed he owned that he had taken presents,
yet to the end he protested that he had judged justly. He had
taken the bribes indeed, but they had made no difference to his
judgments. He had not sold justice.
He made his confession and stood to it. "My lords," he said, "it
is my act, my hand, my heart. I beseech your lordships be
merciful to a broken reed."
Bacon was condemned to pay a fine of 40,000 pounds, to be
imprisoned during the King's pleasure, never more to have
office of any kind, never to sit in Parliament, "nor come
within the verge of the Court."
"I was the justest judge that was in England these fifty years,"
said Bacon afterwards. "But it was the justest censure in
Parliament that was these two hundred years."
Bacon's punishment was not as heavy as at first sight it seems,
for the fine was forgiven him, and "the king's pleasure," made
his imprisonment in the Tower only a matter of a few days.
And now that his life was shipwrecked, though he never ceased to
long to return to his old greatness, he gave all his time to
writing and to science. He spent many peaceful hours in the
garden that he loved. "His lordship," we are told, "was a very
contemplative person, and was wont to contemplate in his
delicious walks." He was generally accompanied by one of the
gentlemen of his household "that attended him with ink and paper
ready to set down presently his thoughts."*
He was not soured or bitter. "Though his fortunes may have
changed," says one of his household,* "yet I never saw any change
in his mien, his words, or his deeds, towards any man. But he
was always the same both in sorrow and joy, as a philosopher
ought to be."
*Peter Boerner, his apothecary and secretary.
Bacon was now shut out from honorable work in the world, but he
had no desire to be idle. "I have read in books," he wrote,
"that it is accounted a great bliss to have Leisure with Honour.
That was never my fortune. For time was I had Honour without
Leisure; and now I have Leisure without Honour. But my desire is
now to have Leisure without Loitering." So now he lived as he
himself said "a long cleansing week of five years." Then the end
It was Bacon's thirst for knowledge that caused his death. One
winter day when the snow lay on the ground he drove out in his
coach. Suddenly as he drove along looking at the white-covered
fields and roads around, the thought came to him that food might
be kept good by means of snow as easily as by salt. He resolved
to try, so, stopping his coach, he went into a poor woman's
cottage and bought a hen. The woman killed and made ready the
hen, but Bacon was so eager about his experiment that he stuffed
it himself with snow. In doing this he was so chilled by the
cold that he became suddenly ill, too ill to return home. He was
taken to a house near "where they put him into a good bed warmed
with a pan"* and there after a few days he died.
This little story of how Bacon came by his death gives a good
idea of how he tried to make use of his philosophy. He was not
content with thinking and speculating, that is, looking at ideas.
Speculate comes from the Latin speculari, to spy out. He wanted
to experiment too. And although in those days no one had thought
about it, we now know that Bacon was quite right and that meat
can be kept by freezing it. And it is pleasant to know that
before Bacon died he was able to write that the experiment had
succeeded "excellently well."
In his will Bacon left his name and memory "to men's charitable
speeches, to foreign nations and to the next ages," and he was
right to do so, for in spite of all the dark shadows that hang
about his name men still call him great. We remember him as a
great man among great men; we remember him as the fore-runner of
modern science; we remember him for the splendid English in which
And yet, although Bacon's English is clear, strong, and fine,
although Elizabethan English perhaps reached in him its highest
point, he himself despised English. He did not believe that it
was a language that would live. And as he wanted his books to be
read by people all over the world and in all time to come, he
wrote his greatest books in Latin. He grieved that he had wasted
time in writing English, and he had much that he wrote in English
translated into Latin during his lifetime.
It seems strange to us now that in an age when Spenser and
Shakespeare had show the world what the English tongue had power
to do that any man should have been able to disbelieve in its
greatness. But so it was, and Bacon translated his books into
Latin so that they might live when English books "were not."
I will not weary you with a list of all the books Bacon wrote.
Although it is not considered his greatest work, that by which
most people know him is his Book of Essays. By an essay, Bacon
meant a testing or proving. In the short chapters of his essays
he tries and proves many things such as Friendship, Study, Honor;
and when you come to read these essays you will be surprised to
find how many of the sentences are known to you already. They
have become "household words," and without knowing it we repeat
Bacon's wisdom. But we miss in them something of human
kindliness. Bacon's wisdom is cool, calm, and calculating, and
we long sometimes for a little warmth, a little passion, and not
so much "use."
The essays are best known, but the New Atlantis is the book that
you will best like to read, for it is something of a story, and
of it I will tell you a little in the next chapter.
Chapter LIII BACON--THE HAPPY ISLAND
ATLANTIS was a fabled island of the Greeks which lay somewhere in
the Western Sea. That island, it was pretended, sank beneath the
waves and was lost, and Bacon makes believe that he finds another
island something like it in the Pacific Ocean and calls it the
New Atlantis. Here, as in More's Utopia, the people living under
just and wise laws, are happy and good. Perhaps some day you
will be interested enough to read these two books together and
compare them. Then one great difference will strike you at once.
In the Utopia all is dull and gray, only children are pleased
with jewels, only prisoners are loaded with golden chains. In
the New Atlantis jewels and gold gleam and flash, the love of
splendor and color shows itself almost in every page.
Bacon wastes no time in explanation but launches right into the
middle of his story. "We sailed from Peru," he says, "(where we
had continued by the space of one whole year) for China and
Japan, by the South Sea, taking with us victuals for twelve
months." And through all the story we are not told who the "we"
were or what their names or business. There were, we learn,
fifty-one persons in all on board the ship. After some month's
good sailing they met with storms of wind. They were driven
about now here, now there. Their food began to fail, and finding
themselves in the midst of the greatest wilderness of waters in
the world, they gave themselves us as lost. But presently one
evening they saw upon one hand what seemed like darker clouds,
but which in the end proved to be land.
"And after an hour and a half's sailing, we entered into a good
haven, being the port of a fair city, not great indeed, but well
built, and that gave a pleasant view from the sea.
"And we, thinking every minute long till we were on land, came
close to the shore, and offered to land. But straightways we saw
divers of the people, with bastons in their hands, as it were
forbidding us to land; yet without any cries or fierceness, but
only as warning us off by signs that they made. Whereupon being
not a little discomforted, we were advising with ourselves what
we should do. During which time there made forth to us a small
boat, with about eight persons in it; whereof one of them had in
his hand a tipstaff* of a yellow cane, tipped at both ends with
blue, who came aboard our ship, without any show of distrust at
all. And when he saw one of our number present himself somewhat
before the rest, he drew forth a little scroll of parchment
(somewhat yellower than our parchment, and shining like the
leaves of writing-tables, but otherwise soft and flexible), and
delivered it to our foremost man. In which scroll were written
in ancient Hebrew, and in ancient Greek, and in good Latin of the
School, and in Spanish, these words: 'Land ye not, none of you.
And provide to be gone from this coast within sixteen days,
except ye have further time given you. Meanwhile, if ye want
fresh water, or victual, or help for your sick, or that your ship
needeth repair, write down your wants, and ye shall have that
which belongeth to mercy.'
