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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 his teeth.”

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 were shattered.

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 King.

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 pen.”*

*Fuller’s Worthies.


Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley may be read in illustration of this chapter.


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 question.

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.

*James Spedding.

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 young.

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 promised.

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 beyond use.

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 him.

*John Chamberlain.

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 of them.

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.”*

*J. Aubrey.

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 came.

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.

*J. Aubrey.

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 he wrote.

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.


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 them.’

“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 him.”

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 distance.’

“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.


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).


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.


“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.”


“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 it is:–

“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 if disobeyed.

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.


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.”*

*Izaak Walton.

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.”

*The same.

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 scarce excusable.”

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 little church.

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.'”


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 priesthood.

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 mug.

“Though Clock,
To tell how night draws hence, I’ve none, A Cock
I have, to sing how day draws on. I have
A maid (my Prue) by good luck sent, To save
That little, Fates me gave or lent. A Hen
I keep, which, creeking* day by day, Tells when
She goes her long white egg to lay. A Goose
I have, which, with a jealous ear, Lets loose
Her tongue, to tell what danger’s near. A Lamb
I keep, tame, with my morsels fed, Whose Dam
An orphan left him, lately dead.
A Cat
I keep, that plays about my house, Grown fat
With eating many a miching** mouse. To these
A Tracy*** I do keep, whereby
I please
The more my rural privacy,
Which are
But toys to give my heart some ease; Where care
None is, slight things do lightly please.”

***His spaniel.

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 say:–

“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.
Stay, stay,
Until the hasting day
Has run
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.
We die
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 things.

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 seventeenth century.

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 Parliamentary poet.

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 of Cromwell:–

“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 poets.


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 joy.


“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.

*Professor Raleigh.

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 literature.

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 wrote now.

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 “heart-easing Mirth.”

“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 seeming stone.

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.

“Sabrina fair,
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 charm.

“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