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by Charles Kingsley

Part 2

Of Raleigh's credulity in believing in El Dorado, much has been said. I am sorry to find even so wise a man as Sir Robert Schomburgk, after bearing good testimony to Raleigh's wonderful accuracy about all matters which he had an opportunity of observing, using this term of credulity. I must dare to differ on that point even with Sir Robert, and ask by what right the word is used? First, Raleigh says nothing about El Dorado (as every one is forced to confess) but what Spaniard on Spaniard had been saying for fifty years. Therefore the blame of credulity ought to rest with the Spaniards, from Philip von Huten, Orellano, and George of Spires, upward to Berreo. But it rests really with no one. For nothing, if we will examine the documents, is told of the riches of El Dorado which had not been found to be true, and seen by the eyes of men still living, in Peru and Mexico. Not one-fifth of America had been explored, and already two El Dorados had been found and conquered. What more rational than to suppose that there was a third, a fourth, a fifth, in the remaining four-fifths? The reports of El Dorado among the savages were just of the same kind as those by which Cortez and Pizarro hunted out Mexico and Peru, saving that they were far more widely spread, and confirmed by a succession of adventurers. I entreat readers to examine this matter in Raleigh, Schomburgk, Humboldt, and Condamine, and judge for themselves. As for Hume's accusations, I pass them by as equally silly and shameless, only saying, for the benefit of readers, that they have been refuted completely by every one who has written since Hume's days; and to those who are inclined to laugh at Raleigh for believing in Amazons and 'men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders' I can only answer thus -

About the Amazons, Raleigh told what he was told; what the Spaniards who went before him, and Condamine who came after him, were told. Humboldt thinks the story possibly founded on fact; and I must say that, after reviewing all that has been said thereon, it does seem to me the simplest solution of the matter just to believe it true; to believe that there was, about his time, or a little before, somewhere about the Upper Orinoco, a warlike community of women. Humboldt shows how likely such would be to spring up where women flee from their male tyrants into the forests. As for the fable which connected them with the Lake Manoa and the city of El Dorado, we can only answer, 'If not true there and then, it is true elsewhere now'; for the Amazonian guards of the King of Dahomey at this moment, as all know, surpass in strangeness and in ferocity all that has been reported of the Orinocquan viragos, and thus prove once more that truth is stranger than fiction. 3

Beside--and here I stand stubborn, regardless of gibes and sneers--it is not yet proven that there was not, in the sixteenth century, some rich and civilised kingdom like Peru or Mexico in the interior of South America. Sir Robert Schomburgk has disproved the existence of Lake Parima; but it will take a long time, and more explorers than one, to prove that there are no ruins of ancient cities, such as Stephens stumbled on in Yucatan, still buried in the depths of the forest. Fifty years of ruin would suffice to wrap them in a leafy veil which would hide them from every one who did not literally run against them. Tribes would die out, or change place, as the Atures and other great nations have done in those parts, and every traditional record of them perish gradually; for it is only gradually and lately that it has perished: while if it be asked, What has become of the people themselves? the answer is, that when any race (like most of the American races in the sixteenth century) is in a dying state, it hardly needs war to thin it down, and reduce the remnant to savagery. Greater nations than El Dorado was even supposed to be have vanished ere now, and left not a trace behind: and so may they. But enough of this. I leave the quarrel to that honest and patient warder of tourneys, Old Time, who will surely do right at last, and go on to the dogheaded worthies, without necks, and long hair hanging down behind, who, as a cacique told Raleigh, that 'they had of late years slain many hundreds of his father's people,' and in whom even Humboldt was not always allowed, he says, to disbelieve (so much for Hume's scoff at Raleigh as a liar), one old cacique boasting to him that he had seen them with his own eyes. Humboldt's explanation is, that the Caribs, being the cleverest and strongest Indians, are also the most imaginative; and therefore, being fallen children of Adam, the greatest liars; and that they invented both El Dorado and the dog-heads out of pure wickedness. Be it so. But all lies crystallise round some nucleus of truth; and it really seems to me nothing very wonderful if the story should be on the whole true, and these worthies were in the habit of dressing themselves up, like foolish savages as they were, in the skins of the Aguara dog, with what not of stuffing, and tails, and so forth, in order to astonish the weak minds of the Caribs, just as the Red Indians dress up in their feasts as bears, wolves, and deer, with foxtails, false bustles of bison skin, and so forth. There are plenty of traces of such foolish attempts at playing 'bogy' in the history of savages, even of our own Teutonic forefathers; and this I suspect to be the simple explanation of the whole mare's nest. As for Raleigh being a fool for believing it; the reasons he gives for believing it are very rational; the reasons Hume gives for calling him a fool rest merely on the story's being strange: on which grounds one might disbelieve most matters in heaven and earth, from one's own existence to what one sees in every drop of water under the microscope, yea, to the growth of every seed. The only sound proof that dog-headed men are impossible is to be found in comparative anatomy, a science of which Hume knew no more than Raleigh, and which for one marvel it has destroyed has revealed a hundred. I do not doubt that if Raleigh had seen and described a kangaroo, especially its all but miraculous process of gestation, Hume would have called that a lie also; but I will waste no more time in proving that no man is so credulous as the unbeliever--the man who has such mighty and world-embracing faith in himself that he makes his own little brain the measure of the universe. Let the dead bury their dead.

