ページの画像
PDF
ePub

Richard Hakluyt (c.1553-1616) immortalized himself by compiling The Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation, for he thus perpetuated sterling literature of travel, exploration, and adventure, which records so much of the finest sixteenth century endeavor. Without his tireless efforts extending over half a lifetime, what would we not have lost! These volumes are indeed little less than a national epic.

But yet it is to the pen of Raleigh, the shepherd of the seas, that we are beholden for the choicest of this literature, for Raleigh wrought with the eye and the imagination of a poet.

If the story of Sir Walter Raleigh (?1552-1618) casting his new plush cloak over the mud for Queen Elizabeth to walk on is not historically true, it is at least true in spirit, for Raleigh was the beau ideal of a gentleman and a man of quick resolution. The son of a country gentleman of Devonshire and connected with many of the distinguished Devon and Cornish families — the Grenvilles, the Gilberts, the Drakes — he had the intrepidity, the daring, the resource, which traditionally characterize the men of the Southwest countries. Still under thirty, tall and athletic, with high complexion and masses of dark hair, and ever magnificent in dress, is it any wonder that the passionate Queen, not for nothing the daughter of Henry VIII, at once made him her favorite, showering upon him grants and appointments which transformed a poor soldier of fortune into a wealthy courtier, and turned loose the tongues of the scandal-mongers ? Yet, as with all her other intimates, the Queen made him pay dear for her favors. Well as he could play the game, his heart was not in the court and he was ever impatient to be where adventure ran high on land or sea. Yet for thirteen years from his first appearance at court (1581) the Queen prevented his stirring farther abroad than Ireland. How indeed could a Queen spare the presence of the captain of her own guards, whose protection was a constant necessity? The expedition of his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, to Newfoundland in 1583, an expedition to colonize America in 1584, the glorious defeat of the Spanish Armada, expeditions in 1591 and 1592 to intercept Spanish galleons, heavy with treasure, in none of these red-blooded affairs was Raleigh allowed to share in person. His command in the expedition of 1591 was taken by his cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, whose death Raleigh gloriously celebrated in The Last Fight of the Revenge, and from the expedition of 1592 he was recalled at the last moment and placed in the Tower, because the Queen discovered that he had been carrying on an intrigue with Elizabeth Throgmorton, one of her maids of honor, — subsequently his wife. Finally in 1595, having sent out an unsuccessful expedition the previous year to discover the El Dorado of South America, he obtained permission to leave England and set his face toward the new land. On this expedition he penetrated the Orinoco for a distance of four hundred miles, but did not reach the reported treasure city of Manoa, his supplies failing. Upon his return he wrote a faithful account of the adventure, The Discoverie of Guiana (1596), in which he pictures the tropical life with gorgeous colors.

Raleigh did not enjoy the favor of James I, powerful rivals constantly poisoning the mind of the king against him. Indeed, how could a pedantic sovereign, who loathed tobacco, have a friendly feeling for the courtier who had foisted the habit of smoking upon the court! Raleigh's unsuccessful maritime adventures helped to discredit him and in 1618 he was executed on a false charge of treason. During a long imprisonment he wrote a History of the World (1614), a work of great range and erudition, based upon the philosophy that rise or fall of men and nations depends upon their obedience to law, human and divine, and closing with a sublime apostrophe to death. Just before execution he penned the touching letter to his wife.

Raleigh's prose is invariably spirited. His narratives of sea-fights have the dash of conflict, and his History of the World, the roll of the sea.

a

At the age when American lads are first wrestling with plane geometry or Cæsar, John Smith (1580-1631) left home to become a soldier of fortune, and joined the French army against the Spaniards. From that hour, if we may believe his own report, his life was packed with startling adventure. Two years in the French army, four years with the forces of the insurgents in the Low Countries, a brief respite at home to study the theory of war, thrown overboard from a French ship because of his protestantism, rescued by a pirate, winning laurels in the army of the Archduke of Austria, champion in three single combats fought with Turkish officers before the assembled armies of the Turks and Transylvanians, captured and made a slave, free again after killing his master, a pasha, long wanderings on the continent, and home once more. All this at the age of twenty-five.