*Staff of office.
"This scroll was signed with a stamp of Cherubim's wings, not
spread but hanging downwards, and by them a cross.
"This being delivered, the officer returned, and left only a
servant with us to receive our answer. Consulting thereupon
among ourselves, we were much perplexed. The denial of landing
and hasty warning us away troubled us much. On the other side,
to find that the people had languages and were so full of
humanity, did comfort us not a little. And above all, the sign
of the cross to that instrument was to us a great rejoicing, and
as it were a certain presage of good.
"Our answer was in the Spanish tongue: 'That for our ship, it
was well; for we had rather met with calms and contrary winds
than any tempests. For our sick, they were many, and in very ill
case, so that if they were not permitted to land, they ran danger
of their lives.'
"Our other wants we set down in particular; adding, 'that we had
some little store of merchandise, which if it pleased them to
deal for, it might supply our wants without being chargeable unto
"We offered some reward in pistolets unto the servant, and a
piece of crimson velvet to be presented to the officer. But the
servant took them not, nor would scarce look upon them; and so
left us, and went back in another little boat which was sent for
About three hours after the answer had been sent, the ship was
visited by another great man from the island. "He had on him a
gown with wide sleeves, of a kind of water chamelot of an
excellent azure colour, far more glossy than ours. His under
apparel was green, and so was his hat, being in the form of a
turban, daintily made, and not so huge as the Turkish turbans.
And the locks of his hair came down below the brims of it. A
reverend man was he to behold.
"He came in a boat, gilt in some part of it, with four persons
more only in that boat, and was followed by another boat, wherein
were some twenty. When he was come within a flight shot of our
ship, signs were made to us that we should send forth some to
meet him upon the water; which we presently did in our shipboat,
sending the principal man amongst us save one, and four of our
number with him.
"When we were come within six yards of their boat they called to
us to stay, and not to approach further, which we did. And
thereupon the man whom I before described stood up, and with a
loud voice in Spanish, asked 'Are ye Christians?'
"We answered, 'We were'; fearing the less, because of the cross
we had seen in the subscription.
"At which answer the said person lifted up his right hand towards
heaven, and drew it softly to his mouth (which is the gesture
they use when they thank God) and then said: 'If ye will swear
(all of you) by the merits of the Saviour that ye are not
pirates, nor have shed blood lawfully or unlawfully within forty
days past, you may have licence to come on land.'
"We said, 'We were all ready to take that oath.'
"Whereupon one of those that were with him, being (as it seemed)
a notary, made an entry of this act. Which done, another of the
attendants of the great person, which was with him in the same
boat, after his lord had spoken a little to him, said aloud: 'My
lord would have you know, that it is not of pride or greatness
that he cometh out aboard your ship; but for that in your answer
you declare that you have many sick amongst you, he was warned by
the Conservator of Health of the city that he should keep a
"We bowed ourselves towards him, and answered, 'We were his
humble servants; and accounted for great honour and singular
humanity towards us that which was already done; but hoped well
that the nature of the sickness of our men was not infectious.'
"So he returned; and a while after came the notary to us aboard
our ship, holding in his hand a fruit of that country, like an
orange, but of colour between orange-tawny and scarlet, which
cast a most excellent odour. He used it (as it seemeth) for a
preservative against infection.
"He gave us our oath; 'By the name of Jesus and of his merits,'
and after told us that the next day by six of the clock in the
morning we should be sent to, and brought to the Strangers' House
(so he called it), where we should be accommodated of things both
for our whole and for our sick.
"So he left us. And when we offered him some pistolets he
smiling said, 'He must not be twice paid for one labour,'
meaning, as I take it, that he had salary sufficient of the State
for his service. For (as I after leaned) they call an officer
that taketh rewards, twice paid."
So next morning the people landed from the ship, and Bacon goes
on to tell us of the wonderful things they saw and learned in the
island. The most wonderful thing was a place called Solomon's
House. In describing it Bacon was describing such a house as he
hoped one day to see in England. It was a great establishment in
which everything that might be of use to mankind was studied and
taught. And Bacon speaks of many things which were only guessed
at in his time. He speaks of high towers wherein people watched
"winds, rain, snow, hail and some of the fiery meteors also."
To-day we have observatories. He speaks of "help for the sight
far above spectacles and glasses," also "glasses and means to see
small and minute bodies perfectly and distinctly, as the shapes
and colours of small flies and worms, grains and flaws in gems,
which cannot otherwise be seen." To-day we have the microscope.
He says "we have also means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes,
in strange lines and distances," yet in those days no one had
dreamed of a telephone. "We imitate also flights of birds; we
have some degrees of flying in the air. We have ships and boats
for going under water," yet in those days stories of flying-ships
or torpedoes would have been treated as fairy tales.
Bacon did not finish The New Atlantis. "The rest was not
perfected" are the last words in the book and it was not
published until after his death. These words might almost have
been written of Bacon himself. A great writer, a great man,--but
"The rest was not perfected." He put his trust in princes and he
fell. Yet into the land of knowledge--
"Bacon, like Moses, led us forth at last;
The barren wilderness he passed,
Did on the very border stand
Of the blest promised land,
And from the mountain's top of his exalted wit
Saw it himself and shew'd us it.
But life did never to one man allow
Time to discover worlds and conquer too;
Nor can so short a line sufficient be,
To fathom the vast depths of nature's sea.
The work he did we ought t'admire,
And were unjust if we should more require
From his few years, divided twixt th' excess
Of low affliction and high happiness.
For who on things remote can fix his sight
That's always in a triumph or a fight."*
*Abraham Cowley, To the Royal Society.
You will like to know, that less than forty years after Bacon's
death a society called The Royal Society was founded. This is a
Society which interests itself in scientific study and research,
and is the oldest of its kind in Great Britain. It was Bacon's
fancy of Solomon's House which led men to found this Society.
Bacon was the great man whose "true imagination"* set it on foot,
and although many years have passed since then, the Royal Society
still keeps its place in the forefront of Science.
*Thomas Sprat, History of Royal Society, 1667.
BOOKS TO READ
The New Atlantis, edited by G. D. W. Bevan, modern spelling (for
schools). The New Atlantis, edited by G. C. Moore Smith, in old
spelling (for schools).
Chapter LIV ABOUT SOME LYRIC POETS
BEFORE either Ben Jonson or Bacon died, a second Stuart king sat
on the throne of England. This was Charles I the son of James VI
and I. The spacious days of Queen Elizabeth were over and gone,
and the temper of the people was changing. Elizabeth had been a
tyrant but the people of England had yielded to her tyranny.
James, too, was a tyrant, but the people struggled with him, and
in the struggle they grew stronger. In the days of Elizabeth the
religion of England was still unsettled. James decided that the
religion of England must be Episcopal, but as the reign of James
went on, England became more and more Puritan and the breach
between King and people grew wide, for James was no Puritan nor
was Charles after him.
As the temper of the people changed, the literature changed too.
