Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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as in that I could never meet an occasion wherein to be torn in
pieces for Your Majestie's service ; I, who am still Your, etc.

Edwards "wholly declines to belive that Ralegh
wrote thus to King James in October 16 18." I agree
with him ; moreover, though Ralegh had been accustomed
to the use of flattery, the style is not Ralegh's. The
letter is also suspect as coming from the collections of
Sir Tobie Matthew. He was Bacon's literary friend, and
this fact renders it probable, to my mind, that the letter
was penned by Bacon and sent by him to the King as
though from Ralegh. Moreover, the attitude adopted
coincides with that which Bacon recommended to Essex
when he was in trouble with Queen Elizabeth. In the
same way I believe that Bacon sent the " Ralegh " poem,
referred to at p. 454 below, to the Queen, Anne of
Denmark. They would thus, together, represent his secret
effort to secure a pardon for Ralegh, while in his official

' Cf. " the continuance of her Majesty, in whom our good days do
consist." — Letter attributed to Bacon r^ .Squire's conspiracy, Spedding, Life,
ii. 119.

* Edwards, Life, ii. 222. ' Lbid. ii. Ixvii.


capacity he was giving effect to the wishes of the King.
This is discussed more fully on p. 458 below.

I come now to the poems, and first to the poem to
"Cynthia," an unfinished piece which from the title pur-
ports to be the last of twenty-one books. It is entitled
"The 2 1 St and last book of the Ocean, to Cynthia," the
" Ocean " being Ralegh, Spenser's " shepheard of the
Ocean," and "Cynthia" the Queen. It is regarded as a
continuation of Ralegh's lost poem, " Cynthia." ^ I do
not, however, believe that there was any lost poem, or
that Ralegh was the author of the pretended fragment.
These devices are, to my mind, only part of the real
author's usual method of mystification.

The MS. of this poem is in Ralegh's handwriting, but
as it is evidently a fair copy, that does not necessarily
prove that he was the author. So far as I recollect there
is only one erasure, and the writing is of that " extreme
precision and neatness of hand " which Edwards notes in
the case of the MS. of Ralegh's letter to the Queen about
the succession quoted above (p. 434), and which he says
is " so entirely unusual with the writer at this period of
his life " {i.e. during Elizabeth's reign). The fair copy was
presumably made for the Queen, but it is the original
draft with which we are concerned, not the copy, and this
has not been preserved.

The use of poetry for practical purposes has probably
always been a feature of Court life at a certain point in a
country's civilisation, and this has created a demand for
the services of men who, like the scribes of the East, could
adapt their thoughts and feelings to the case of others
less gifted than themselves with the power of expression.
Under such conditions no sense of dishonesty attaches to
the use of the document as though it were the composition
of the person in whose name it appears. Similarly, and
having regard in particular to Ralegh's nature, I think he
would have thought very little of the morality of such an

» See Chapter XIV.


impersonation, and the Queen perhaps less, so long as she
was entertained by it. And in any case it lent distinction
to her attachment for the man whom she had raised, and
was a tribute to her charms, that he should be thought
the author of love poems in her honour, and that some
one, in a treatise addressed to herself, should write about
them that " for ditty and amorous ode, I find Sir Walter
Raleigh's vein most lofty, insolent and passionate." ^
Ralegh depended for his position entirely on the Queen's
favour, and to make a fair copy of the poem, even one
of 100 stanzas (the length of " Cynthia"), was not a very
extraordinary thing to do, if, by showing it to the Queen
as his own, or at any rate as representing his feelings,
he could have mitigated her resentment at his marriage.
Bacon (who in my opinion is the author of the poem)
makes use of the opportunity, in taking up the personality
of Ralegh, to express his own feelings. He was un-
doubtedly most unhappy at his exclusion from access and
the waning of all his hopes of advancement. This is
what is reflected, under the disguise of Ralegh's loss of
favour, in the poem.

The poem, though diffuse and ill connected as a whole,
contains some wonderful pieces of writing. It opens by
an address to his " joys interred " :

You that then died when first my fancy erred.

His complaint will be couched " in simple words."
Ralegh's condition is described :

The blossoms fallen, the sap gone from the tree,
The broken monuments of my great desires, —

From these so lost what may affections be ?
What heat in cinders of extinguished fires ?