Raleigh sails for Guiana. The details of his voyage should be read at length. Everywhere they show the eye of a poet as well as of a man of science. He sees enough to excite his hopes more wildly than ever; he goes hundreds of miles up the Orinoco in an open boat, suffering every misery, but keeping up the hearts of his men, who cry out, 'Let us go on, we care not how far.' He makes friendship with the caciques, and enters into alliance with them on behalf of Queen Elizabeth against the Spaniards. Unable to pass the falls of the Caroli, and the rainy season drawing on, he returns, beloved and honoured by all the Indians, boasting that, during the whole time he was there, no woman was the worse for any man of his crew. Altogether, we know few episodes of history so noble, righteous, and merciful as this Guiana voyage. But he has not forgotten the Spaniards. At Trinidad he payed his ships with the asphalt of the famous Pitch-lake, and stood--and with what awe such a man must have stood--beneath the noble forest of Moriche fan-palms on its brink. He then attacked, not, by his own confession, without something too like treachery, the new town of San Jose, takes Berreo prisoner, and delivers from captivity five caciques, whom Berreo kept bound in one chain, 'basting their bodies with burning bacon'--an old trick of the Conquistadores--to make them discover their gold. He tells them that he was 'the servant of a Queen who was the greatest cacique of the north, and a virgin; who had more caciqui under her than there were trees on that island; that she was an enemy of the Castellani (Spaniards) in behalf of their tyranny and oppression, and that she delivered all such nations about her as were by them oppressed, and having freed all the coast of the northern world from their servitude, had sent me to free them also, and withal to defend the country of Guiana from their invasion and conquest.' After which perfectly true and rational speech, he subjoins (as we think equally honestly and rationally), 'I showed them her Majesty's picture, which they so admired and honoured, as it had been easy to have brought them idolaters thereof.'

This is one of the stock charges against Raleigh, at which all biographers (except quiet, sensible Oldys, who, dull as he is, is far more fair and rational than most of his successors) break into virtuous shrieks of 'flattery,' 'meanness,' 'adulation,' 'courtiership,' and so forth. One biographer is of opinion that the Indians would have admired far more the picture of a 'red monkey.' Sir Robert Schomburgk, unfortunately for the red monkey theory, though he quite agrees that Raleigh's flattery was very shocking, says that from what he knows--and no man knows more--of Indian taste, they would have far preferred to the portrait which Raleigh showed them--not a red monkey, but--such a picture as that at Hampton Court, in which Elizabeth is represented in a fantastic court dress. Raleigh, it seems, must be made out a rogue at all risks, though by the most opposite charges. The monkey theory is answered, however, by Sir Robert; and Sir Robert is answered, I think, by the plain fact that, of course, Raleigh's portrait was exactly such a one as Sir Robert says they would have admired; a picture probably in a tawdry frame, representing Queen Bess, just as queens were always painted then, bedizened with 'browches, pearls, and owches,' satin and ruff, and probably with crown on head and sceptre in hand, made up, as likely as not, expressly for the purpose for which it was used. In the name of all simplicity and honesty, I ask, why is Raleigh to be accused of saying that the Indians admired Queen Elizabeth's beauty when he never even hints at it? And why do all commentators deliberately forget the preceding paragraph--Raleigh's proclamation to the Indians, and the circumstances under which it was spoken? The Indians are being murdered, ravished, sold for slaves, basted with burning fat; and grand white men come like avenging angels, and in one day sweep their tyrants out of the land, restore them to liberty and life, and say to them, 'A great Queen far across the seas has sent us to do this. Thousands of miles away she has heard of your misery and taken pity on you; and if you will be faithful to her she will love you, and deal justly with you, and protect you against these Spaniards who are devouring you as they have devoured all the Indians round you; and for a token of it--a sign that we tell you truth, and that there is really such a great Queen, who is the Indian's friend--here is the picture of her.' What wonder if the poor idolatrous creatures had fallen down and worshipped the picture- -just as millions do that of the Virgin Mary without a thousandth part as sound and practical reason--as that of a divine, all-knowing, all-merciful deliverer? As for its being the picture of a beautiful woman or not, they would never think of that. The fair complexion and golden hair would be a sign to them that she belonged to the mighty white people, even if there were no bedizenment of jewels and crowns over and above; and that would be enough for them. When will biographers learn to do common justice to their fellow-men by exerting now and then some small amount of dramatic imagination, just sufficient to put themselves for a moment in the place of those of whom they write?