A year later Smith set out for Virginia, and his life thereafter is a familiar chapter of American history. The historian may be concerned over the authenticity of the Pocahontas story, but the student of literature will enjoy it equally, whether fact or romance.

If, as some of his ardent admirers maintain, Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) wrote all of Shakespeare and most of Spenser, as well as all that is known to have come from his pen, he is quite the most amazing and fertile genius that the world has produced, par excellence the superman of the ages. But these advocates aside, Bacon remains one of the foremost intellects of the Renaissance. It is an unusual boy of fourteen who quits the university at the end of his sophomore year because he feels the whole system of education to be fundamentally wrong, producing "no fruit, but only a jungle of dry and useless branches,” but Bacon was an unusual boy and destined to be an unusual man. He lived to make good his reproof, and so to champion the scientific method that, as Macaulay has justly said, he "moved the intellects which have moved the world.” If his own specific contributions to scientific fact were not great, he yet championed the inductive method so successfully that the Cambridge which he left in disgust, within a century became the cherishing mother of scientists.

But it is the essays rather than the Instauratio Magna that determine Bacon's high position in belles-lettres. Like the essays of Montaigne, they were inspired by the new desire of man to give artistic utterance to his individual observations and reflections. Coldly intellectual and betraying scant trace of that mysticism which underlies the finest spiritual sensibilities, they are pithy to a degree, trenchant and shrewd, heavily freighted, and distinguished by a terseness and felicitous clarity of diction such as genius only attains. To these essays has appositely been applied the observation which Hallam made upon the essays of Montaigne: the first French writings "which a gentleman is ashamed not to have read.” That Bacon's own life was less serenely philosophical than his reflections is only to confess a common weakness of mortality for, as Shakespeare observes, “I can easier teach twenty what were right to be done, than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own instruction.”

While the air without was rent with the wrangling, jangling tongues of angry controversy, Richard Hooker (1554-1601), in the unnoted quietude of a country charge, was writing The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1593), which, by its sweet reasonableness, was to quiet much of the tumult and to commit the Church of England for centuries to the via media between Rome and Geneva. In language rich and sonorous, with a nobly sustained eloquence prophetic of Burke and Ruskin and Newman, Hooker argued for the sanctity of that law of nature upon which all that transpires in nature, and the very Scriptures themselves, must rest. A strange contrast — this language which wings and soars - to the self-effacing author who was wont to stand stone still in the pulpit preaching in a low voice and with no use of gestures; "an obscure harmless man, a man in poor clothes, his loins usually girt in a close gown or canonical coat; of a mean stature and stooping, and yet more lowly in the thoughts of his soul; his body

6

worn out not with age but with study and holy mortifications; his face full of heat pimples he got by his inactivity and sedentary life.” Hooker died when only fortyseven, worn out by his arduous study. “In this time of his sickness and not many days before his death, his house was robbed; of which he having notice, his question was, *Are my books and written papers safe?' And being answered that they were, his reply was, 'Then it matters not, for no other loss can trouble me.

In Elizabethan England music and song were wellnigh universal. The babe fell asleep to its mother's lullaby, the maiden sang as she spread the rushes or polished the pewter, the lover won his way into his mistress' heart to the sweet accents of his lyre, and even the wry-faced weaver droned his psalms as he bent to his loom. In the tremulous days of spring the towns were emptied of their folk, as the lads and lassies sallied forth to the festive songs of the opening year, and in the winter evenings as the ale went round, the gossips beat time to many a clattering tapster's song and many a rollicking catch. Shakespeare but voiced the prevailing sentiment when he penned the familiar lines:

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treason, stratagems, and spoils :
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.

When a society whose life is thus attuned to song is swept by a creative art impulse, lyrical poetry flourishes, and this lyricism is fresh, pure and passionate, melodious and rhythmical. Such is the Elizabethan lyrical poetry.