He describes the Queen and her power over him :

Oh, princely form, my fancy's adamant,

Divine conceit, my pains' acceptance,
Oh, all in one ! oh, heaven on earth transparent !

The seat of joys and love's abundance !

1 The Arie of English Poesie, 1589.


Out of that mass of miracles, my muse

Gathered those flowers, to her pure senses pleasing ;

Out of her eyes, the store of joys, did choose
Equal delights, my sorrow's counterpoising.

Her regal looks my vigorous sighs suppressed ;

Small drops of joys sweetened great worlds of woes ;
One gladsome day a thousand cares redressed ; —

Whom love defends, what fortune overthrows ?

When she did well, what did there else amiss ?

When she did ill, what empires would have pleased ?
No other power effecting woe or bliss,

She gave, she took, she wounded, she appeased.

The honour of her love love still devising.
Wounding my mind with contrary conceit.

Transferred itself sometime to her aspiring,
Sometime the trumpet of her thought's retreat.

To seek new worlds for gold, for praise, for glory,

To try desire, to try love severed far,
When I was gone, she sent her memory.

More strong than were ten thousand ships of war ;

To call me back, to leave great honour's thought,
To leave my friends, my fortune, my attempt ;

To leave the purpose I so long had sought.

And hold both cares and comforts in contempt.

His changed fortunes :

So my forsaken heart, my withered mind, —

Widow of all the joys it once possessed.
My hopes clean out of sight with forced wind.

To kingdoms strange, to lands far-off addressed,

Alone, forsaken, friendless, on the shore.

With many wounds, with death's cold pangs embraced,

Writes in the dust, as one that could no more.
Whom love, and time, and fortune had defaced.

The " angel " allusion ^ :

Such force her angelic appearance had

To master distance, time or cruelty ;
Such art to grieve, and after to make glad.

Such fear in love, such lo\e in majesty.

and lower down, " angelical in voice."

' See Chapter XIV. and p. 455 below.


Then follows a passage which it is impossible to
explain in terms of Ralegh's life :

Twelve years entire I wasted in this war ;

Twelve years of my most happy younger days ;
But I in them, and they now wasted are :

" Of all which past the sorrow only stays."

So wrote I once,^ and my mishap foretold,
My mind still feeling sorrowful success ;

Even as before a storm the marble cold

Doth by moist tears tempestuous times express.

Ralegh was thirty years old when he was taken up
by the Queen, and, with the possible exception of some
passing eclipse which he appears to have suffered in i 589,^
he was never really out of favour until the affair of his
marriage in 1592. He was loaded with benefits by the
Queen, and he himself, writing to his cousin Sir George
Carew, then Master of the Ordnance in Ireland, on the
27th December 1589, gives a denial (possibly in part
from motives of policy) to the rumours of disfavour at
that time in words of the greatest arrogance :

Cussen George — For my retrait from the Court it was uppon
good cause to take order for my prize. If in Irlande they thincke
that I am not worth the respectinge they shall mich deceave
themsealvs. I am in place to be beleved not inferrior to any man,
to plesure or displesure the greatest : and my oppinion is so
receved and beleved as I can anger the best of them. And,
therefore, if the Deputy be not reddy to steed mee as I have bynn
to defend hyme, — be it att is may.*^

When Sir William Fitzwilliams ^ shalbe in Ingland, I take my-
sealfe farr his better by the honorable offices I hold, as also by
that nireness to her Majestye which still I injoy, and never more.

* A reference to the short poem mentioned at p. 435, of which the
following is the first stanza :

" Like truthless dreams, so are my joys expired.
And past return are all my dandled days.
My love misled, and fancy quite retired ;
Of all which past, the sorrow only stays."

This poem was written before 1593, but the title "Farewell to the Court"
was added later, apparently without authority (see p. 435). Possibly it hangs
on incidents of 1589.

2 See Colin Clout, and letter quoted above, p. 418, note.


I am willinge to continew towards hyme all frindly offices, and
I doubt not of the like frome hyme, as well towards mee as my
frinds. . . }

" Evidently, in haste, for "as it may." ^ The Lord Deputy.