So ends his voyage, in which, he says, 'from myself I have deserved no thanks, for I am returned a beggar and withered.' The only thing which, as far as I can find, he brought home was some of the delicious scaly peaches of the Moriche palm--the Arbol de Vida, or tree of life, which gives sustenance and all else needful to whole tribes of Indians. 'But I might have bettered my poor estate if I had not only respected her Majesty's future honour and riches. It became not the former fortune in which I once lived to go journeys of piccory' (pillage); 'and it had sorted ill with the offices of honour which, by her Majesty's grace, I hold this day in England, to run from cape to cape and place to place for the pillage of ordinary prizes.'

So speaks one whom it has been the fashion to consider as little better than a pirate, and that, too, in days when the noblest blood in England thought no shame (as indeed it was no shame) to enrich themselves with Spanish gold. But so it is throughout this man's life. If there be a nobler word than usual to be spoken, or a more wise word either, if there be a more chivalrous deed to be done, or a more prudent deed either, that word and that deed are pretty sure to be Walter Raleigh's.

But the blatant beast has been busy at home; and, in spite of Chapman's heroical verses, he meets with little but cold looks. Never mind. If the world will not help to do the deed, he will do it by himself; and no time must be lost, for the Spaniards on their part will lose none. So, after six months, the faithful Keymis sails again, again helped by the Lord High Admiral and Sir Robert Cecil. It is a hard race for one private man against the whole power and wealth of Spain; and the Spaniard has been beforehand with them, and re-occupied the country. They have fortified themselves at the mouth of the Caroli, so it is impossible to get to the gold mines; they are enslaving the wretched Indians, carrying off their women, intending to transplant some tribes and to expel others, and arming cannibal tribes against the inhabitants. All is misery and rapine; the scattered remnant comes asking piteously why Raleigh does not come over to deliver them? Have the Spaniards slain him, too? Keymis comforts them as he best can; hears of more gold mines; and gets back safe, a little to his own astonishment; for eight-and-twenty ships of war have been sent to Trinidad to guard the entrance to El Dorado, not surely, as Keymis well says, 'to keep us only from tobacco.' A colony of 500 persons is expected from Spain. The Spaniard is well aware of the richness of the prize, says Keymis, who all through shows himself a worthy pupil of his master. A careful, observant man he seems to have been, trained by that great example to overlook no fact, even the smallest. He brings home lists of rivers, towns, caciques, poison-herbs, words, what not; he has fresh news of gold, spleen-stones, kidney-stones, and some fresh specimens; but be that as it may, he, 'without going as far as his eyes can warrant, can promise Brazil-wood, honey, cotton, balsamum, and drugs, to defray charges.' He would fain copy Raleigh's style, too, and 'whence his lamp had oil, borrow light also,' 'seasoning his unsavoury speech' with some of the 'leaven of Raleigh's discourse.' Which, indeed, he does even to little pedantries and attempts at classicality; and after professing that himself and the remnant of his few years he hath bequeathed wholly to Raleana, and his thoughts live only in that action, he rises into something like grandeur when he begins to speak of that ever-fertile subject, the Spanish cruelties to the Indians; 'Doth not the cry of the poor succourless ascend unto the heavens? Hath God forgotten to be gracious to the work of his own hands. Or shall not his judgments in a day of visitation by the ministry of his chosen servant come upon these bloodthirsty butchers, like rain into a fleece of wool?' Poor Keymis! To us he is by no means the least beautiful figure in this romance; a faithful, diligent, loving man, unable, as the event proved, to do great deeds by himself, but inspired with a great idea by contact with a mightier spirit, to whom he clings through evil report, and poverty, and prison, careless of self to the last, and ends tragically, 'faithful unto death' in the most awful sense.

