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day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as, I trust, shall never be put out.” The gentle Edward's reign had too quickly given place to his sister's—that hateful reign—when the palace of England's monarchs grew dark with the power of the detested Spaniard, and the long list of martyrs fastened forever the title of “blood” to the sweetest of female names. Just at the close of Queen Mary's reign, English literature produced one work, showing a force of imagination which would have placed its author in the highest rank of our poets, had he not turned his genius away from poetic study to devote it, during a very long life, to the political service of his country. “The Mirror of Magistrates” is the title of a work planned by Thomas Sackville—Lord Buckhurst—and intended to comprise a series of poetic narratives of the disasters of men eminent in English story. The first of these, on the Duke of Buckingham, with the preface, or “Induction,” as it is styled, was all that was accomplished ; but those four hundred lines displayed an inventive energy which was a foreshadowing of the allegorical imagination which soon after rose in “The Faery Queen.” Sackville's Induction stands as the chief, the only great poem between the times of Chaucer and of Spenser. Allegorical poetry presents no more vivid imagination than his personification of war, or of old age, in that single line
“His withered fist still striking at death’s door.”
What a gloomy conception was the plan of the poem It has been likened to a landscape which the sun never shines on. More than that might be said, when we think
* Life of Latimer, prefixed to his Sermons, vol. i. p. clvii.
how congenial it was to the time of its composition. There hung on Sackville's genius not only a dark gloom, but it may be thought to have caught a ghastly complexion from the lurid lights of the flames of religious persecution. We may picture this thoughtful poet, turning his footsteps beyond the confines of London, on a winter's day, the dreary season described at the opening of the poem “Wandering till nightfall, The darke had dimm'd the day ere I was 'ware.”
And what was the spectacle he might have encountered? The dispersing throng that had just gathered round the stake, whereflames had wrapped a martyr's body, the fire not yet burnt out in the smouldering ashes; perhaps the desolate family, the outcast wife and children, lingering near the spot where a spiritual hero had sealed his faith. It was a fit season for poetry’s darkest imaginings, and well might Sackville frame his gloomy personification of sorrow to guide him in fancy into the realms of death, to hear there, from the lips of the dead, the stories of their woes. Under this dreary guidance, his genius entered into the shadowy domains of imagination; but soon after he brought the powers of his mind forth into the world’s political service, in which he continued during the whole of Elizabeth's reign, and part of that of her successor, when the hand of death was laid upon the veteran statesman suddenly, at the council-board of James I. It is a remarkable fact that, in actual life, he personally witnessed two reverses of fortune—political downfalls transcending any his tragic muse could have called up in his mournful poem. Sackville was one of the judicial tribunal which pronounced the doom of Mary Stuart: it was from his
lips that the unhappy Queen received the message of her doom ; and it was part of his stern duty to behold the last look of that royal fair one; the “long array of woes and degradations” at length closing, and to witness the blow which severed from a now wasted body the head that once had glittered with the diadems of France and of Scotland. It was also Lord Buckhurst's lot (and these were perhaps the only two calamities of his long and honourable career) to sit in judgment on the Earl of Essex, when that nobleman fell from his high place of queenly favour. The reign of Mary was followed by a period more propitious to the national literature, in the latter part of the sixteenth century. That half century, almost entire, was the time of her sister's reign. In styling it the Elizabethan literature, there is a propriety beyond mere chronological convenience, for the influences of her reign were in manifold ways favourable to the development of the mind, to the expression of thought and feeling. The heart of the sovereign beat with the heart of the people; and chivalry mingled with loyalty to do honour to the woman-monarch. Such was the predominant feeling, passing, indeed, often into the extravagance of adulation, but outlasting all her pomp and powers; for, in the preface to our English version of the Bible she stands recorded in the glowing phrase, “that bright occidental star, Queen Elizabeth, of most happy memory.” In her sway, there was a magnamimity, which she had learned not in the luxuries of regal childhood, but in the school of adversity and a doubtful destiny. History presents no finer contrast than between those two days of her life: the first, when, a culprit on suspicion of treason, she was brought in custody along the Thames, to be committed to the Tower, and perceiving that the barge was steering to the traitor's gate, she refused to enter that guilty portal, and in the utter destitution of a young and unfriended woman, called God to wit. ness she was innocent; when the first intelligence that reached her as a prisoner was that the scaffold had already drunk the blood of a meeker victim, the Lady Jane Grey, and she knew it was thirsting for hers. After a few, though weary and dismal years, she was again an inmate of the ancient fortress of the metropolis, but it was to go forth the Queen of a rejoicing nation, surrounded by cohorts of herdevoted nobles, and multitudes of a happy people; and when before the crown was set upon her brow, lifting her eyes to heaven, she poured forth the fervid thankfulness to the Almighty for his wondrous dealings, for his wondrous mercies. “Wherever she moved,” says the record of this the first of her magnificent progresses, “it was to be greeted by the prayers, the shouts, the tender words, and uplifted hands of the people: to such as bade ‘God save your grace,’ she said again, ‘God save you all; so that on either side there was nothing but gladness, nothing but prayer, nothing but comfort.” Such was the fit opening of a reign for which was destined the highest glory that has dwelt with the nation’s language and literature. An impulse was given by the civil and ecclesiastical condition of the realm, for it abounded in all that could cheer and animate a nation's heart. There was repose from the agony of spiritual persecution, submission to Rome was at an end, and the church in England was once more standing on its ancient British foundations. It mattered little what foreign danger threatened, for there was the proud sense of national independence and national power, its moral force greater even than its physical. I have spoken this evening of wars, like the wars of York and Lancaster, fraternal feuds, which waste and harden a nation's heart; but there are wars of another kind which animate that heart with a high enthusiasm, a truth well proclaimed in a strain of lyrical poetry, fitting the ebb and flow which belong to that species of song to truth's varied aspects: “War is passion's basest game, Madly played to win a name.
* Hollinshed, as quoted in Miss Strickland’s “Queens of England,” vol. vi. chap. iv, p. 127, Am. ed.
War is mercy, glory, fame, Waged in freedom's holy cause, Freedom such as man may claim, Under God's restraining laws.” The same year in which Shakspeare is supposed to have gone up from Stratford to London was a proud one in his country's annals, for it was then that stout hearts and the stormy alliance of the ocean saved the soil from the pollution of foreign invasion, and the boastful attempt of the Spaniard, whose hateful presence in the palace when he shared the throne was not forgotten, and who was coming now with the terrors of the Inquisition in his train. When the scattered remnants of the Armada were driven, not back to the ports of Spain, but as far north as the stormy latitude of the Hebrides, there must have been a high and general fervour kindling each heart; and none more so than the large heart that beat in the
* Wordsworth’s Ode on the Installation of Prince Albert as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, in 1847.