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pleasantness of this place carry in itself sufficient reward for any time lost in it? Do you not see how all things conspire together to make this country a heavenly dwelling? Do you not see the grass, how in colour they excel the emerald, every one striving to pass his fellow, and yet they are all kept of an equal height? And see you not the rest of these beautiful flowers, each of which would require a man's wit to know, and his life to express? Do not these stately trees seem to maintain their flourishing old age with the only happiness of their seat, being clothed with a continual spring, because no beauty here should ever fade? Doth not the air breathe health, which the birds, delightful both to ear and eye, do daily solemnize with the sweet consent of their voices? Is not every echo thereof a perfect music? And these fresh and delightful brooks, how slowly they slide away, as loth to leave the company of so many things united in perfection! and with how sweet a murmur they lament their forced departure* !"
The style of these extracts, which cannot be altered for the better, will probably surprise the
*Edition of 1629, p. 32.
reader; and, indeed, that of the entire Arcadia, though it be not in every part equal to the abovequoted specimens in purity and simplicity, yet displays, considering the era at which it was written, a very masterly piece of composition. For this merit I am persuaded we are, in a great measure, indebted to the countess of Pembroke, who not only assiduously corrected every page of her brother's Arcadia, but has herself proved to the world, in a work translated from the French, and undertaken after sir Philip's death, how admirably she was qualified for the task.
Such, in fact, was the congeniality which existed between sir Philip and his sister in their literary tastes and pursuits, that they appear almost uniformly to have trodden the same paths, and to have studied the same writers. One of the best and dearest friends which Sidney acquired on the continent was Philip de Mornay, lord of Plessis Marly; and at the period when he received his death-wound at Zutphen, he had nearly completed a translation of that nobleman's excellent Treatise on the True Use of the Christian Religion, an employment strongly indicative of that interest in the cause of piety which had ever formed a distin
guished feature in his character. This version, perfected by Arthur Golding, was published in 1587, about seven months after sir Philip's decease; and in May 1590, the countess of Pembroke, with whom the works of Du Plessis had been as great favourites as with her brother, finished at Wilton a translation from a part of them, entitled "A Discourse of Life and Death ;" and to this little volume, which was not published, however, until 1600*, I may safely appeal for a specimen which shall satisfactorily prove the great elegance and perspicuity of her prose style, and, of course, of her abilities as an adequate corrector and improver of the Arcadia. The passage, indeed, which I am about to give has been already selected by Mr. Park + for a purpose similar to my own; but the value of the illustration which it conveys, together with the scarce and voluminous character of the work in which he has placed it, will sufficiently warrant its transference to these pages.
* A Discourse of Life and Death. Written in French by Phil. Mornay. Done into English by the Countess of Pembroke. London: Printed for W. Ponsonby. 1600. 12mo.
+ Vide Censura Literaria, vol. v. p. 45.
It is thus that her ladyship speaks in the exordium to this translation.
"It seems to me strange, and a thing much to be marvelled, that the labourer to repose himself hasteneth as it were the course of the sun; that the mariner rows with all his force to attain the port, and with a joyful cry salutes the descried land; that the traveller is never quiet nor content till he be at the end of his voyage; and that we, in the meanwhile tied in this world to a perpetual task, tossed with continual tempest, tired with a rough and cumbersome way, cannot yet see the end of our labour but with grief, nor behold our port but with tears, nor approach our home and quiet abode but with horror and trembling. This life is but a Penelope's web, wherein we are always doing and undoing; a sea open to all winds, which, sometime within, sometime without, never cease to torment us; a weary journey through extreme heats and colds, over high mountains, steep rocks, and thievish deserts. And so we term it, in weaving this web, in rowing at this oar, in passing this miserable way. Yet lo, when Death comes to end our work; when she stretcheth out her arms to
pull us into the port: when, after so many dangerous passages and loathsome lodgings, she would conduct us to our true home and resting-place: instead of rejoicing at the end of our labour, of taking comfort at the sight of our land, of singing at the approach of our happy mansion, we would fain (who would believe it?) retake our work in hand, we would again hoist sail to the wind, and willingly undertake our journey anew. No more then remember we our pains; our shipwrecks and dangers are forgotten: we fear no more the travails and the thieves. Contrawise, we apprehend death as an extreme pain, we doubt it as a rock, we fly it as a thief. We do as little children, who all the day complain, and when the medicine is brought them, are no longer sick; as they who all the week long run up and down the streets with pain of the teeth, and seeing the barber coming to pull them out, feel no more pain. We fear more the cure than the disease, the surgeon than the pain. We have more sense of the medicine's bitterness, soon gone, than of a bitter languishing, long continued; more feeling of death, the end of our miseries, than the endless misery of our life. We fear that we ought to hope for, and wish for that we ought to fear."