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The squires in gaudy liveries march. — Livery is a dress appropriated to a particular order of persons. In modern times, the dress of men-servants, appertaining to a gentleman's family, is called livery.
Palfreys, travelling horses, of mettle and appearance inferior to the war horse.
Yeomen, soldiers employed as guards and attendants. The rank of the subordinate persons engaged in the private warfare of the middle ages is very clearly displayed in the first Canto of Scott's Lay :
“ Nine and twenty Knights of fame
Hung their shields in Branksome hall;
Nine and twenty Yeomen tall
But most their looks on the black monarch bend. These lines express the party feeling with which the heroes of the tournaments was regarded. It has been remarked, that at the commencement of the exercises the spectators usually gave the preference to one or other of the combatants.
His double-biting axe and beamy spear,
Each asking a gigantic force to rear. The beamy spear.—The weight of these arms required a gigantic force to lift them. It appears that the active and self-denying habits of the Knights gave them extraordinary strength, as was the fact in respect to the Athlete of antiquity.
Armed cap-a-pee—from head to foot.
King-at-Arms.—An officer employed in ancient pageants to announce the pleasure of the presiding prince in respect to the order of the ceremonies. The king-at-arms here declares it is the sovereign's will that dangerous weapons be banished from the field, and that the strife shall spare the lives of those engaged in it. The combatants seldom had sufficient forbearance to observe this prohibition ; and at length, in consequence of the numbers killed in them, the Popes suppressed tournaments altogether.
The tourney, the trial of horsemanship. The dismounted Knight was not allowed to repeat the tourney, but might fight on foot, his honour to regain.
The western gate, on which the car Is placed aloft, that bears the god of war. The gates which Dryden here describes are adorned with sculpture. Over the western gate is the car of Mars, and its terrible master; the eastern gate—that of the rising sun, was embellished by the beautiful figure of Venus.
Was queen of the Iceni, a tribe of native Britons. When the Romans invaded Britain, they did not at once achieve the conquest of that Island. A. D. 60, Boadicea, among other of the native princes, resisted the Roman arms; but fighting at the head of her subjects, she fell into the hands of the enemy. The Romans beat her, and treated her with the most cruel indignities, so that at last, in her despair, she put an end to her existence. Cowper's verses which follow, describe her, some time before her defeat, in her holy purpose of preserving her people from their invaders, resorting for direction to a Druid, one of the priests of her religion ; and though the venerable man could not promise her the deliverance she sought, he predicted for her consolation the downfall of the Roman, and the exaltation of the British power.
6. When the British warrior queen,
Bleeding from the Roman rods,
Counsel of her country's gods.
Sat the Druid, hoary chief;
Full of rage, and full of grief.
Weep upon thy matchless wrongs,
All the terrors of our tongues.
In the blood that she has spilt ;
Deep in ruin as in guilt.
Rome, for empire far renowned,
Tramples on a thousand states;
Hark! the Gaul is at her gates!
Heedless of a soldier's name;
Harmony the path to fame.
From the forests of our land,
Shall a wider world command.
Thy posterity shall sway ;
None invincible as they.
Pregnant with celestial fire,
Of his sweet but awful lyre.
Felt them in her bosom glow ;
Dying hurled them at the foe.
Heaven awards the vengeance due ;
Shame and ruin wait for you.
Sounds, not arms, shall win the prize—
Harmony the path to fame. Modern Italy exhibits none of the martial spirit, or political wisdom of ancient Rome; but in place of the elevated sentiments and great actions recorded of the former inhabitants of Italy, its children of our days are distinguished, as much as for any thing, by their excellence in music. This species of excellence, being attended with absolute deficiency in the spirit of liberty, of improvement, and the sentiment of national dignity, is considered by the poet as a mark of degeneracy.
Regions Cesar never knew
Thy posterity shall sway.
This passage intimates the establishment of the British empire in America. The empire of the laws, language, and literature of Britain, established in the new world, and under an independent government among the remote descendants of the ancient Britons.
The Druids were priests among the Britons, and were exterminated by the Romans. " The religion of the Britons was one of the most considerable parts of their government; and the Druids, who were guardians of it, possessed great authority among them. No species of superstition was ever more terrible than theirs ; besides the severe penalties which they were permitted to inflict in this world, they inculcated the doctrine of transmigration of souls, and thus extended their authority as far as the fears of their votaries. They sacrificed human victims, which they burned in large wicker idols, made so capacious as to contain a multitude of persons at once, who were thus consumed together. To these rites, tending to impress ignorance with awe, they added the austerity of their manners, and the simplicity of their lives. They lived in woods, caves, and hollow trees; acorns and berries constituted their general food, and their usual beverage was water. By these arts they were not only respected, but almost adored by the people."
The sacrifice of human victims implies a horrible religious faith, but it does not appear to be wholly inconsistent with fine qualities of mind and heart. The sacrifice of Jephtha's daughter, mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures, and that of Iphigenia by the Greeks, were induced by false notions of God. To give him the dearest of our possessions, may seem to ignorant men the most acceptable service, and those who were capable of such acts, often entertained sentiments of true devotion and humanity. The Druids worshipped in the open air ; and there still remain in England, circles of stones laid upon the surface of the ground, which it is supposed, enclosed their sanctuaries. The oak was their favourite tree, and the misletoe, a parasitic plant, or one which grows upon trees, was used in their rites, and respected as a symbol of their faith. Some of the English poets regard the character of the Druids as that of simple-hearted and uncorrupted men, fond of contemplating the works of God.
"In yonder grave a Druid lies," says the poet Collins, of Thompson, the author of the Seasons
meaning by this expression to suggest the idea of Thompson's well-known character—that of a man who saw in God the "
parent of good," and who considered the “universal frame" of creation as the dwelling-place of infinite loveliness and beneficence.
Mr. Mason, a clergyman of the church of England, and an intimate friend of the poet Gray, wrote a drama called Caractacus, Caractacus was the last of the British princes who resisted the Romans, but in the reign of the Emperor Claudius, he was made their prisoner, and carried to Rome. About the same time the Romans, though they generally permitted all their conquered subjects to enjoy their accustomed religion, abolished the worship of the Druids. The practice of the Druids of offering human sa. crifices made it just that their rites should be annihilated.
In Caractacus Mr. Mason describes that unfortunate king as taking refuge in the sacred groves of the Druids, and being forced thence by the Roman soldiers. Mona, an island in the Irish sea, was the principal sanctuary of the Druids.
Vellinus and Elidurus were sons of a British Princess, Cartismandua, who had been subdued by the Romans. She had delivered them to the Romans as hostages--that is, as security, that she would fulfil her promises of continued submission to the conquerors. The Roman officer to whom the British youths are intrusted, promises them their liberty on condition that they will discover to him the retreat of the Druids ; corrupted by this tempting offer, they introduce the stranger into their secret haunts, in which Caractacus and his daughter Evelina had taken refuge.
OPENING SCENE OF CARACTACUS.
Aulus Didius, a Roman officer with Romans.