Ralegh's halcyon days lasted from 1582 to 1592, ten,
not twelve, years ; there was neither " war " nor waste of
time ; on the contrary, nothing but wealth, position and
favour. They were also days of manhood, not of youth ;
Ralegh's younger days were passed in hardship and

On the other hand, the lines fit Francis Bacon's case
in all respects. By 1592 he may be said to have spent
" twelve years entire," after his return from France and
settlement in London, in a fruitless attempt at obtaining
a place in the Queen's service. As we have seen, in i 593
he offended the Queen, and though that seems to have
been made the ground for her refusal to do anything for
him, it is clear from the correspondence that Bacon did
not believe this was the real, or at any rate the sole, ground
for her decision against him. But the poem under review
throws more light on this.

The passage which follows bears a double construction,
and would refer alike to Ralegh's extravagant behaviour
in the Tower,^ and describe (in very highly coloured
language) the writer's state of mind under the strain of
prolonged disappointment :

Then floods of sorrow and whole seas of woe
The banks of all my hope did overbear,

And drowned my mind in depths of misery :
Sometime I died ; sometime I was distract,

My soul the stage of fancy's tragedy ;

Then furious madness, where true reason lacked,

' Edwards, IJ/e, ii. 41.

^ See the account of this in Edwards, li/e, 1. 140, 141. Sir Arthur Gorges,
who was present at the scene, described it in a letter to Cecil, which he con-
cludes by saying he fears " Sir Walter Ralegh will shortly grow to be ' Orlando
Furioso,' if the bright Angelica persevere against him a little longer." See
also Ralegh's letter to Cecil quoted at p. 426 above.


Wrote what it would, and scourged mine own conceit.

Oh, heavy heart ! who can thee witness bear ?
What tongue, what pen, could thy tormenting treat,

But thine own mournmg thoughts which present were ?

I hated life and cursed destiny ;

The thoughts of passed times, like flames of hell,
Kindled afresh within my memory

The many dear achievements that befell

In those prime years and infancy of love.

Which to describe were but to die in writing ;

Ah, those I sought, but vainly, to remove,
And vainly shall, by which I perish living.

After further reference to " those marvellous perfec-
tions " and the callousness of the Queen, we come upon
regretful allusions to " Belphoebe " — of course of the Faerie
Queene :

All droops, all dies, all trodden under dust.
The person, place, and passages forgotten ;

The hardest steel eaten with softest rust.

The firm and solid tree both rent and rotten.

• • • • •

Belphoebe's course is now observed no more ;

That fair resemblance weareth out of date ;

Our ocean seas are but tempestuous waves,
And all things base, that blessed were of late . . .

The stanza breaks off without a fourth h*ne, perhaps
for lack of a suitable rhyme, and the sensitive ear of the
author is apparently struck by the effect, for he makes
use of this form later as a new metre.^

Some lines of perfect artistry follow, but quite
irrelevant to the case of Ralegh, except in so far as they
were written deliberately for the purpose of winning back
the Queen :

With youth is dead the hope of love's return.
Who looks not back to hear our after-cries :

Where he is not, he laughs at those that mourn ;
Whence he is gone, he scorns the mind that dies.

* See p. 454, below.


When he is absent, he believes no words ;

When reason speaks, he, careless, stops his ears ;
Whom he hath left, he never grace affords,

But bathes his wings in our lamenting tears.

An allusion to the Timias and Belphoebe episode in
the Faerie Queene recurs. After " love was gone " —

A queen she was to me, — no more Belphoebe ;

A lion then, — no more a milk-white dove ;
A prisoner in her breast I could not be ; —

She did untie the gentle chains of love.

He then asserts that his " error " never proceeded
from " sense of loving," by which, presumably, is intended
(though the meaning is obscure) being in love with some
one else than the Queen :

But thou my weary soul and heavy thought,
Made by her love a burthen to my being,

Dost know my error never was forethought,
Or ever could proceed from sense of loving.

Of other cause if then it had proceeding,

I leave the excuse, sith judgment hath been given ;

The limbs divided, sundered and ableeding.
Cannot complain the sentence was uneven.