But here remark two things: first, that Cecil believes in Raleigh's Guiana scheme; next, that the occupation of Orinoco by the Spaniards, which Raleigh is accused of having concealed from James in 1617, has been ever since 1595 matter of the most public notoriety.

Raleigh has not been idle in the meanwhile. It has been found necessary after all to take the counsel which he gave in vain in 1588, to burn the Spanish fleet in harbour; and the heroes are gone down to Cadiz fight, and in one day of thunder storm the Sevastopol of Spain. Here, as usual, we find Raleigh, though in an inferior command, leading the whole by virtue of superior wisdom. When the good Lord Admiral will needs be cautious, and land the soldiers first, it is Raleigh who persuades him to force his way into the harbour, to the joy of all captains. When hotheaded Essex, casting his hat into the sea for joy, shouts 'Intramos,' and will in at once, Raleigh's time for caution comes, and he persuades them to wait till the next morning, and arrange the order of attack. That, too, Raleigh has to do, and moreover to lead it; and lead it he does. Under the forts are seventeen galleys; the channel is 'scoured' with cannon: but on holds Raleigh's 'Warspite,' far ahead of the rest, through the thickest of the fire, answering forts and galleys 'with a blur of the trumpet to each piece, disdaining to shoot at those esteemed dreadful monsters.' For there is a nobler enemy ahead. Right in front lie the galleons; and among them the 'Philip' and the 'Andrew,' two of those who boarded the 'Revenge.' This day there shall be a reckoning for the blood of his old friend; he is 'resolved to be revenged for the "Revenge,"' Sir Richard Grenvile's fatal ship, or second her with his own life'; and well he keeps his vow. Three hours pass of desperate valour, during which, so narrow is the passage, only seven English ships, thrusting past each other, all but quarrelling in their noble rivalry, engage the whole Spanish fleet of fifty-seven sail, and destroy it utterly. The 'Philip' and 'Thomas' burn themselves despairing. The English boats save the 'Andrew' and 'Matthew.' One passes over the hideous record. 'If any man,' says Raleigh, 'had a desire to see hell itself, it was there most lively figured.' Keymis's prayer is answered in part, even while he writes it; and the cry of the Indians has not ascended in vain before the throne of God!

The soldiers are landed; the city stormed and sacked, not without mercies and courtesies, though, to women and unarmed folk, which win the hearts of the vanquished, and live till this day in well-known ballads. The Flemings begin a 'merciless slaughter.' Raleigh and the Lord Admiral beat them off. Raleigh is carried on shore with a splinter wound in the leg, which lames him for life: but returns on board in an hour in agony; for there is no admiral left to order the fleet, and all are run headlong to the sack. In vain he attempts to get together sailors the following morning, and attack the Indian fleet in Porto Real Roads; within twenty-four hours it is burnt by the Spaniards themselves; and all Raleigh wins is no booty, a lame leg, and the honour of having been the real author of a victory even more glorious than that of 1588.

So he returns; having written to Cecil the highest praises of Essex, whom he treats with all courtesy and fairness; which those who will may call cunning: we have as good a right to say that he was returning good for evil. There were noble qualities in Essex. All the world gave him credit for them, and far more than he deserved; why should not Raleigh have been just to him; even have conceived, like the rest of the world, high hopes of him, till he himself destroyed these hopes? For now storms are rising fast. On their return Cecil is in power. He has been made Secretary of State instead of Bodley, Essex's pet, and the spoilt child begins to sulk. On which matter, I am sorry to say, historians talk much unwisdom, about Essex's being too 'open and generous, etc., for a courtier,' and 'presuming on his mistress's passion for him'; and representing Elizabeth as desiring to be thought beautiful, and 'affecting at sixty the sighs, loves, tears, and tastes of a girl of sixteen,' and so forth. It is really time to get rid of some of this fulsome talk, culled from such triflers as Osborne, if not from the darker and fouler sources of Parsons and the Jesuit slanderers, which I meet with a flat denial. There is simply no proof. She in love with Essex or Cecil? Yes, as a mother with a son. Were they not the children of her dearest and most faithful servants, men who had lived heroic lives for her sake? What wonder if she fancied that she saw the fathers in the sons? They had been trained under her eye. What wonder if she fancied that they could work as their fathers worked before them? And what shame if her childless heart yearned over them with unspeakable affection, and longed in her old age to lay her hands upon the shoulders of those two young men, and say to England, 'Behold the children which God, and not the flesh, has given me!' Most strange it is, too, that women, who ought at least to know a woman's heart, have been especially forward in publishing these scandals, and sullying their pages by retailing pruriences against such a one as Queen Elizabeth.

