Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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My mind's affection and my soul's sole love,
Not mixed with fancy's chaff or fortune's dross.

1 A condensation of thought only possible to one practised in the use of
language. The line evidently means that she is indiflferent to his present
outcast condition who formerly sighed when ho ran risks.


To God I leave it, who first gave it me,
And I her gave, and she returned again,

As it was hers ; so let His mercies be
Of my lost comforts the essential mean.

But be it so or not, the effects are past ;
Her love hath end ; my woe must ever last.

With these lines the poem ends and is followed by
an entry, " The end of the books of the * Ocean's Love to
Cynthia,' and the beginning of the 22nd book, entreating
of Sorrow." In this the writer uses the broken stanza
of three lines to which I have referred above (p. 447),
and the MS. abruptly ends in the middle of a phrase
after the seventh stanza. The first two only need be
noticed :

My days' delights my spring-time joy's foredone,
Which in the dawn and rising sun of youth
Had their creation and were first begun,

Do in the evening and the winter sad
Present my mind, which takes my time's account.
The grief remaining of the joy it had.

A similar thought occurs in the former poem :

Witness those withered leaves left on the tree,
The sorrow-vv^orn face, the pensive mind.

Such lines, if written sincerely, are inapplicable to the
case of Ralegh in 1592 or 1593, but they do represent
the mood in which Francis Bacon thought of himself at
that time as "old." Compare Shakespeare, sonnet 73.

The metrical experiment in this poem is an interesting
one. The effect might be described as that of a broken
speech or sob, and the form is used with great effect in
Ralegh's supposed petition to the Queen (Anne of
Denmark) in 16 18, as to which see further at pp. 441
and 458. It is of twelve stanzas, the first four of which
arc as follow :

O had truth power, the guiltless could not fall.
Malice win glory, or revenge triumph ;
But truth alone cannot encounter all.


Mercy is fled to God, which mercy made ;
Compassion dead ; faith turned to policy ;

Friends know not those who sit in sorrow's shade.

For what we sometime were, we are no more :
Fortune hath changed our shape, and destiny
Defaced the very form we had before.

All love, and all desert of former times,
Malice hath covered from my sovereign's eyes,
And largely laid abroad supposed crimes.

Cold walls, to you I speak . . . ^

Another instance of the invention of a new metre for
a poem attributed to Ralegh is referred to in Chapter XIII.

P- 354.

The beautiful poem which follows appears to be a

reproduction in verse of the train of ideas which are
found in Ralegh's fantastic letter about the Queen
written during his imprisonment in 1592; as to which
see the remarks at pp. 425-427 above. It will be noticed
that the image of the " withered tree " recurs, and that
the love is described as of " all my youth " (cf remarks
at p. 438 above) ; also that it contains the "angel" con-
vention (cf. Chapter XIV. and pp. 444, 446, and 449


As you came from the holy land

Of Walsinghame,
Met you not with my true love

By the way as you came .''

How shall I know your true love.

That have met many one,
As I went to the holy land,

That have come, that have gone ?

* Hannah, Courtly Poets, p. 52.

"^ "MS. Rawl. 85, fol. 124; signed as infra, and hence claimed for
Raleigh by Dr. Bliss, Wood's 'A. O.' vol. ii. p. 248, and inserted in the
Oxford edition of Raleigh's ' Works,' vol. viii. p. 733, with the title ' False
Love and True Love.' There is an anonymous copy in Percy's MS., vol. iii.
p. 465, ed. Furnivall ; and it is also in Deloney's 'Garland of Goodwill,'
p. Ill, Percy Society reprint." (Note by Hannah.)


She is neither white nor brown,

But as the heavens fair ;
There is none hath a form so divine

In the earth or the air.

Such a one did I meet, good sir.

Such an angeHc face.
Who Hke a queen, hke a nymph, did appear.

By her gate, by her grace.

She hath left me here all alone,

All alone, as unknown,
Who sometimes did me lead with herself,

And me loved as her own.

What's the cause that she leaves you alone,

And a new way doth take,
Who loved you once as her own.

And her joy did you make ?

I have loved her all my youth.

But now old, as you see :
Love likes not the falling fruit

From the withered tree.

Know that Love is a careless child.