As England grew Puritan, the people began to look askance at the
theater, for the Puritans had always been its enemies. Puritan
ideas drew the great mass of thinking people.
For one reason or another the plays that were written became by
degrees poorer and poorer. They were coarse too, many of them so
much so that we do not care to read them now. But people wrote
such stories as the play-goers of those days liked, and from them
we can judge how low the taste of England had fallen. However,
there were people in England in those days who revolted against
this taste, and in 1642, when the great struggle between King
Parliament had begun, all theaters were closed by order of
Parliament. So for a time the life of English drama paused.
But while dramatic poetry declined, lyric poetry flourished.
Lyric comes from the Greek word lura, a lyre, and all lyric
poetry was at one time meant to be sung. Now we use the word for
any short poem whether meant to be sung or not. In the times of
James and Charles there were many lyric poets. Especially in the
time of Charles it was natural that poets should write lyrics
rather than longer poems. For a time of strong action, of fierce
struggle was beginning, and amid the clash of arms men had no
leisure to sit in the study and ponder long and quietly. But
life brought with it many sharp and quick moments, and these
could be best expressed in lyric poetry. And as was natural when
religion was more and more being mixed with politics, when life
was forcing people to think about religion whether they would or
not, many of these lyric poets were religious poets. Indeed this
is the great time of English religious poetry. So these lyric
poets were divided into two classes, the religious poets and the
court poets, gay cavaliers these last who sang love-songs, love-
songs, too, in which we often seem to hear the clash of swords.
For if these brave and careless cavaliers loved gayly, they
fought and died as gayly as they loved.
Later on when you come to read more in English literature, you
will learn to know many of these poets. In this book we have not
room to tell about them or even to mention their names. Their
stories are bound up with the stories of the times, and many of
them fought and suffered for their king. But I will give you one
or two poems which may make you want to know more about the
writers of them.
Here are two written by Richard Lovelace, the very model of a gay
cavalier. While he was at Oxford, King Charles saw him and made
him M.A. or Master of Arts, not for his learning, but because of
his beautiful face. He went to court and made love and sang
songs gayly. He went to battle and fought and sang as gayly, he
went to prison and still sang. To the cause of his King he clung
through all, and when Charles was dead and Cromwell ruled with
his stern hand, and song was hushed in England, he died miserably
in a poor London alley.
The first of these songs was written by Lovelace while he was in
prison for having presented a petition to the House of Commons
asking that King Charles might be restored to the throne.
TO ALTHEA FROM PRISON
"When love with unconfinéd wings
Hovers within my gates,
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the grates;
When I lye tangled in her haire,
And fettered to her eye,
The gods, that wanton in the aire,
Know no such liberty.
. . . . .
"When (like committed linnets) I
With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, mercy, majesty,
And glories of my King.
When I shall voyce aloud, how good
He is, how great should be,
Enlargéd winds, that curle the flood,
Know no such liberty.
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Mindes innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedome in my love,
And in my soule am free,
Angels alone that soar above
Enjoy such liberty."
TO LUCASTA GOING TO THE WARRES
"Tell me not (sweet) I am unkinde,
That from the nunnerie
Of thy chaste heart and quiet minde
To warre and armes I flie.
"True: a new Mistresse now I chase,
The first foe in the field,
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.
"Yet this inconstancy is such
As you, too, shall adore;
I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Lov'd I not Honour more."
James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, was another cavalier poet
whose fine, sad story you will read in history. He loved his
King and fought and suffered for him, and when he heard that he
was dead he drew his sword and wrote a poem with its point:
"Great, Good, and Just, could I but rate
My grief, and thy too rigid fate,
I'd weep the world in such a strain
As it should deluge once again:
But since thy loud-tongued blood demands supplies
More from Briareus' hands than Argus' eyes,
I'll sing thy obsequies with trumpet sounds
And write thine epitaph in blood and wounds."
He wrote, too, a famous song known as Montrose's Love-song. Here
"My dear and only love, I pray
This noble world of thee,
Be governed by no other sway
But purest monarchie.
"For if confusion have a part
Which vertuous souls abhore,
And hold a synod in thy heart,
I'll never love thee more.
"Like Alexander I will reign,
And I will reign alone,
My thoughts shall evermore disdain
A rival on my throne.
"He either fears his fate too much
Or his deserts are small,
That puts it not unto the touch,
To win or lose it all.
"But I must rule and govern still,
And always give the law,
And have each subject at my will,
And all to stand in awe.
"But 'gainst my battery if I find
Thou shun'st the prize so sore,
As that thou set'st me up a blind
I'll never love thee more.
"If in the Empire of thy heart,
Where I should solely be,
Another do pretend a part,
And dares to vie with me:
"Or if committees thou erect,
And goes on such a score,
I'll sing and laugh at thy neglect,
and never love thee more.
"But if thou wilt be constant then,
And faithful to thy word,
I'll make thee glorious with my pen
And famous by my sword.
"I'll serve thee in such noble ways
Was never heard before,
I'll crown and deck thee all with bays
And love thee more and more."
In these few cavalier songs we can see the spirit of the times.
There is gay carelessness of death, strong courage in misfortune,
passionate loyalty. There is, too, the proud spirit of the
tyrant, which is gentle and loving when obeyed, harsh and cruel
There is another song by a cavalier poet which I should like to
give you. It is a love-song, too, but it does not tell of these
stormy times, or ring with the noise of battle. Rather it takes
us away to a peaceful summer morning before the sun is up, when
everything is still, when the dew trembles on every blade of
grass, and the air is fresh and cool, and sweet with summer
scents. And in this cool freshness we hear the song of the lark:
"The lark now leaves his wat'ry nest,
And, climbing, shakes his dewy wings;
He takes this window for the east;
And to implore your light, he sings;
'Awake, awake! the Morn will never rise,
Till she can dress her beauty at your eyes.'
"The merchant bow unto the seaman's star,
The ploughman from the Sun his season takes;
But still the lover wonders what they are,
Who look for day before his mistress wakes.
'Awake, awake! break thro' your veils of lawn!
Then draw your curtains, and begin the dawn.'"
That was written by William Davenant, poet-laureate. It is one
our most beautiful songs, and he is remembered by it far more
than by his long epic poem called Gondibert which few people now
read. But I think you will agree with me that his name is worthy
of being remembered for that one song alone.
Chapter LV HERBERT--THE PARSON POET
HAVING told you a little about the songs of the cavaliers I must
now tell you something about the religious poets who were a
feature of the age. Of all our religious poets, of this time at
least, George Herbert is the greatest. He was born in 1593 near
the town of Montgomery, and was the son of a noble family, but
his father died when he was little more than three, leaving his
mother to bring up George with his nine brothers and sisters.
George Herbert's mother was a good and beautiful woman, and she
loved her children so well that the poet said afterwards she had
been twice a mother to him.