But to return. Raleigh attaches himself to Cecil; and he has good reason. Cecil is the cleverest man in England, saving himself. He has trusted and helped him, too, in two Guiana voyages; so the connection is one of gratitude as well as prudence. We know not whether he helped him in the third Guiana voyage in the same year, under Captain Berry, a north Devon man, from Grenvile's country; who found a 'mighty folk,' who were 'something pleasant, having drunk much that day,' and carried bows with golden handles: but failed in finding the Lake Parima, and so came home.

Raleigh's first use of his friendship with Cecil is to reconcile him, to the astonishment of the world, with Essex, alleging how much good may grow by it; for now 'the Queen's continual unquietness will grow to contentment.' That, too, those who will may call policy. We have as good a right to call it the act of a wise and faithful subject, and to say, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.' He has his reward for it in full restoration to the Queen's favour; he deserves it. He proves himself once more worthy of power, and it is given to him. Then there is to be a second great expedition: but this time its aim is the Azores. Philip, only maddened by the loss at Cadiz, is preparing a third armament for the invasion of England and Ireland, and it is said to lie at the islands to protect the Indian fleet. Raleigh has the victualling of the land-forces, and, like everything else he takes in hand, 'it is very well done.' Lord Howard declines the chief command, and it is given to Essex. Raleigh is to be rear-admiral.

By the time they reach the Azores, Essex has got up a foolish quarrel against Raleigh for disrespect in having stayed behind to bring up some stragglers. But when no Armada is to be found at the Azores, Essex has after all to ask Raleigh what he shall do next. Conquer the Azores, says Raleigh, and the thing is agreed on. Raleigh and Essex are to attack Fayal. Essex sails away before Raleigh has watered. Raleigh follows as fast as he can, and at Fayal finds no Essex. He must water there, then and at once. His own veterans want him to attack forthwith, for the Spaniards are fortifying fast: but he will wait for Essex. Still no Essex comes. Raleigh attempts to water, is defied, finds himself 'in for it,' and takes the island out of hand in the most masterly fashion, to the infuriation of Essex. Good Lord Howard patches up the matter, and the hot-headed coxcomb is once more pacified. They go on to Graciosa, where Essex's weakness of will again comes out, and he does not take the island. Three rich Caracks, however, are picked up. 'Though we shall be little the better for them,' says Raleigh privately to Sir Arthur Gorges, his faithful captain, 'yet I am heartily glad for our General's sake; because they will in great measure give content to her Majesty, so that there may be no repining against this poor Lord for the expense of the voyage.'

Raleigh begins to see that Essex is only to be pitied; that the voyage is not over likely to end well: but he takes it, in spite of ill-usage, as a kind-hearted man should. Again Essex makes a fool of himself. They are to steer one way in order to intercept the Plate- fleet. Essex having agreed to the course pointed out, alters his course on a fancy; then alters it a second time, though the hapless Monson, with the whole Plate-fleet in sight, is hanging out lights, firing guns, and shrieking vainly for the General, who is gone on a new course, in which he might have caught the fleet after all, in spite of his two mistakes, but that he chooses to go a roundabout way instead of a short one; and away goes the whole fleet, save one Carack, which runs itself on shore and burns, and the game is played out and lost.

All want Essex to go home, as the season is getting late: but the wilful and weak man will linger still, and while he is hovering to the south, Philip's armament has sailed from the Groyne, on the undefended shores of England, and only God's hand saves us from the effects of Essex's folly. A third time the Armadas of Spain are overwhelmed by the avenging tempests, and Essex returns to disgrace, having proved himself at once intemperate and incapable. Even in coming home there is confusion, and Essex is all but lost on the Bishop and Clerks, by Scilly, in spite of the warnings of Raleigh's sailing-master, 'Old Broadbent,' who is so exasperated at the general stupidity that he wants Raleigh to leave Essex and his squadron to get out of their own scrape as they can.