Then follows an extraordinary passage in which I
believe Bacon to be describing the dream of his youth,
and his efforts to realise it, which are reflected in those
gorgeous eulogies of the Queen which began to appear
from the time when he began to write. It must be
remembered that the Queen was a beautiful woman when
she first took notice of Bacon as a child, and that she was
a woman of splendid appearance to the last. With his
temperament it is not surprising that her image should
have become the shrine of a poetical worship, and the
embodiment of his ambitions. That he should have
been, to all appearance, quite indifferent about the moral
effect of his adulation is a part of the problem of his
character. His practice was similar in dealing with King
James, but the feminine inspiration has gone, and with it
all the romantic imagery. We pass into a region of


grandiose and melodious sententiousness, and of theo-
logical analogies which in the hands of any other writer
would be so blasphemous as to be revolting ; why it
should not be so in the case of Bacon's writings I do
not know. I do not, however, find it so. It seems to
produce only a sense of wonder or of mild amusement.
I think the explanation probably is that Bacon has in
view not the person, but the idealised image of the
person, which he has set up in his mind, and that this
suggests to him a specialised language, which is used by
him for the most part — and much more than might be
supposed from the nature of it — without conscious
insincerity. The following sentence is a good example
of this habit of mind, which, though apparently suggested
by a passage in a Roman author, is an expression of the
writer's own thought and practice :

Some praises come of good wishes and respects, which is
a form due in civility to kings and great persons, laudando
praecipere ; when by telling men what they are, they represent to
them what they should be. — Essays, " Of Praise."

The stanzas to which these remarks refer are as
follow :

This did that nature's wonder, virtue's choice.

The only paragon of times' begetting,
Divine in words, angelical in voice.

That spring of joys, that flower of love's own setting.

The idea remaining of those golden ages,

That beauty, braving heavens and earth embalming.

Which after worthless worlds but play on stages,

Such didst thou her long since describe, yet sighing

That thy unable spirit could not find aught.

In heaven's beauties or in earth's delight,
For likeness fit to satisfy thy thought :

But what hath it availed thee so to write ?

She cares not for thy praise, who knows not theirs ;

It's now an idle labour, and a tale
Told out of time, that dulls the hearer's ears ;

A merchandize whereof there is no sale.

2 G


Leave them, or lay them up with thy despairs !

She hath resolved, and judged thee long ago.
Thy lines are now a murmuring to her ears.

Like to a falling stream, which, passing slow,

Is wont to nourish sleep and quietness ;

So shall thy painful labours be perused.
And draw on rest, which sometime had regard ;

But those her cares thy errors have excused.

Thy days fordone have had their day's reward ;

So her hard heart, so her estranged mind,
In which above the heavens I once reposed ;

So to thy error have her ears inclined,

And have forgotten all thy past deserving,
Holding in mind but only thine offence ;

And only now affecteth thy depraving,

And thinks all vain that pleadeth thy defence.

Yet greater fancy beauty never bred ;

A more desire the heart-blood never nourished ;
Her sweetness an affection never fed,

Which more in any age hath ever flourished.

The mind and virtue never have begotten

A firmer love, since love on earth had power ;

A love obscured, but cannot be forgotten ;

Too great and strong for time's jaws to devour ;

Containing such a faith as ages wound not,

Care, wakeful ever of her good estate.
Fear, dreading loss, which sighs and joys not,

A memory of the joys her grace begat ;

A lasting gratefulness for those comforts past.
Of which the cordial sweetness cannot die ;

These thoughts, knit up by faith, shall ever last ;
These time assays, but never can untie.

Whose life once lived in her pearl-like breast,
Whose joys were drawn but from her happiness,

Whose heart's high pleasure, and whose mind's true rest.
Proceeded from her fortune's blessedness ;

Who was intentive, wakeful, and dismayed
In fears, in dreams, in feverous jealousy,

Who long in silence served, and obeyed
With secret heart and hidden loyalty.


Which never change to sad adversity,
Which never age, or nature's overthrow,

Which never sickness or deformity,

Which never wasting care or wearing woe,

If subject unto these she could have been, —

Which never words or wits mahcious.

Which never honour's bait, or world's fame,

Achieved by attempts adventurous

Or aught beneath the sun or heaven's frame

Can so dissolve, dissever, or destroy

The essential love of no frail parts compounded,

Though of the same now buried be the joy.

The hope, the comfort, and the sweetness ended,

But that the thoughts and memories of these

Work a relapse of passion, and remain
Of my sad heart the sorrow sucking bees ;

The wrongs received, the frowns persuade in vain.

Every line of this passage seems to me to apply to
Bacon's case. In spite of all his " painful " efforts Queen
Elizabeth had formed the opinion that he was not suitable
for high office. It seems probable from the correspond-
ence given in Chapter XV. that she made his speech in
Parliament partly the pretext for her attitude towards
him, owing to reluctance (for she had a certain sweetness
of nature) to appear to reject him on his merits. More-
over, she continued to use him in unofficial ways.

