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SPECIMENS OF SHAKSPERE'S STYLE.
(a bell rings.
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gires.
ROMEO AND JULIET.-Act I., SCENE 4.
No English writer has lived a more romantic life than Raleigh. Born in 1552, at Hayes Farm in Devonshire, and educated at Oriel College, Oxford, he entered at the age
of seventeen upon his brilliant and adventurous career as a volunteer in the cause of the French Protestants. For more than five years he fought in Continental wars; but in 1576 a new field of action was opened to his daring spirit. It was the time when Britain began to take her first steps towards winning that ocean-crown which she now so proudly wears. And among the dauntless sailors, who braved the blistering calms of the tropics and the icy breath of the frigid seas in search of new dominions, Raleigh was one of the foremost. With his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who perished at sea in a later voyage, he sailed to North America; but after two years of toil he returned home, richer in nothing but hard-won experience. We then find young Captain Raleigh engaged in Ireland on active service against the rebel Desinonds, winning high honours by his bravery and military talent, and rewarded by being chosen to bear despatches from the Lord Lieutenant to the Queen.
His court life now began. Hitherto, we picture him keeping watch upon the icy deck in the starry light of a frosty night at sea, or, in dusty and blood-stained doublet, sleeping off the exhaustion of a hard battle-day. A scene of courtly splendour now opens to our view; and, prominent among the plumed and jewelled circle gathered round the throne, stands Sir Walter Raleigh, high
A PLUSH CLOAK IN THE MUD.
in the favour of his Queen, the associate or rival of the proudest noble there. The legend of his first introduction to Elizabeth is too romantic to be omitted, although we must not forget that it rests only on tradition. When the Queen in walking one day came to a muddy place,—these were very common on English roads and pathways then,-she stopped and hesitated. Raleigh, seeing her pause, with ready tact flung down his rich plush cloak for her to step on. The graceful act, which was just the kind of flattering attention that Elizabeth liked best, showed that Raleigh was cut out for a courtier. A capital investment it was that the young soldier made. He lost his cloak, but he gained the favour of a Queen, who well knew how to honour and reward those she loved. Within a few years he became a knight, Captain of the Guard, and Seneschal of Cornwall, besides receiving a grant of 12,000 acres of Irish land, and the sole right of licensing winesellers in England.
His attempts to colonize North America, for which a patent had been granted to him, went far to exhaust his fortune. Twice he sent out expeditions, supplied with all necessary stores; but the red men, who swarmed in the woods along the shore, would not suffer the colonies to take root. The first settlers escaped with their lives on board Drake's ships; the second band perished under the deadly tomahawk. Tobacco and the potato were brought to Europe, as the only fruits of these unhappy enterprises. The name Virginia, given to the colony in honour of the unmarried Elizabeth, and the name Raleigh, applied to the capital of North Carolina, still remind our transatlantic kindred of the ancient ties that bind them to the mother-land.
A leader of English ships in the great conflict with the Armada--the courted and prosperous owner of the broad acres of Sherborne in Dorsetshire--the disgraced husband of Elizabeth Throgmortonthe gallant explorer of the Orinoco and its neighbouring shoresthe hero of the siege of Cadiz and the capture of Fayal ;-such were the various characters filled by this English Proteus during the last years of Elizabeth's reign.
Scarcely was James I. seated on the throne when a change came.
Raleigh's former associate, Cecil, poisoned the King's mind so much against him, that he was stripped of nearly all his honours and rewards. A worse blow was then aimed at him. Charged with hav
ing joined in a plot to seize the King and set Lady Arabella 1603 Stuart on the throne, he was brought to trial at Winches
ter Castle. From eight in the morning till nearly midnight
he fronted his enemies with unshaken courage. The bluster of Attorney-General Coke roared around him without effect. “I want words,” stormed the great prosecutor, “to express thy viperous treasons !” " True,” said Raleigh, “ for you have spoken the same thing half a dozen times over already.” But rare wit and eloquence did not save Raleigh from the Tower, where he was left to lie for nearly thirteen weary years.
Much of his time within these dark walls was devoted to chemical experiments, in course of which he sought eagerly for the philosopher's stone, and believed at one time that he had discovered an elixir, which would cure all diseases. But what made his imprisonment a memorable era in the annals of English literature, was the composition in his cell of his great History of the World. This work, in the preparation of which he was aided by other able hands, is chiefly valuable for its spirited histories of Greece and Rome. A fine antique eloquence flows from his pen, enriched with a deep learning, which excites wonder when displayed by Raleigh. The soldier, the sailor, or the courtier is hardly the man from whom we expect profound philosophy or deep research ; yet Raleigh showed by this achievement a power of wielding the pen, at least not inferior to his skill with sword or com pass. That part of the History which he was able to complete, opening with the Creation, closes with the second Macedonian war, about one hundred and sixty-eight years before Christ. A deep tinge of melancholy, caught from the sombre walls that were ever frowning on his task, pervades the pages of the great book.
A penniless king, dazzled by the story of an unwrought gold mine, discovered years ago during a cruise up the Orinoco, at length set the prisoner free, and sent him with fourteen ships to make sure of this far-off treasure. The capture of St. Thomas,
THE SCAFFOLD AT WESTMINSTER.
a Spanish settlement on the banks of the great river, produced only two bars of gold; and with “brains broken,” as he told his wife in a letter, Raleigh was forced to sail away, a baffled man, leaving in a foreign grave the body of his eldest son, Walter, who had been killed in the assault. The rage of the Spaniards, who considered all these rich regions their own by right of prior discovery, kindled into flame when the news of this daring move reached Europe. With a cry of " Pirates! pirates !” the Spanish ambassador at London rushed into the presence-chamber of King James to demand vengeance on the slayer of his kinsman, who had been governor of St. Thomas, and reparation for the insult offered to his country's flag. James had good reasons just then for desiring to please the Spanish court, since one of his dearest wishes was to marry his son Charles to the Infanta. So Raleigh was arrested upon his landing at Plymouth, and, after more than a week's delay, was carried to London. A few months later,
Oct. 29, he was executed at Westminster
the old charge of 1618 treason, for which he had already suffered so many years of imprisonment. Almost his last words, as he lifted the axe ar.d ran his fingers along its keen edge, show with what feelings he fronted death. Smiling, he said, “ This is a sharp mer icine, but it will cure all diseases.” Two blows severed the neck of the old man, who had seen so many phases of human life, and had played with brilliant success so many varied parts.
Besides his great work, a Narrative of his Cruise to Guiana, which proceeded from his pen in 1596, is worthy of being named. He wrote many other prose works, and cultivated poetry with such success that Edmund Spenser calls him the “Summer's Nightingale.”
THE CONCLUSION OF RALEIGH'S HISTORY. If we seek a reason of the succession and continuance of this boundless ambition in mortal men, we may add to that which hath been already said, that the kings and princes of the world have always laid before them the actions, but not the ends of those great ones which preceded them. They are always transported with the glory of the one, but they never mind the misery of the other, till they find the experience in themselves. They neglect the advice of God, while they enjoy life or hope it; but they follow the counsel of Death upon his first approach.