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A scarcely less interesting character is that of the gallant SIR WALTER RALEIGH, who, after having brought a new world to light, wrote the history of the old in a prison. In his wonderful versatility of genius, and in all departments of his remarkable life, it may truly be said, he was equally illustrious. "He was honored by England's greatest queen, and was sacrificed to the caprice of the meanest of her kings." Probably the last words ever traced by his pen were the following, written in his Bible on the evening preceding his execution :
E'en such is time, that takes on trust
Who in the dark and silent grave-
That "bold and spirited poem," as Campbell styles the "Soul's Errand," is now generally admitted to be from the pen of Raleigh, since it has been traced in manuscript to the year 1593; and two answers to it, written in his lifetime, ascribe its authorship to Sir Walter. It was originally designated thus:-"Sir Walter Raleigh, bis Lie." Campbell tells us that its perusal always deeply affected him; and he adds,-" It places the last and inexpressibly awful hour of existence before my view, and sounds like a sentence of vanity on the things of this world, pronounced by a dying man, whose eye glares on eternity, and whose voice is raised by strength from another world."
Listen to a few of the strong stanzas :—
Goe, soule, the bodies guest, upon a thanklesse arrant ;
Feare not to touch the best ;-the truth shall be thy warrant :
Say to the Court, it glowes, and shines like rotten wood;
Then give them both the lye.
Goe, since I needs must dye,
Tell Zeale it wants devotion; tell Love it is but lust;
Tell Age it daily wasteth; tell Honour how it alters;
Tell Fortune of her blindnesse; tell Nature of decay;
Then give them all the lie.
So when thou hast, as I commanded thee, done blabbing;
Yet stabb at thee who will,
The author of one of the most romantic poems in the English language, EDMUND SPENSER, was born near the Tower of London, in 1553. To affirm that his Faerie Queene is replete with brilliant
and luxurious imagery, enriched with wondrous sweetness of versification, is but to echo the universal verdict of critics. Campbell styles Spenser the "Rubens of English poetry," while Charles Lamb refers to him as "the Poets' poet ;" and such, indeed, he is: for not only was he the special favourite of Milton, Dryden, Pope, and Gray, but there has scarcely been any eminent poet since his day who has not delighted to peruse, if not to pilfer from, his prolific productions. Leigh Hunt considers him, in the imaginative faculty, superior even to Milton; his grand characteristic is poetic luxury. Another of our noted bards speaks of him as "steeped in romance ;" and as "the prince of magicians." Glance at his group of the Seasons; how daintily his allegorical impersonations are decked with flowers, and redolent with perfume :
So forth issew'd the seasons of the yeare:
First, lusty Spring all dight in leaves of flowres
And on his head (as fit for warlike stoures)
That as some did him love, so others did him feare.
Then came the iolly Sommer, being dight
And on his head a girlond well beseene
The sweat did drop; and in his hand he bore
A bowe and shaftes, as he in forrest greene Had hunted late the libbard or the bore,
And now would bathe his limbes with labor heated sore.
Then came the Autumne all in yellow clad,
Laden with fruits that made him laugh, full glad
With eares of corne of every sort, he bore;
And in his hand a sickle he did holde,
To reape the ripened fruits the which the earth had yold.
Lastly came Winter cloathed all in frize,
Chattering his teeth for cold that did him chill;
In his right hand a tipped staffe he held,
With which his feeble steps he stayed still;
That scarce his loosèd limbes he able was to weld.
Then came faire May, the fairest maid on ground,
And throwing flowres out of her lap around;