The writer describes his service and loyalty as " silent,"
" secret " and " hidden " ; mentions his

care wakeful ever of her good estate,

and that he was " intentive, wakeful and dismayed."

In a letter to King James, offering his services in
regard to the King's business in Parliament on the death
of the Lord Treasurer (Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury) in
1612, Bacon writes :

Your Majesty may truly perceive that though I cannot
challenge to myself either invention, or judgment, or elocution, or
method, or any of those powers, yet my offering is care and
observance : and as my good old mistress was wont to call me


her watch-candle, because it pleased her to say I did continually
burn (and yet she suffered me to waste almost to nothing), so I
must much more owe the like duty to your Majesty, by whom my
fortunes have been settled and raised.^

Bacon always took credit for "care" and watchfulness in
forestalling events in the King's service.

It may be said that the reference to "attempts
adventurous " in the passage above quoted is inapplicable
to Bacon. I do not think so, if my view as to his early
writings in advocacy of Western enterprise is correct. It
is also quite possible, and may account to some extent
for his pecuniary embarrassments, that he was an
adventurer in the sense in which the word was used of
those who put money into expeditions. Ralegh, for
instance, did not go to Virginia himself, though, of
course, he did much more than merely find money.

Lastly, the author of the poem refers to the enduring
element in his love, which he describes as " essential love
of no frail parts compounded," ^ and he proceeds to
develop this thought in a philosophic passage of great
beauty :

But in my mind so is her love inclosed.
And is thereof not only the best part.

But into it the essense is disposed :

Oh love ! (the more my woe) to it thou art

Even as the moisture to each plant that grows ;

Even as the sun unto the frozen ground ;
Even as the sweetness to the incarnate rose ;

Even as the centre in each perfect round ;

As water to the fish, to men as air,
As heat to fire, as light unto the sun ;

Oh love ! it is but vain to say thou were ;

Ages and times cannot thy power outrun . . .

1 Spedding, Life, iv. 280. Compare with lliis tlie note in the Comentarius
Solutiis (1608) : " Regularly to know the Ks pleasure before every Term and
agayn before every Vacation, The one for service to be executed, yu other for
service to be p''pared, Tarn otii ratio quam negotii .Q. Kliz. watch candell."
(Spedding, Life, iv. 93.)

Compare also the opening words of his youthful Letter of Advice to Queen
Elizabeth, probably written in 1584: "Care, one of the natural and true-
bred children of unfeigned affection. . . ." (Ibid. '\. 47.)

^ Cf. Spenser's Amoretti, Sonnet Ixxxiii.


Thou art the soul of that unhappy mind

Which, being by nature made an idle thought,

Began even then to take immortal kind,

When first her virtues in thy spirits wrought.

It seems to me that only a very great poet could have
written these lines.

The writer closes the poem with a passage of great
interest and poetical power, though (like Spenser's Com-
plaints) hard to understand in relation to the ostensible
theme and authorship :

Thou lookest for light in vain, and storms arise ;

She sleeps thy death, that erst thy danger sighed ; ^
Strive then no more ; bow down thy weary eyes —

Eyes which to all these woes thy heart have guided.

She is gone, she is lost, she is found, she is ever fair :
Sorrow draws weakly, where love draws not too :

Woe's cries sound nothing, but only in love's ear.
Do then by dying what life cannot do.

Unfold thy flocks and leave them to the fields.
To feed on hills, or dales, where likes them best,

Of what the summer or the spring-time yields.
For love and time hath given thee leave to rest.

Thy heart which was their fold, now in decay
By often storms and winter's many blasts,

All torn and rent becomes misfortune's prey ;

False hope my shepherd's staff, now age hath brast

My pipe, which love's own hand gave my desire

To sing her praises and my woe upon, —
Despair hath often threatened to the fire,

As vain to keep now all the rest are gone.

Thus home I draw, as death's long night draws on ;

Yet every foot, old thoughts turn back mine eyes :
Constraint me guides, as old age draws a stone

Against the hill, which over-weighty lies

For feeble arms or wasted strength to move :
My steps are backward, gazing on my loss,

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 40 of 55)