And forgets promise past ;
He is blind, he is deaf when he list.

And in faith never fast.

His desire is a dureless content,

And a trustless joy ;
He is won with a world of despair,

And is lost with a toy.

Of womenkind such indeed is the love,

Or the word love abused.
Under which many childish desires

And conceits are excused.

But true love is a durable fire,

In the mind ever burning,
Never sick, never old, never dead.

From itself never turning.

Sr. W. R.

A perusal of Prebendary Hannah's discrinninating
volume shows how much mystery attaches to the author-
ship of these poems. A more recent discovery, however,


has greatly added to it. It appears that Ralegh's famous
eight-line poem, alleged to have been " found in his
Bible in the Gate-house at Westminster " ' after his
execution in 161 8, is really the last stanza (with two
lines added) of an indecent (though at the same time
philosophical and well-written) poem in MS. entitled " A
Poem of Sir Walter Rawleigh's." The addition of the
two last lines transfers the stanza into a different sphere
of thought, and adapts it to the origin alleged for the
poem. The following are the lines, with some alternative
readings :

Even such is Time, which " takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,

And pays us but with age * and dust,
Who in the dark and silent grave,

When we have wandered all our ways,

Shuts up the story of our days :

But from this earth, this grave, this dust,

My God ^ shall raise me up, I trust !

" that. * earth (the reading adopted by Hannah). "= The Lord.

The poem from which it has now been discovered
that this was taken has six stanzas of six lines each,
and is a lament on the destruction of beauty by time
and decay. The above, without the last two lines, and
beginning " Oh cruell Time," etc., is the last stanza of the

It is in any case incredible that Ralegh could have
found time or detachment of mind for verse composition
on the night before his execution, as may be seen by
reading the account of his trial and last hours in
Edwards' Life. Nor is it conceivable that he would
have troubled himself, even if he was the author of the
original poem, with literary jugglery at such a time. It

* "Printed with Raleigh's ' Prerogative of Parliaments,' 1628, and probably
still earlier ; also with ' To-day a Man, To-morrow none,' 1 643-4 ; in Raleigh's
'Remains,' 1661, &c., with the title given above; and in ' Rel. Wotton,'
1651, &c., with the title, 'Sir Walter Raleigh the night before his death.'
Also found with several variations in many old MS. copies." (Note by
Hannah.) The description of the version at the end of I'he Prerogative 0/
Par/iamenis, 1628, is "The Authours Epitaph, made by himselfe."


is most improbable, however, that he wrote the original
poem, as he appears to have been a man of remarkably
clean mind (see Edwards, i. 541 ; comments on the
History of the World).

Perhaps the explanation of the transformation of the
last stanza of the original poem is to be sought in
the impression produced on men's minds by Ralegh's
demeanour on the scaffold. Under the influence of this
impression the mood of materialism which finds expres-
sion in the unpublished poem may have given place in
the author's mind to different feelings, and in adding
the last two lines to the last stanza he would have been
at once expressing the change of mood in himself, and
enshrining Ralegh in an epitaph which has become
immortal. In so doing he may have regarded it (like
the verse petition to the Queen) as a set-off against his
official action, in which side of his life he was entirely
obsequious to the King. He depended, in fact, for his
position on Buckingham, and he had been imprudent
enough to acknowledge it, and Buckingham, who was
a much stronger character and quite untroubled by
scruples, took care by the tone he adopted towards him
not to let him forget it. Weakness in the face of power,
and a temperament which saw every situation in a sort
of vision of its own creation rather than in the sober
colours of actual life, accounted for much of Bacon's
conduct in this and similar crises of his career.

It may be said that if Ralegh had sufficient versatility
to write the History of the World during his imprison-
ment, he could have written the occasional poems which
pass under his name. But the metrical translations
included in that work and collected in Hannah's volume
are not of a nature or quality to give any indications as
to the author's ability to write original poetry. It is not
certain, however, that Ralegh wrote these, or to what
extent he was the author of the History. Ralegh had
a commanding personality, and had for years held a
great position. Such a man would find little difficulty
in getting other men to help him in any work which


he undertook. There is a memorandum in Bacon's
Comentarhis Solutus (1608) as follows:

The setting on wo. [work] my L of North, and Ralegh, and
therefore Haryott, themselves being already inclined to experim'".^

From this two things may be inferred, that Bacon was
in touch with Ralegh in the Tower, and that Harriot
assisted Ralegh.