At twelve he was sent to Westminster school where we are told
"the beauties of his pretty behaviour shined" so that he seemed
"to become the care of Heaven and of a particular good angel to
guard and guide him."*
At fifteen he went to Trinity College, Cambridge. And now,
although separated from his "dear and careful Mother"* he did not
forget her or all that she had taught him. Already he was a
poet. We find him sending verses as a New Year gift to his
mother and writing to her that "my poor abilities in poetry shall
be all and ever consecrated to God's glory."
As the years went on Herbert worked hard and became a gently
good, as well as a learned man, and in time he was given the post
of Public Orator at the University. This post brought him into
touch with the court and with the King. Of this George Herbert
was glad, for although he was a good and saintly man, he longed
to be a courtier. Often now he went to court hoping for some
great post. But James I died in 1625 and with him died George
Herbert's hope of rising to be great in the world.
For a time, then, he left court and went into the country, and
there he passed through a great struggle with himself. The
question he had to settle was "whether he should return to the
painted pleasure of a court life" or become a priest.
In the end he decided to become a priest, and when a friend tried
to dissuade him from the calling as one too much below his birth,
he answered: "It hath been judged formerly, that the domestic
servants of the King of Heaven should be one of the noblest
families on earth. And though the iniquity of late times have
made clergymen meanly valued, and the sacred name of priest
contemptible, yet I will labor to make it honorable. . . . And I
will labor to be like my Saviour, by making humility lovely in
the eyes of all men, and by following the merciful and meek
example of my dear Jesus."
But before Herbert was fully ordained a great change came into
his life. The Church of England was now Protestant and priests
were allowed to marry, and George Herbert married. The story of
how he met his wife is pretty.
Herbert was such a cheerful and good man that he had many
friends. It was said, indeed, that he had no enemy. Among his
many friends was one named Danvers, who loved him so much that he
said nothing would make him so happy as that George should marry
one of his nine daughters. But specially he wished him to marry
his daughter Jane, for he loved her best, and would think of no
more happy fate for her than to be the wife of such a man as
George Herbert. He talked of George so much to Jane that she
loved him without having seen him. George too heard of Jane and
wished to meet her. And at last after a long time they met.
Each had heard so much about the other that they seemed to know
one another already, and like the prince and princess in a fairy
tale, they loved at once, and three days later they were married.
Soon after this, George Herbert was offered the living of
Bemerton near Salisbury. But although he had already made up his
mind to become a priest he was as yet only a deacon. This sudden
offer made him fearful. He began again to question himself and
wonder if he was good enough for such a high calling. For a
month he fasted and prayed over it. But in the end Laud, Bishop
of London, assured him "that the refusal of it was a sin." So
Herbert put off his sword and gay silken clothes, and putting on
the long dark robe of a priest turned his back for ever to
thoughts of a court life. "I now look back upon my aspiring
thoughts," he said, "and think myself more happy than if I had
attained what I so ambitiously thirsted for. I can now behold
the court with an impartial eye, and see plainly that it is made
up of fraud and titles and flattery, and many other such empty,
imaginary, painted pleasures." And having turned his back on all
gayety, he began the life which earned for him the name of
"saintly George Herbert." He taught his people, preached to
them, and prayed with them so lovingly that they loved him in
return. "Some of the meaner sort of his parish did so love and
reverence Mr. Herbert that they would let their plough rest when
Mr. Herbert's saint's bell rang to prayers, that they might also
offer their devotions to God with him; and would then return back
to their plough. And his most holy life was such, that it begot
such reverence to God and to him, that they thought themselves
the happier when they carried Mr. Herbert's blessing back with
them to their labour."*
But he did not only preach, he practised too. I must tell you
just one story to show you how he practiced. Herbert was very
fond of music; he sang, and played too, upon the lute and viol.
One day as he was walking into Salisbury to play with some
friends "he saw a poor man with a poorer horse, which was fallen
under his load. They were both in distress and needed present
help. This Mr. Herbert perceiving put off his canonical coat,
and helped the poor man to unload, and after to load his horse.
The poor man blest him for it, and he blest the poor man, and was
so like the Good Samaritan that he gave him money to refresh both
himself and his horse, and told him, that if he loved himself, he
should be merciful to his beast. Thus he left the poor man.
"And at his coming to his musical friends at Salisbury, they
began to wonder that Mr. George Herbert, which used to be so trim
and clean, came into that company so soiled and discomposed. But
he told them the occasion. And when one of the company told him,
he had disparaged himself by so dirty an employment, his answer
was: that the thought of what he had done would prove music to
him at midnight, and the omission of it would have upbraided and
made discord in his conscience whensoever he should pass by that
place. 'For if I be bound to pray for all that be in distress, I
am sure that I am bound, so far as it is in my power, to practice
what I pray for. And though I do not wish for the like occasion
every day, yet let me tell you, I would not willingly pass one
day of my life without comforting a sad soul or shewing mercy.
And I praise God for this occasion.
"'And now let's tune our instruments.'"*
This story reminds us that besides being a parson Herbert was a
courtier and a fine gentleman. His courtly friends were
surprised that he should lower himself by helping a poor man with
his own hands. But that is just one thing that we have to
remember about Herbert, he had nothing of the puritan in him, he
was a cavalier, a courtier, yet he showed the world that it was
possible to be these and still be a good man. He did not believe
that any honest work was a "dirty employment." In one of his
poems he says:
"Teach me my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee.
. . . . .
"All may of Thee Partake:
Nothing can be so mean
Which with his tincture (for Thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.
"A Servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws
Makes that and th' action fine.
"This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told."*
I have told you the story about Herbert and the poor man in the
words of Izaak Walton, the first writer of a life of George
Herbert. I hope some day you will read that life and also the
other books Walton wrote, for although we have not room for him
in this book, his books are one of the delights of our literature
which await you.
In all Herbert's work among his people, his wife was his
companion and help, and the people loved her as much as they
loved their parson. "Love followed her," says Walton, "in all
places as inseparably as shadows follow substances in sunshine."
Besides living thus for his people Herbert almost rebuilt the
church and rectory both of which he found very ruined. And when
he had made an end of rebuilding he carved these words upon the
chimney in the hall of the Rectory:
"If thou chance for to find
A new house to thy mind,
And built without thy cost;
Be good to the poor,
As God gives thee Store
And then my labor's not lost."
His life, one would think, was busy enough, and full enough, yet
amid it all he found time to write. Besides many poems he wrote
for his own guidance a book called The Country Parson. It is a
book, says Walton, "so full of plain, prudent, and useful rules
that that country parson that can spare 12d. and yet wants it is
But Herbert's happy, useful days at Bemerton were all too short.
In 1632, before he had held his living three years, he died, and
was buried by his sorrowing people beneath the altar of his own
It was not until after his death that his poems were published.
On his death-bed he left the book in which he had written them to
a friend. "Desire him to read it," he said, "and if he can think
it may turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul, let it be
made public. If not let him burn it."
The book was published under the name of The Temple. All the
poems are short except the first, called The Church Porch. From
that I will quote a few lines. It begins:
"Thou whose sweet youth and early hopes enchance
Thy rate and price, and mark thee for a treasure,
Hearken unto a Verser, who may chance
Ryme thee to good, and make a bait of pleasure.