The most engaging poetry of this school is that which grew out of the folk songs. It takes these songs of the people and refines them, endowing them with a superior music and a sentiment more delicate and chaste. There results a poetry founded upon the basic experiences of mankind, yet which raises these experiences to the highest degree of refinement compatible with universality. Such are the lovely wild native woodnotes of Shakespeare, who, in common with Marlowe and Nashe, was indeed nature's child, and yet also the child of a strangely beautiful, newly-invading culture.

For so vital is this strong native element that it dominates most of the lyrical genres brought from over seas, so that although the Graces, the nymphs, and the peasants of Arcady seem permitted to dance and sing on English soil, they are but English men and maidens in disguise, who dance foreign measures to an English step. Thus the silver songs of Spenser - be they in praise of Fayre Elisa, be they joyous marriage odes, or a dirge-like threnody - bring new delights to the island soil, and a rich music hitherto unheard - and yet what is this borrowed loveliness the native element apart !

When the poetry loses faith in itself and permits itself to become slavishly and insincerely imitative, as in the more artificial type of sonnet, it usually sinks to mediocrity. We pass by the heartless sonnet cycles with their endless conceits and tiresome fancies, but we pause over the gravely beautiful sonnets of Sidney and Shakespeare, which only an Englishman could have felt or written. To be sure, on rare occasions a graceful madrigal is turned in manner foreign-wise, but it required another generation or so of the in-doors courtly life before an Englishman could trifle with gracefulness and be insincere with effect, another generation, with its changed ideals, before England could produce a Herrick, a Waller, a Suckling, or a Lovelace to toy with the elegancies of vers de societé.

John Donne (1573-1631), Dean of St. Paul's, was the most popular and brilliant preacher in London during the years 1620-1631. At a time when most preachers were ponderous or cheaply rhetorical, Donnę was pouring forth sermons impassioned and brilliantly imaginative that crowded the cathedral. His friend and biographer, Izaak Walton, thus characterizes his pulpit oratory:

Preaching the Word so as showed his own heart was possessed with those very thoughts and joys that he laboured to distil into others: a preacher in earnest; weeping sometimes for his auditory, sometimes with them; always preaching to himself, like an angel from a cloud, but in none; carrying some, as St. Paul was, to heaven in holy raptures, and enticing others by a sacred art and courtship to amend their lives : here picturing a vice so as to make it ugly to those that practised it, and a virtue so as to make it beloved even by those that loved it not; and all this with a most particular grace and an inexpressible addition of comeliness."

[ocr errors]

into the boat to deliver the same, he could FRANCIS FLETCHER

not be drawn to receive them by any SIR FRANCIS DRAKE ON THE means, save one hat, which being cast PACIFIC COAST

into the water out of the ship, he took up

(refusing utterly to meddle with any other The next day, after our coming to anchor thing, though it were upon a board put off in the aforesaid harbor, the people of the unto him) and so presently made his recountry showed themselves, sending off turn. After which time our boat could a man with great expedition to us in a row no way, but wondering at us as at canoe. Who being yet but a little from gods, they would follow the same with the shore, and a great way from our ship, admiration. spake to us continually as he came rowing The 3 day following, viz., the 2, our ship on. And at last at a reasonable distance having received a leak at sea, was brought staying himself, he began more solemnly to anchor nearer the shore, that, her goods a long and tedious oration, after his man- being landed, she might be repaired; but ner: using in the delivery thereof many for that we were to prevent any danger gestures and signs, moving his hands, that might chance against our safety, our turning his head and body many ways; General first of all landed his men, with and after his oration ended, with great all necessary provision, to build tents and show of reverence and submission returned make a fort for the defence of ourselves back to shore again. He shortly came and goods: and that we might under the again the second time in like manner, and shelter of it with more safety (whatever so the third time, when he brought with should befall) end our business; which him (as a present from the rest) a bunch when the people of the country perceived of feathers, much like the feathers of a us doing, as men set on fire to war in black crow, very neatly and artificially defence of their country, in great haste gathered upon a string, and drawn together and companies, with such weapons as into a round bundle; being very clean and they had, they came down unto us, and finely cut, and bearing in length an equal yet with no hostile meaning or intent proportion one with another; a special to hurt us: standing, when they drew cognizance (as we afterwards observed)