The evidence bearing on this subject interspersed
among Aubrey's notes is important, and is as follows :

" Verses W. R. before Spencer's F. Queen."

" He was sometimes a poet, not often. Before Spencer's
Faery Q. is a good copie of verses, which begins thus : —

Methinkes I see the grave wher Laura lay ;

at the bottome W. R. : which, 36 yeares since, I was told were

" He was prisoner in the Tower. . . ."

"He there (besides compiling his History of the World) studyed
chymistry. The Earle of Northumberland was prisoner at the
same time, who was the patrone to Mr. . . . Harriot and Mr.
Warner, two of the best mathematicians in the world, as also Mr.
Hues (who wrote de Globis).'"

" Serjeant Hoskins (the poet) was a prisoner there too."

" When Serjeant Hoskyns was a prisoner in the Tower, he
was Sir Walter's Aristarchus."

"An attorney's father (that did my businesse in Herefordshire,
before I sold it) maryed Dr. Robert Burhill's widdowe. She
sayd that he (Burhill) was a great favourite of Sir Walter Ralegh's
(and, I thinke, had been his chaplayne) : but all or the greatest
part of the drudgery of his booke, for critcismes, chronology,
and reading of Greeke and Hebrew authors, was performed by
him for Sir Walter Ralegh, whose picture my friend haz as part
of the Doctor's goods."

"A person so much immerst in action all along and in
fabrication of his own fortunes, (till his confinement in tlie Tower)
could have but little time to study, but what he could spare in

* Spedding, Life, iv. 63.


the morning. He was no slug : without doubt, had a wonderful
waking spirit and great judgment to guide it."

Some observations bearing on the same subject occur
in the " Notes of Ben Jonson's Conversations with Wilh'am
Drummond of Hawthornden," January 1619 :

"That in that paper S. W. Raughly had of the Allegories of
the Fayrie Queen, by the Elating Beast the Puritans were under-
stood, by the false Duessa the Q. of Scots."

" That Sir W. Raughley esteemed more of fame than
conscience. The best wits of England were employed for
making his Historic. Ben himself had written a piece to him
of the Punick warre, which he altered and set in his booke."

" S. W. hath written the life of Queen Elizabeth, of which
there is copies extant."

References to the discussions on this question will be
found in Hannah's notes, pp. 229, 231.

The theory of a Ralegh " impersonation " which I
have submitted as regards these poems derives further
support from evidence of literary assistance given by
Bacon to Ralegh in his advocacy of the colonisation of
Guiana in i 596.

Having lost the Queen's favour through his marriage,
and becoming restless in retirement, Ralegh turned his
thoughts again to Western discovery, and in 1595 he
took out an expedition to Trinidad and explored part
of the Orinoco. On his return to England he published,
in I 596, an account of his voyage under the following
title :

The Discoverie of the large rich and beautiful Empire of
Guiana, with a relation of the Great and Golden City of Manoa
(which the Spaniards call El Dorado) And the provinces of
Emeria, Arromaia, Amapaia and other Countries, with their
rivers adjoining.

Performed in the yeare 1595 by Sir W. Ralegh Knight,
Captaine of her Majesties Guard, Lo-Warden of the Stanneries


and her Highnesse Lieutenant generall of the Countie of
Cornewall. London, 1596.

The Introductory Epistle, addressed to Lord Charles
Howard and Sir Robert Cecil, is, I believe, largely the
work of Bacon. The object is to win the support of the
Queen for the undertaking and to soften her heart at
the same time towards the disgraced favourite. The
style is quite unlike Ralegh's at any period of his life,
and the images used — the " dead stock," the " winter of
my life " — are those of the poems which I have dealt with
above. The following extracts will sufficiently enable
the reader to judge of the style and contents of the
epistle :