Essex goes off to sulk at Wanstead; but Vere excuses him, and in a few days he comes back, and will needs fight good Lord Howard for being made Earl of Nottingham for his services against the Armada and at Cadiz. Baulked of this, he begins laying the blame of the failure at the Azores on Raleigh. Let the spoilt naughty boy take care; even that 'admirable temper' for which Raleigh is famed may be worn out at last.

These years are Raleigh's noon--stormy enough at best, yet brilliant. There is a pomp about him, outward and inward, which is terrible to others, dangerous to himself. One has gorgeous glimpses of that grand Durham House of his, with its carvings and its antique marbles, armorial escutcheons, 'beds with green silk hangings and legs like dolphins, overlaid with gold': and the man himself, tall, beautiful, and graceful, perfect alike in body and in mind, walking to and fro, his beautiful wife upon his arm, his noble boy beside his knee, in his 'white satin doublet, embroidered with pearls, and a great chain of pearls about his neck,' lording it among the lords with an 'awfulness and ascendency above other mortals,' for which men say that 'his naeve is, that he is damnable proud'; and no wonder. The reduced squire's younger son has gone forth to conquer the world; and he fancies, poor fool, that he has conquered it, just as it really has conquered him; and he will stand now on his blood and his pedigree (no bad one either), and all the more stiffly because puppies like Lord Oxford, who instead of making their fortunes have squandered them, call him 'jack and upstart,' and make impertinent faces while the Queen is playing the virginals, about 'how when jacks go up, heads go down.' Proud? No wonder if the man be proud! 'Is not this great Babylon, which I have built?' And yet all the while he has the most affecting consciousness that all this is not God's will, but the will of the flesh; that the house of fame is not the house of God; that its floor is not the rock of ages, but the sea of glass mingled with fire, which may crack beneath him any moment, and let the nether flame burst up. He knows that he is living in a splendid lie; that he is not what God meant him to be. He longs to flee away and be at peace. It is to this period, not to his death- hour, that 'The Lie' belongs; {4} saddest of poems, with its melodious contempt and life-weariness. All is a lie--court, church, statesmen, courtiers, wit and science, town and country, all are shams; the days are evil; the canker is at the root of all things; the old heroes are dying one by one; the Elizabethan age is rotting down, as all human things do, and nothing is left but to bewail with Spenser 'The Ruins of Time'; the glory and virtue which have been-- the greater glory and virtue which might be even now, if men would but arise and repent, and work righteousness, as their fathers did before them. But no. Even to such a world as this he will cling, and flaunt it about as captain of the guard in the Queen's progresses and masques and pageants, with sword-belt studded with diamonds and rubies, or at tournaments, in armour of solid silver, and a gallant train with orange-tawny feathers, provoking Essex to bring in a far larger train in the same colours, and swallow up Raleigh's pomp in his own, so achieving that famous 'feather triumph' by which he gains little but bad blood and a good jest. For Essex is no better tilter than he is general; and having 'run very ill' in his orange-tawny, comes next day in green, and runs still worse, and yet is seen to be the same cavalier; whereon a spectator shrewdly observes that he changed his colours 'that it may be reported that there was one in green who ran worse than he in orange-tawny.' But enough of these toys, while God's handwriting is upon the wall above all heads.

Raleigh knows that the handwriting is there. The spirit which drove him forth to Virginia and Guiana is fallen asleep: but he longs for Sherborne and quiet country life, and escapes thither during Essex's imprisonment, taking Cecil's son with him, and writes as only he can write about the shepherd's peaceful joys, contrasted with 'courts' and 'masques' and 'proud towers' -

'Here are no false entrapping baits
Too hasty for too hasty fates,
Unless it be
The fond credulity
Of silly fish, that worlding who still look Upon the bait, but never on the hook; Nor envy, unless among
The birds, for prize of their sweet song.

'Go! let the diving negro seek
For pearls hid in some forlorn creek,
We all pearls scorn,
Save what the dewy morn
Congeals upon some little spire of grass, Which careless shepherds beat down as they pass And gold ne'er here appears
Save what the yellow Ceres bears.'