A verse may find him who a sermon flies,
And turn delight into a sacrifice.
. . . . . . .
"Lie not, but let thy heart be true to God,
Thy mouth to it, thy actions to them both:
Cowards tell lies, and those that fear the rod;
The stormy-working soul spits lies and froth
Dare to be true: nothing can need a lie;
A fault which needs it most, grows two thereby.
. . . . . . .
"Art thou a magistrate? then be severe:
If studious, copy fair what Time hath blurr'd,
Redeem truth from his jaws: if soldier,
Chase brave employment with a naked sword
Throughout the world. Fool not; for all may have,
If they dare try, a glorious life, or grave.
. . . . . . .
"Do all things like a man, not sneakingly;
Think the King sees thee still; for his King does.
Simpring is but a lay-hypocrisy;
Give it a corner and the clue undoes.
Who fears to do ill set himself to task,
Who fears to do well sure should wear a mask."
There is all the strong courage in these lines of the courtier-
parson. They make us remember that before he put on his priest's
robe he wore a sword. They are full of the fearless goodness
that was the mark of his gentle soul. And now, to end the
chapter, I will give you another little poem full of beauty and
tenderness. It is called The Pulley. Herbert often gave quaint
names to his poems, names which at first sight seem to have
little meaning. Perhaps you may be able to find out why this is
called The Pulley.
"When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
'Let us,' said He, 'pour on him all we can;
Let the world's riches which disperséd lie,
Contract into a span.'
"So strength first made way,
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure;
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all His treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.
"'For if I should,' said He,
'Bestow this jewel on My creature,
He would adore My gifts instead of Me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:
So both should losers be.
"'Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.'"
Chapter LVI HERRICK AND MARVELL--OF BLOSSOMS AND BOWERS
ANOTHER poet of this age, Robert Herrick, in himself joined the
two styles of poetry of which we have been speaking, for he was
both a love poet and a religious poet.
He was born in 1591 and was the son of an old, well-to-do family,
his father being a London goldsmith. But, like Herbert, he lost
his father when he was but a tiny child. Like Herbert again he
went to Westminster School and later Cambridge. But before he
went to Cambridge he was apprenticed to his uncle, who was a
goldsmith, as his brother, Herrick's father, had been. Robert,
however, never finished his apprenticeship. He found out, we may
suppose, that he had no liking for the jeweler's craft, that his
hand was meant to create jewels of another kind. So he left his
uncle's workshop and went to Cambridge, although he was already
much beyond the usual age at which boys then went to college.
Like Herbert he went to college meaning to study for the Church.
But according to our present-day ideas he seems little fitted to
have been a priest. For although we know little more than a few
bare facts about Herrick's life, when we have read his poems and
looked at his portrait we can draw for ourselves a clear picture
of the man, and the picture will not fit in with our ideas of
In some ways therefore, as we have seen, though there was an
outward likeness between the lives of Herbert and of Herrick, it
was only an outwards likeness. Herbert was tender and kindly,
the very model of a Christian gentleman. Herrick was a jolly old
Pagan, full of a rollicking joy in life. Even in appearance
these two poets were different. Herbert was tall and thin with a
quiet face and eyes which were truly "homes of silent prayer."
In Herrick's face is something gross, his great Roman nose and
thick curly hair seem to suit his pleasure-loving nature. There
is nothing spiritual about him.
After Herrick left college we know little of his life for eight
or nine years. He lived in London, met Ben Jonson and all the
other poets and writers who flocked about great Ben. He went to
court no doubt, and all the time he wrote poems. It was a gay
and cheerful life which, when at length he was given the living
of Dean Prior in Devonshire, he found it hard to leave.
It was then that he wrote his farewell to poetry. He says:--
"I, my desires screw from thee, and direct
Them and my thought to that sublim'd respect
And conscience unto priesthood."
It was hard to go. But yet he pretends at least to be resigned,
and he ends by saying:--
"The crown of duty is our duty: Well--
Doing's the fruit of doing well. Farewell."
For eighteen years Herrick lived in his Devonshire home, and we
know little of these years. But he thought sadly at times of the
gay days that were gone. "Ah, Ben!" he writes to Jonson,
"Say how, or when
Shall we thy guests
Meet at those lyric feasts
Made at the Sun,
The Dog, the Triple Tun?
Where we such clusters had,
As made us nobly wild, not mad;
And yet each verse of thine
Out-did the meat, out-did the frolic wine."
Yet he was not without comforts and companions in his country
parsonage. His good and faithful servant Prue kept house for
him, and he surrounded himself with pets. He had a pet lamb, a
dog, a cat, and even a pet pig which he taught to drink out of a
To tell how night draws hence, I've none,
I have, to sing how day draws on.
A maid (my Prue) by good luck sent,
That little, Fates me gave or lent.
I keep, which, creeking* day by day,
She goes her long white egg to lay.
I have, which, with a jealous ear,
Her tongue, to tell what danger's near.
I keep, tame, with my morsels fed,
An orphan left him, lately dead.
I keep, that plays about my house,
With eating many a miching** mouse.
A Tracy*** I do keep, whereby
The more my rural privacy,
But toys to give my heart some ease;
None is, slight things do lightly please."
But Herrick did not love his country home and parish or his
people. We are told that the gentry round about loved him "for
his florid and witty discourses." But his people do not seem to
have loved these same discourses, for we are also told that one
day in anger he threw his sermon from the pulpit at them because
they did not listen attentively. He says:--
"More discontents I never had,
Since I was born, than here,
Where I have been, and still am sad,
In this dull Devonshire."
Yet though Herrick hated Devonshire, or at least said so, it was
this same wild country that called forth some of his finest
poems. He himself knew that, for in the next lines he goes on to
"Yet justly, too, I must confess
I ne'er invented such
Ennobled numbers for the press,
Than where I loathed so much."
Yet it is not the ruggedness of the Devon land we feel in
Herrick's poems. We feel rather the beauty of flowers, the
warmth of sun, the softness of spring winds, and see the greening
trees, the morning dews, the soft rains. It is as if he had not
let his eyes wander over the wild Devonshire moorlands, but had
confined them to his own lovely garden and orchard meadow, for he
speaks of the "dew-bespangled herb and tree," the "damasked
meadows," the "silver shedding brooks." Hardly any English poet
has written so tenderly of flowers as Herrick. One of the best
known of these flower poems is To Daffodils.
"Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
Has not attain'd his noon.
Until the hasting day
But to the Even-song;
And, having pray'd together, we
Will go with you along.
We have short time to stay, as you,
We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
As you, or anything.
As your hours do, and dry
Like to the summer's rain;
Or as the pearls of morning's dew,
Ne'er to be found again."
And here is part of a song for May morning:--
"Get up, get up for shame, the blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
See how Aurora throws her fair
Fresh-quilted colours through the air:
Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
The dew bespangling herb and tree,
Each flower has wept and bow'd toward the east
Above an hour since; yet you not dress'd;
Nay! not so much as out of bed?