The trial that I had of both your loves, when I was left of
all but of malice and revenge. ... In my more happie times
as I did especially honour you both, so I found that your loves
sought me out in the darkest shadow of adversity. ... It is
true that my errors were great, for they have yeelded verie
greevous effects, and if ought might have been deserved in former
times to have counterpoysed any part of offences, the frute
thereof (as it seemeth) was long before fallen from the tree,
and the dead stocke only remained. I did therefore, even in
the winter of my life, undertake these travels, fitter for boies less
blasted with misfortunes. ... If I had known another way to
win, if I had imagined how greater adventures might have
regained, if I could conceive what further meanes I might yet
use, but even to appease so powerfull displeasure, I would not
doubt but for one yeare more to hold fast my soule in my teeth,
til it were performed. ... I have been accompanyed with
many sorrows, with labour, hunger, heat, sicknes and peril : It
appeareth notwithstand that I made no other bravado of going
to sea, then was ment, and that I was neither hidden in cornwell
or elsewhere, as was supposed. They have grosly belied me,
that forejudged that I wolde rather become a servant to the
Spanish king then return. . . . From myselfe I have deserved
no thankes, for I am returned a begger and withered . . . [and
he proceeds to declare the riches of the countries visited].

^\^ R.

Ralegh's book appears to have failed to excite the
interest in his projects which he hoped for. Also he had
many enemies, and he was attacked for publishing gross


fabrications as to the wealth and natural features of the
countries about which he had written. It was even said
that he had not been there at all. At this stage another
pamphlet appears to have been written, which was first
printed in 1848 by Sir Robert Schomburgk in his
edition of Ralegh's Discovery of Guiana of 1596. Of
this pamphlet Schomburgk writes as follows :

Ralegh continued for some time after his return from Guiana
in an apparent state of banishment from court ; but we learn
from a letter of Rowland Whyte to Sir Robert Sidney that he
lived in great splendour about London. . . . To this period
seems to belong a document, which, though extremely curious,
has hitherto been known only in manuscript. It bears the
simple title " Of the voyage for Guiana," and is preserved among
the MSS. of Sir Hans Sloane in the library of the British Museum.
Although anonymous, it bears so many internal evidences that
we cannot doubt as to its being the production of Sir Walter
Ralegh. . . .

From the statement in the last sentence I dissent.
The style is quite unlike that of Ralegh, being involuted,
copious and allusive, whereas Ralegh's is brief, simple and
direct. It contains an argument to meet scruples which
evidently prevailed in England at that time, similar to
that in the anonymous account of Sir H. Gilbert's
Newfoundland voyage of 1583 (see Chapter XII.), as
to the lawfulness for a Christian people to take possession
of the country of native infidels. Among other reasons
given (illustrated by Biblical analogies) for the occupation
of Guiana occurs the following : " beside that presently it
will stopp the mouthes of the Romish Catholickes, who
vaunt of theyr great adventures for the propogacion of
the gospcll," and the writer adds that

it will add gieate increase of honor, to the memory of her
Majesties name upon earth to all posterity and in the end bee
rewarded with an excellent starlike splendency in the heavens,
which is reserved for them that turne many to righteousnes, as
the Prophet speaketh.

Instances occur of that overwhelming accumulation of
ideas which is so noticeable a feature in the writings of


Bacon and Shakespeare alike. Thus in a passage on the
cruelties of the Spaniards perpetrated on the natives we
find the following :

. . . who would not bee persuaded that now at length the
great judge of the world, hath heard the sighes, grones, lamenta-
cions, teares, and bloud of so many millions of innocent men,
women and children afiicted, robbed, reviled, branded with hot
irons, roasted, dismembred, mangled, stabbed, whipped, racked,
scalded with hott oyle, suet, and hogs-grease, put to the strapado,
ripped alive, beheaded in sport, drowned, dashed against the
rocks, famished, devoured by mastifes, burned and by infinite
crueltyes consumed. . . .

There is nothing remotely resembling this, either in style
or substance, in the Discovery, which seems evidently a
narrative by Ralegh himself; nor, so far as I am able
to discover, in any of Ralegh's other prose works. It
may be noted also that in this piece the significant
phrase occurs, "in my simple judgment."