near, as men ravished in their minds, which they that guard their king's person with the sight of such things as they wear on their heads. With this also he never had seen or heard of before that brought a little basket made of rushes, and time: their errand being rather with subfilled with an herb which they called tabáh mission and fear to worship us as gods, Both which being tied to a short rod, he than to have any war with us as with caste into our boat. Our General in- mortal men. Which thing, as it did partly tended to have recompensed him imme- show itself at that instant, so did it more diately with many good things he would and more manifest itself afterwards, during have bestowed upon him; but entering the whole time of our abode amongst them. At this time, being willed by signs only with rushes strewn upon it, and to lay from them their bows and arrows, lying round about the house, have their they did as they were directed, and so did fire in the middle, which be reason that the all the rest, as they came more and more house is low vaulted, round, and close, by companies unto them, growing in a giveth a marvelous reflection to their little while to a great number, both of men bodies to heat the same. and women.

Their men for the most part go naked ; To the intent, therefore, that this peace the women take a kind of bulrushes, and which they themselves so willingly sought combing it after the manner of hemp, might, without any cause of the breach make themselves thereof a loose garment, thereof on our part given, be continued, which being knit about their middles, and that we might with more safety and hangs down about their hips, and so expedition end our business in quiet, our affords to them a covering of that which General, with all his company, used all nature teaches should be hidden; about means possible gently to entreat them, their shoulders they wear also the skin bestowing upon each of them liberally of a deer, with the hair upon it. They good and necessary things to cover their are very obedient to their husbands, and nakedness; withal signifying unto them exceeding ready in all services; yet of we were no gods, but men, and had need themselves offering to do nothing, without of such things to cover our own shame; the consent or being called of the men. teaching them to use them to the same As soon as they were returned to their ends, for which cause also we did eat and houses, they began amongst themselves drink in their presence, giving them to a kind of most lamentable weeping and understand that without that we could not crying out; which they continued also a live, and therefore were but men as well great while together, in such sort that in as they.

the place where they left us (being near Notwithstanding nothing could persuade about 3 quarters of an English mile disthem, nor remove that opinion that they tant from them) we very plainly, with had conceived of us, that we should be gods. wonder and admiration did hear the same,

In recompence of those things which the women especially extending their they had received of us, as shirts, linen voices in a most miserable and doleful cloth, etc., they bestowed upon our Gen- manner of shrieking. eral, and divers of our company, divers Notwithstanding this humble manner things, as feathers, cauls of network, the of presenting themselves, and awful dequivers of their arrows, made of fawn meanor used towards us, we thought it no skins, and the very skins of beasts that wisdom too far to trust them (our expetheir women

wore upon their bodies. ence of former infidels dealing with us Having thus had their fill of this times before, made us careful to provide against visiting and beholding of us, they departed an alteration of their affections or breach with joy to their houses, which houses of peace if it should happen), and thereare digged round within the earth, and fore with all expedition we set up our have from the uppermost brims of the tents, and entrenched ourselves with walls circle clefts of wood set up, and joined of stone; that so being fortified within close together at the top, like our spires ourselves, we might be able to keep off on the steeple of a church; which being the enemy (if they should so prove) from covered with earth, suffer no water to coming amongst us without our good wills: enter, and are very warm; the door in this being quickly finished, we went the the most part of them performs the office more cheerfully and securely afterward also of a chimney to let out the smoke: about our other business. its made in bigness and fashion like to an Against the end of two days (during ordinary scuttle in a ship, and standing which time they had not again been with slopewise: their beds are the hard ground, us), there was gathered together a great

« 前へ次へ »