When all the birds have matins said
And sung their thankful hymns, 'tis sin,
Nay, profanation to keep in,
Whenas a thousand virgins on this day
Spring, sooner than the lark to fetch in May.
Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen
To come forth, like the Spring-time, fresh and green
And sweet as Flora. Take no care
For jewels for your gown or hair;
Fear not; the leaves will strew
Gems in abundance upon you:
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept;
Come and receive them while the light
Hangs on the dew-locks of the night:
And Titan on the eastern hill
Retires himself, or else stands still
Till you come forth. Wash, dress, be brief in praying;
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying."
Another well-known poem of Herrick's is:--
"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day,
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of Heaven, the Sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.
That age is best, which is the first,
When Youth and Blood are warmer:
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry."
Herrick only published one book. He called it The Hesperides, or
the works both Human and Divine. The "divine" part although
published in the same book, has a separate name, being called his
Noble Numbers. The Hesperides, from whom he took the name of his
book, were lovely maidens who dwelt in a beautiful garden far
away on the verge of the ocean. The maidens sang beautifully, so
Herrick took their name for his book, for it might well be that
the songs they sang were such as his. This garden of the
Hesperides was sometimes thought to be the same as the fabled
island of Atlantis of which we have already heard. And it was
here that, guarded by a dreadful dragon, grew the golden apples
which Earth gave to Hera on her marriage with Zeus.
The Hesperides is a collection of more than a thousand short
poems, a few of which you have already read in this chapter.
They are not connected with each other, but tell of all manner of
Herrick was a religious poet too, and here is something that he
wrote for children in his Noble Numbers. It is called To his
Saviour, a Child: A Present by a Child.
"Go, pretty child, and bear this flower
Unto thy little Saviour;
And tell him, by that bud now blown,
He is the Rose of Sharon known.
When thou hast said so, stick it there
Upon his bib or stomacher;
And tell Him, for good hansel too,
That thou hast brought a whistle new,
Made of a clear, straight oaten reed,
To charm his cries at time of need.
Tell Him, for coral, thou hast none,
But if thou hadst, He should have one;
But poor thou art, and known to be
Even as moneyless as He.
Lastly, if thou canst win a kiss
From those mellifluous lips of His;
Then never take a second one,
To spoil the first impression."
Herrick wrote also several graces for children. Here is one:--
"What God gives, and what we take
'Tis a gift for Christ His sake:
Be the meal of beans and peas,
God be thanked for those and these:
Have we flesh, or have we fish,
All are fragments from His dish.
He His Church save, and the king;
And our peace here, like a Spring,
Make it ever flourishing."
While Herrick lived his quiet, dull life and wrote poetry in the
depths of Devonshire, the country was being torn asunder and
tossed from horror to horror by the great Civil War. Men took
sides and fought for Parliament or for King. Year by year the
quarrel grew. What was begun at Edgehill ended at Naseby where
the King's cause was utterly lost. Then, although Herrick took
no part in the fighting, he suffered with the vanquished, for he
was a Royalist at heart. He was turned out of his living to make
room for a Parliament man. He left this parish without regret.
"Deanbourne, farewell; I never look to see
Deane, or thy warty incivility.
Thy rocky bottom, that doth tear thy streams,
And makes them frantic, ev'n to all extremes;
To my content, I never should behold,
Were thy streams silver, or thy rocks all gold.
Rocky thou art, and rocky we discover
Thy men: and rocky are thy ways all over.
O men, O manners, now and ever known
To be a rocky generation:
A people currish; churlish as the seas;
And rude, almost, as rudest savages:
With whom I did, and may re-sojourn when
Rocks turn to rivers, rivers turn to men."
Hastening to London, he threw off his sober priest's robe, and
once more putting on the gay dress worn by the gentlemen of his
day he forgot the troubles and the duties of a country parson.
Rejoicing in his freedom he cried:--
"London my home is: though by hard fate sent
Into a long and irksome banishment;
Yet since called back; henceforward let me be,
O native country, repossess'd by thee."
He had no money, but he had many wealthy friends, so he lived, we
may believe, merrily enough for the next fifteen years. It was
during these years that the Hesperides was first published,
although for a long time before many people had known his poems,
for they had been handed about among his friends in manuscript.
So the years passed for Herrick we hardly know how. In the great
world Cromwell died and Charles II returned to England to claim
the throne of his fathers. Then it would seem that Herrick had
not found all the joy he had hoped for in London, for two years
later, although rocks had not turned to rivers, nor rivers to
men, he went back to his "loathed Devonshire."
After that, all that we know of him is that at Dean Prior "Robert
Herrick vicker was buried ye 15th day of October 1674." Thus in
twilight ends the life of the greatest lyric poet of the
All the lyric poets of whom I have told you were Royalists, but
the Puritans too had their poets, and before ending this chapter
I would like to tell you a little of Andrew Marvell, a
If Herrick was a lover of flowers, Marvell was a lover of
gardens, woods and meadows. The garden poet he has been called.
He felt himself in touch with Nature:--
"Thus I, easy philosopher,
Among the birds and trees confer,
And little now to make me wants,
Or of the fowls or of the plants:
Give me but wings as they, and I
Straight floating in the air shall fly;
Or turn me but, and you shall see
I was but an inverted tree."*
*Appleton House, to the Lord Fairfax.
Yet although Marvell loved Nature, he did not live, like Herrick,
far from the stir of war, but took his part in the strife of the
times. He was an important man in his day. He was known to
Cromwell and was a friend of Milton, a poet much greater than
himself. He was a member of Parliament, and wrote much prose,
but the quarrels in the cause of which it was written are matters
of bygone days, and although some of it is still interesting, it
is for his poetry rather that we remember and love him. Although
Marvell was a Parliamentarian, he did not love Cromwell blindly,
and he could admire what was fine in King Charles. He could say
"Though his Government did a tyrant resemble,
He made England great, and his enemies tremble."*
*A dialogue between two Horses.
And no one perhaps wrote with more grave sorrow of the death of
Charles than did Marvell, and that too in a poem which, strangely
enough, was written in honor of Cromwell.
"He nothing common did, or mean,
Upon that memorable scene,
But with his keener eye
The axe's edge did try:
Nor called the gods with vulgar spite
To vindicate his helpless right,
But bowed his comely head,
Down, as upon a bed."*
*An Horatian ode upon Cromwell's return from Ireland.
At Cromwell's death he wrote:--
"Thee, many ages hence, in martial verse
Shall the English soldier, ere he charge, rehearse;
Singing of thee, inflame himself to fight
And, with the name of Cromwell, armies fright."*
*Upon the Death of the Lord Protector.
But all Marvell's writings were not political, and one of his
prettiest poems was written about a girl mourning for a lost pet.
"The wanton troopers riding by
Have shot my fawn, and it will die.
Ungentle men! they cannot thrive
who killed thee. Thou ne'er didst alive
Them any harm: alas! nor could
Thy death yet do them any good.