Schomburgk remarks that " it is evident from the
dedication and the address to the reader, prefixed to the
publication of his voyage, that the intelligence which
Ralegh brought of his discovery did not raise the interest
which he expected. Many of the statements contained
in this remarkable production were treated as fabulous,
and his recommendation to secure the possession of these
fertile regions to England as chimerical." In these
circumstances what could be more natural than that
Ralegh, being a man of action, and distrusting the
advocacy of his own pen, which at that period he had
had little occasion to exercise, should have had recourse
to the services of Bacon, and that the latter should
have written this short treatise in support of Ralegh's
enterprise .''

Owing to an insincerity of tone, and the use made
of the religious motive, the document is not altogether
pleasant reading. I have drawn attention to the same
feature in the discourse about the Gilbert enterprise of


Ralegh's exaggerations probably proceeded, to some

extent, from the sanguine nature of his temperament.


He was also credulous after the manner of the age, and I
think Schomburgk is right when he says : " In a general
sense we have little doubt he fully believed the existence
of these riches at a period when the most learned were
still given to credulity ; and that Ralegh possessed a
great share of it is proved by his History of the World,
where we find sober discussions whether paradise was in
the moon, and whether the ark was lighted by a carbuncle."
Bacon himself was not emancipated from such fantastic
beliefs, as may be seen from sundry passages in his works.
Perhaps as good an instance as any is the following, from
a draft of a speech on a rumour as to the existence of a
party of " undertakers " for the King in Parliament in
16 1 4. He informs the House of Commons, apparently
in good faith, that " it is like the birds of Paradise that
they have in the Indies that have no feet ; and therefore
they never light upon any place, but the wind carries
them away : and such a thing do I take this rumour
to be." ^

As to the fabulous stories in the Discovery, which
Shakespeare glances at in the experiences of Othello :

the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders,

it is to be observed that, though Ralegh professes to
believe them, he does not report them as of his own
knowledge, but bases them on the testimony of the
natives :

Next unto Arui there are two rivers Atoica and Caora, and
on that braunch which is called Caora are a nation of people,
whose heads appeare not above their shoulders, which though it
may be thought a meere fable, yet for mine owne parte I am
resolucd it is true, because every child in the j^rouinces of
Arro/naia and Caniiri affirme the same : they are called
Ewaipanoma : they are reported to have their eyes in their
shoulders, and their mouths in the middle of their breasts, and
that a long train of haire groweth backward bctwcn their

J Spedding, Life, v. 43.


The " cannibals " are also mentioned in the narrative.

I should like now to point out, by some parallels, how
closely Shakespeare seems to follow the circumstances of
Ralegh's courtship and marriage in the play of Othello.
It appears to me probable that we have in that character
a presentment, to some extent, of Ralegh's personality
and temperament, and the villainy of lago may, in that
case, have suggested to the author an analogy with that
shown by Northampton (abetted, as it seems, by Cecil,
though, in his case, perhaps on some conviction of public
interest) in his intrigues against Ralegh, by which, and his
own unguarded speeches (see Aubrey), the mind of James
seems to have been poisoned against him. I refer, of
course, to the treatment. The plot, it appears, was drawn,
more or less, from an Italian tale. It is noteworthy that
the play was produced at the Court in 1604, the year
after Ralegh's sentence.

Ralegh's early life, like Othello's, was passed in war
and hardships, and his story may well have appealed to
Elizabeth Throgmorton. In reading the following passage
in Edwards' Life, the analogy of Othello and Desdemona
at once presents itself:

Her charms subdued Sir Walter Ralegh. The noble presence,
the warlike fame, the ready tongue, the various accomplishments
of such a lover, subdued in turn — and subdued entirely — the
Queen's fair maid of honour. — i. 137.

Compare with this the defence of Othello :

Her father loved me ; oft invited me ;

Still question'd me the story of my life,

From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes,

That I have pass'd.

I ran it through, even from my boyish days,

To the very moment that he bade me tell it ;

Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,

Of moving accidents by flood and field.

Of hair-breadth scapes i' the imminent deadly breach,

Of being taken by the insolent foe

And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence

And portance in my travels' history :

2 H


Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,

Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven,

It was my hint to speak, — such was the process ;

And of the Cannibals that each other eat,

The Anthropophagi and men whose heads

Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear

Would Desdemona seriously incline :

But still the house-affairs would draw her thence :

Which ever as she could with haste dispatch,

She'ld come again, and with a greedy ear

Devour up my discourse : which I observing.

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 41 of 55)