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Godiva entreated her lord to give up his fancied right; but in vain. At last, wishing to put an end to her importunities, he told her, either in a spirit of bitter jesting, or with a playful raillery that could not be bitter with so sweet an earnestness, that he would give up his tax, provided she rode through the city of Coventry, naked. She took him at his word. One
One may imagine the astonishment of a fierce unlettered chieftain, not untinged with chivalry, at hearing a woman, and that too of the greatest delicacy and rank, maintaining seriously her intention of acting in a manner contrary to all that was supposed fitting for her sex, and at the same time forcing upon him a sense of the very beauty of her conduct by its principled excess. It is probable, that as he could not prevail upon her to give up her design, he had sworn some religious oath when he made his promise: but be this as it may, he took every possible precaution to secure her modesty from hurt. The people of Coventry were ordered to keep within doors, to close up all their windows and outlets, and not to give a glance into the streets upon pain of death. The day came; and Coventry, it may be imagined, was silent as death. The lady went out at the palace door, was set on horseback, and at the same time divested of her wrapping garment, as if she had been going into a bath ; then taking the fillet from her head, she let down her long and lovely tresses, which poured around her body like a veil; and so, with only her white legs remain
ing conspicuous, took her gentle way through the streets. *
What scene can be more touching to the imagination -beauty, modesty, feminine softness, a daring sympathy; an extravagance, producing by the nobleness of its object and the strange gentleness of its ineans, the grave and profound effect of the most reverend cus
We may suppose the scene taking place in the warm noon ; the doors all shut, the windows closed; the Earl and his court serious and wondering; the other inhabitants, many of them gushing with grateful tears, and all reverently listening to hear the footsteps of the horse; and lastly, the lady herself, with a downcast but not a shamefaced eye, looking towards the earth through her flowing locks, and riding through the dumb and deserted streets, like an angelic spirit.
It was an honourable superstition in that part of the country, that a man who ventured to look at the fair saviour of his native town, was said to have been struck blind. But the vulgar use to which this superstition has been turned by some writers of late
equum ascendens, crines capitis et tricas dissolvens, corpus suum totum, præter crura candidissima, inde velavit.” See Selden's Notes to the Polyolbion of Drayton : Song 13. It is Selden from whom we learn, that Leofric was Earl of Leicester, and the other particulars of hini mentioned above. The Earl was buried at Coventry, his Countess most probably in the same tomb.
times, is not so honourable. The whole story is as unvulgar and as sweetly serious, as can be conceived.
Drayton has not made so much of this subject as might have been expected; yet what he says is said well and earnestly :
Coventry at length From her small mean regard, recovered state and strength ; By Leofric her lord, yet in base bondage held, The people from her marts by tollage were expelled ; Whose duchess which desired this tribute to release, Their freedom often begged. The duke, to make her cease, Told her, that if she would his loss so far enforce, His will was, she should ride stark naked upon a horse By daylight through the street: which certainly he thought In her heroic breast so deeply would have wrought, That in her former suit she would have left to deal. But that most princely dame, as one devoured with zeal, Went on, and by that mean the city clearly freed.
VI.-PLEASANT MEMORIES CONNECTED, WITH
VARIOUS PARTS OF THE METROPOLIS.
One of the best secrets of enjoyment is the art of cultivating pleasant associations. It is an art, that of necessity increases with the stock of our knowledge; and though in acquiring our knowledge we must encounter disagreeable associations also, yet if we secure a reasonable quantity of health by the way, these will be far less in number than the agreeable ones:
for unless the circumstances which gave rise to the associations press upon us, it is only from want of health that the power of throwing off these burdensome images becomes suspended.
And the beauty of this art is, that it does not insist upon pleasant materials to work on. Nor indeed does health. Health will give us a vague sense of delight, in the midst of objects that would tease and oppress us during sickness. But healthy association peoples this vague sense with agreeable images. It will comfort us, even when a painful sympathy with the distresses of others becomes a part of the very health of our minds. For instance, we can never go through St. Giles's, but the sense of the extravagant inequalities in human condition presses more forcibly upon us; and yet some pleasant images are at hand, even there, to refresh it. They do not displace the others, so as to injure the sense of public duty which they excite; they only serve to keep our spirits fresh for their task, and hinder them from running into desperation or hopelessness. In St. Giles's church lie Chapman, the earliest and best translator of Homer; and Andrew Marvell, the wit and patriot, whose poverty Charles the Second could not bribe. We are as sure to think of these two men, and of all the good and pleasure they have done to the world, as of the less happy objects about us. The steeple of the church itself, too, is a handsome one; and there is a flock of pigeons in that neighbourhood, which we have stood with great pleasure to see careering about it of a
fine afternoon, when a western wind had swept back the smoke towards the city, and showed the white of the stone steeple piercing up into a blue sky. So much for St. Giles's, whose very name is a nuisance with
It is dangerous to speak disrespectfully of old districts. Who would suppose that the Borough was the most classical ground in the metropolis! And yet it is undoubtedly so.
The Globe theatre was there, of which Shakspeare himself was a proprietor, and for which he wrote some of his plays. Globe-lane, in which it stood, is still extant, we believe, under that name.
It is probable that he lived near it: it is certain that he must have been much there. It is also certain, that on the Borough side of the river, then and still called the Bank side, in the same lodging, having the same wardrobe, and some say, with other participations more remarkable, lived Beaumont and Fletcher. In the Borough also, at St. Saviour's, lie Fletcher and Massinger, in one grave; in the same church, under a monument and effigy, lies Chaucer's contemporary, Gower ; and from an inn in the Borough, the existence of which is still boasted, and the site pointed out by a picture and inscription, Chaucer sets out his pilgrims and himself on their famous road to Canterbury.
To return over the water, who would expect any thing poetical from East Smithfield ? Yet there was born the most poetical even of poets, Spenser. Pope was born within the sound of Bow-bell, in a street no