. . . . .
With sweetest milk and sugar, first
I it at my own fingers nurs'd;
And as it grew, so every day
It wax'd more sweet and white than they.
It had so sweet a breath! And oft
I blushed to see its foot so soft,
And white (shall I say than my hand?)
Nay, any lady's of the land.
It is a wondrous thing how fleet
'Twas on those little silver feet;
With what a pretty skipping grace
It oft would challenge me to race;
And when 't had left me far away,
'Twould stay, and run again, and stay;
For it was nimbler much than hinds,
And trod as if on the four winds.
I have a garden of my own,
But so with roses overgrown
And lilies, that you would it guess
To be a little wilderness;
And all the spring-time of the year
It only loved to be there.
Among the lilies, I
Have sought it oft, where it should lie
Yet could not, till itself would rise,
Find it, although before mine eyes;
For in the flaxen lilies' shade,
It like a bank of lilies laid.
Upon the roses it would feed,
Until its lips even seemed to bleed;
And then to me 'twould boldly trip
And plant those roses on my lip.
. . . . .
Now my sweet fawn in vanish'd to
Whither the swans and turtles go;
In fair Elysium to endure,
With milk-white lambs and ermines pure,
O do not run too fast: for I
Will but bespeak thy grave, and die."
After the Restoration Marvell wrote satires, a kind of poem of
which you had an early and mild example in the fable of the two
mice by Surrey, a kind of poem of which we will soon hear much
more. In these satires Marvell poured out all the wrath of a
Puritan upon the evils of his day. Marvell's satires were so
witty and so outspoken that once or twice he was in danger of
punishment because of them. But once at least the King himself
saved a book of his from being destroyed, for by every one "from
the King down to the tradesman his books were read with great
pleasure."* Yet he had many enemies, and when he died suddenly
in August, 1678, many people though that he had been poisoned.
He was the last, we may say, of the seventeenth-century lyric
Besides the lyric writers there were many prose writers in the
seventeenth century who are among the men to be remembered. But
their books, although some day you will love them, would not
interest you yet. They tell no story, they are long, they have
not, like poetry, a lilt or rhythm to carry one on. It would be
an effort to read them. If I tried to explain to you wherein the
charm of them lies I fear the charm would fly, for it is
impossible to imprison the sunbeam or find the foundations of the
rainbow. It is better therefore to leave these books until the
years to come in which it will be no effort to read them, but a
Chapter LVII MILTON--SIGHT AND GROWTH
"THERE is but one Milton,"* there is, too, but one Shakespeare,
yet John Milton, far more than William Shakespeare, stands a
lonely figure in our literature. Shakespeare was a dramatist
among dramatists. We can see how there were those who led up to
him, and others again who led away from him. From each he
differs in being greater, he outshines them all. Shakespeare was
a man among men. He loved and sinned with men, he was homely and
kindly, and we can take him to our hearts. Milton both in his
life and work was cold and lonely. He was a master without
scholars, a leader without followers. Him we can admire, but
cannot love with an understanding love. Yet although we love
Shakespeare we can find throughout all his works hardly a line
upon which we can place a finger and say here Shakespeare speaks
of himself, here he shows what he himself thought and felt.
Shakespeare understood human nature so well that he could see
through another's eyes and so forget himself. But over and over
again in Milton's work we see himself. Over and over again we
can say here Milton speaks of himself, here he shows us his own
heart, his own pain. He is one of the most self-ful of all
poets. He has none of the dramatic power of Shakespeare, he
cannot look through another's eyes, so he sees things only from
one standpoint and that his own. He stands far apart from us,
and is almost inhumanly cold. That is the reason why so many of
us find him hard to love.
When, on a bleak December day in 1606, more than three hundred
years ago, Milton was born, Elizabeth was dead, and James of
Scotland sat upon the throne, but many of the great Elizabethans
still lived. Shakespeare was still writing, still acting,
although he had become a man of wealth and importance and the
owner of New Place. Ben Jonson was at the very height of his
fame, the favorite alike of Court and Commons. Bacon was just
rising to power and greatness, his Novum Organum still to come.
Raleigh, in prison, was eating his heart out in the desire for
freedom, trying to while away the dreary hours with chemical
experiments, his great history not yet begun. Of the crowd of
lyric writers some were boys at college, some but children in the
nursery, and some still unborn. Yet in spite of the many writers
who lived at or about the same time, Milton stands alone in our
John Milton was the son of a London scrivener, that is, a kind of
lawyer. He was well-to-do and a Puritan. Milton's home,
however, must have been brighter than many a Puritan home, for
his father loved music, and not only played well, but also
composed. He taught his son to play too, and all through his
life Milton loved music.
John was a pretty little boy with long golden brown hair, a fair
face and dark gray eyes. But to many a strict Puritan, beauty
was an abomination, and we are told that one of Milton's
schoolmasters "was a Puritan in Essex who cut his hair short."
No doubt to him a boy with long hair was unseemly. John was the
eldest and much beloved son of his father, who perhaps petted and
spoiled him. He was clever as well as pretty, and already at the
age of ten he was looked upon by his family as a poet. He was
very studious, for besides going to St. Paul's School he had a
private tutor. Even with that he was not satisfied, but studied
alone far into the night. "When he went to schoole, when he was
very young," we are told, "he studied hard and sate up very late:
commonly till twelve or one at night. And his father ordered the
mayde to sitt up for him. And in those years he composed many
copies of verses, which might well become a riper age."* We can
imagine to ourselves the silence of the house, when all the
Puritan household had been long abed. We can picture the warm
quiet room where sits the little fair-haired boy poring over his
books by the light of flickering candles, while in the shadow a
stern-faced white-capped Puritan woman waits. She sits very
straight in her chair, her worn hands are folded, her eyes heavy
with sleep. Sometimes she nods. Then with a start she shakes
herself wide awake again, murmuring softly that it is no hour for
any Christian body to be out o' bed, wondering that her master
should allow so young a child to keep so long over his books.
Still she has her orders, so with a patient sigh she folds her
hands again and waits. Thus early did Milton begin to shape his
own course and to live a life apart from others.
At sixteen Milton went to Christ's College, Cambridge. And here
he earned for himself the name of the Lady of Christ's, both
because of his beautiful face and slender figure, and because he
stood haughtily aloof from amusements which seemed to him coarse
or bad. In going to Cambridge, Milton had meant to study for the
Church. But all through life he stood for liberty. "He thought
that man was made only for rebellion," said a later writer.* As
a child he had gone his own way, and as he grew older he found it
harder and harder to agree with all that the Church taught--"till
coming to some maturity of years, and perceiving what tyranny had
invaded in the Church, that he who would take orders must
subscribe slaves, and take an oath withal. . . . I thought it
better to prefer a blameless silence before the sacred office of
speaking, bought and begun with servitude and forswearing." Thus
was he, he says, "church-outed by the Prelates."* Milton could
not, with a free conscience, become a clergyman, so having taken
his degree he went home to his father, who now lived in the
country at Horton. He left Cambridge without regrets. No thrill
of pleasure seemed to have warmed his heart in after days when he
looked back upon the young years spent beside the Cam.
*The Reason of Church Government, book II.
Milton went home to his father's house without any settled plan
of life. He had not made up his mind what he was to be, he was
only sure that he could not be a clergyman. His father was well
off, but not wealthy. He had no great estates to manage, and he
must have wished his eldest son to do and be something in the
world, yet he did not urge it upon him. Milton himself, however,
was not quite at rest, as his sonnet On his being arrived to the
age of twenty-three shows:--
"How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stolen on his wing my three-and-twentieth year:
My hasting days fly on with full career,
But my late Spring no bud or blossom show'th.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
That I to manhood am arriv'd so near,
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
That some more timely happy spirits endu'th.
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure even
To that same lot, however mean, or high,
Toward which Time leads me; and the Will of Heaven;
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great Task-Master's eye."
Yet dissatisfied as he sometimes was, he was very sure of
himself, and for five years he let his wings grow, as he himself
said. But these years were not altogether lost, for if both day
and night Milton roamed the meadows about his home in seeming
idleness, he was drinking in all the beauty of earth and sky,
flower and field, storing his memory with sights and sounds that
were to be a treasure to him in after days. He studied hard,
too, ranging at will through Greek and Latin literature. "No
delay, no rest, no care or thought almost of anything holds me
aside until I reach the end I am making for, and round off, as it
were, some great period of my studies," he says to a friend. And
as the outcome of these five fallow years Milton has left us some
of his most beautiful poems. They have not the stately grandeur
of his later works, but they are natural and easy, and at times
full of a joyousness which we never find in him again. And
before we can admire his great poem which he wrote later, we may
love the beauty of L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, and Lycidas, which he
L'Allegro and Il Penseroso are two poems which picture two moods
in which the poet looks at life. They are two moods which come
to every one, the mirthful and the sad. L'Allegro pictures the
happy mood. Here the man "who has, in his heart, cause for
contentment" sings. And the poem fairly dances with delight of
being as it follows the day from dawn till evening shadows fall.
It begins by bidding "loathed Melancholy" begone "'Mongst horrid
shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy," and by bidding come
"Haste, thee, nymph, and bring with thee
Jest and youthful Jollity,
Quips and cranks, and wanton wiles,
Nods and becks, and wretchéd smiles.
Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
And Laughter holding both his sides.
Come, and trip it as ye go
On the light fantastic toe.
. . . . .
To hear the lark begin his flight,
And singing startle the dull night,
From his watch-tower in the skies,
Till the dappled dawn doth rise."
These are a few lines from the opening of the poem which you must
read for yourselves, for if I quoted all that is beautiful in it
I should quote the whole.
Il Penseroso pictures the thoughtful mood, or mood of gentle
Melancholy. Here Mirth is banished, "Hence fair deluding joys,
the brood of Folly, and hail divinest Melancholy." The poem
moves with more stately measure, "with even step, and musing
gait," from evening through the moonlit night till morn. It ends
with the poet's desire to live a peaceful studious life.
"But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloisters pale;
And love the high embowéd roof,
With antique pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light.
There let the pealing organ blow
To the full-voic'd choir below,
In service high, and anthem clear,
As may with sweetness through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstacies,
And bring all Heaven before mine eyes."
In Lycidas Milton mourns the death of a friend who was drowned
while crossing the Irish Channel. He took the name from an
Italian poem, which told of the sad death of another Lycidas.
The verse moves with even more stately measure than Il Penseroso.
"Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,
Compels me to disturb your season due:
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime,
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer:
Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew
Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
. . . . . .
Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise,
(That last infirmity of noble minds)
To scorn delights, and live laborious days;
But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,
And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
Comes the blind Fury with th' abhorréd shears,
And slits the thin-spun life."
It was during these early years spent at Horton, too, that Milton
wrote his masque of Comus. It is strange to find a Puritan poet
writing a masque, for Puritans looked darkly on all acting. It
is strange to find that, in spite of the Puritan dislike to
acting, the last and, perhaps, the best masque in our language
should be written by a Puritan, and that not ten years before all
the theaters in the land were closed by Puritan orders. But
although, in many ways, Milton was sternly Puritan, these were
only the better ways. He had no hatred of beauty, "God has
instilled into me a vehement love of the beautiful," he says.
The masque of Comus was written for a great entertainment given
by the Earl of Bridgewater, at Ludlow Castle, and three of his
children took part in it. In a darksome wood, so the story runs,
the enchanter, Comus, lived with his rabble rout, half brute,
half man. For to all who passed through the wood Comus offered a
glass from which, if any drank, --
"Their human countenance,
Th' express resemblance of the gods, is changed
Into some brutish form of wolf, or bear,
Or ounce, or tiger, hog, or bearded goat,
All other parts remaining as they were."
And they, forgetting their home and friends, henceforth live
riotously with Comus.
Through this wood a Lady and her two brothers pass, and on the
way the Lady is separated from her brothers and loses her way.
As she wanders about she is discovered by Comus who, disguising
himself as a shepherd, offers her shelter in his "low but loyal
cottage." The Lady, innocent and trusting, follows him. But
instead of leading her to a cottage he leads her to his palace.
There the Lady is placed in an enchanted chair from which she
cannot rise, and Comus tempts her to drink from his magic glass.
The Lady refuses, and with his magic wand Comus turns her to
Meanwhile the brothers have met a Guardian Spirit, also disguised
as a shepherd, and he warns them of their sister's danger.
Guided by him they set out to find her. Reaching the palace,
they rush in, sword in hand. They dash the magic glass to the
ground and break it in pieces and put Comus and his rabble to
flight. But though the Lady is thus saved she remains motionless
and stony in her chair.
"What, have ye let the false enchanter scape?" the Guardian
Spirit cries. "Oh, ye mistook, ye should have snatched his wand
and bound him fast." Without his rod reversed and backward-
muttered incantation they cannot free the Lady. Yet there is
another means. Sabrina, the nymph of the Severn, may save her.
So the Spirit calls upon her for aid.
Listen where thou art sitting
Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair,
Listen for dear honour's sake,
Goddess of the silver lake,
Listen and save."
Sabrina comes, and sprinkling water on the Lady, breaks the
"Brightest Lady, look on me;
Thus I sprinkle on thy breast
Drops that from my fountain pure
I have kept of precious cure,
Thrice upon thy fingers' tip,
Thrice upon thy rubied lip;
Next this marble venomed seat,
Smeared with gums of glutinous heat,
I touch with chaste palms moist and cold:
Now the spell hath lost its hold."
The Lady is free and, greatly rejoicing, the Guardian Spirit
leads her, with her brothers, safe to their father's home.
All these poems of which I have told you, Milton wrote during the
quiet years spent at Horton. But at length these days came to an
end. He began to feel his life in the country cramped and
narrow. He longed to go out into the great wide world and see