Tragic enough are the after scenes of Raleigh's life: but most tragic of all are these scenes of vain-glory, in which he sees the better part, and yet chooses the worse, and pours out his self- discontent in song which proves the fount of delicacy and beauty which lies pure and bright beneath the gaudy artificial crust. What might not this man have been! And he knows that too. The stately rooms of Durham House pall on him, and he delights to hide up in his little study among his books and his chemical experiments, and smoke his silver pipe, and look out on the clear Thames and the green Surrey hills, and dream about Guiana and the Tropics; or to sit in the society of antiquaries with Selden and Cotton, Camden and Stow; or in his own Mermaid Club, with Ben Jonson, Fletcher, Beaumont, and at last with Shakspeare's self to hear and utter

'Words that have been
So nimble, and so full of subtle flame, As if that every one from whom they came Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest.'

Anything to forget the handwriting on the wall, which will not be forgotten. But he will do all the good which he can meanwhile, nevertheless. He will serve God and Mammon. So complete a man will surely be able to do both. Unfortunately the thing is impossible, as he discovers too late: but he certainly goes as near success in the attempt as ever man did. Everywhere we find him doing justly and loving mercy. Wherever this man steps he leaves his footprint ineffaceably in deeds of benevolence. For one year only, it seems, he is governor of Jersey; yet to this day, it is said, the islanders honour his name, only second to that of Duke Rollo, as their great benefactor, the founder of their Newfoundland trade. In the west country he is 'as a king,' 'with ears and mouth always open to hear and deliver their grievances, feet and hands ready to go and work their redress.' The tin-merchants have become usurers 'of fifty in the hundred.' Raleigh works till he has put down their 'abominable and cut-throat dealing.' There is a burdensome west-country tax on curing fish; Raleigh works till it is revoked. In Parliament he is busy with liberal measures, always before his generation. He puts down a foolish act for compulsory sowing of hemp in a speech on the freedom of labour worthy of the nineteenth century. He argues against raising the subsidy from the three-pound men--'Call you this, Mr. Francis Bacon, par jugum, when a poor man pays as much as a rich?' He is equally rational and spirited against the exportation of ordnance to the enemy; and when the question of abolishing monopolies is mooted he has his wise word. He too is a monopolist of tin, as Lord Warden of the Stannaries. But he has so wrought as to bring good out of evil; for 'before the granting of his patent, let the price of tin be never so high, the poor workman never had but two shillings a week'; yet now, so has he extended and organised the tin- works, 'that any man who will can find work, be tin at what price soever, and have four shillings a week truly paid . . . Yet if all others may be repealed, I will give my consent as freely to the cancelling of this as any member of this house.' Most of the monopolies were repealed: but we do not find that Raleigh's was among them. Why should it be if its issue was more tin, full work, and double wages? In all things this man approves himself faithful in his generation. His sins are not against man, but against God; such as the world thinks no sins, and hates them, not from morality, but from envy.

In the meanwhile, the evil which, so Spenser had prophesied, only waited Raleigh's death breaks out in his absence, and Ireland is all aflame with Tyrone's rebellion. Raleigh is sent for. He will not accept the post of Lord Deputy and go to put it down. Perhaps he does not expect fair play as long as Essex is at home. Perhaps he knows too much of the 'common weal, or rather common woe,' and thinks that what is crooked cannot be made straight. Perhaps he is afraid to lose by absence his ground at court. Would that he had gone, for Ireland's sake and his own. However, it must not be. Ormond is recalled, and Knollys shall be sent: but Essex will have none but Sir George Carew; whom, Naunton says, he hates, and wishes to oust from court. He and Elizabeth argue it out. He turns his back on her, and she gives him--or does not give him, for one has found so many of these racy anecdotes vanish on inspection into simple wind, that one believes none of them--a box on the ear; which if she did, she did the most wise, just, and practical thing which she could do with such a puppy. He claps his hand--or does not--to his sword, 'He would not have taken it from Henry VIII.,' and is turned out forthwith. In vain Egerton, the Lord Keeper, tries to bring him to reason. He storms insanely. Every one on earth is wrong but he: every one is conspiring against him; he talks of 'Solomon's fool' too. Had he read the Proverbs a little more closely, he might have left the said fool alone, as being a too painfully exact likeness of himself. It ends by his being worsted, and Raleigh rising higher than ever.

I cannot see why Raleigh should be represented as henceforth becoming Essex's 'avowed enemy,' save on the ground that all good men are and ought to be the enemies of bad men, when they see them about to do harm, and to ruin the country. Essex is one of the many persons upon whom this age has lavished a quantity of sentimentality, which suits oddly enough with its professions of impartiality. But there is an impartiality which ends in utter injustice; which by saying carelessly to every quarrel, 'Both are right, and both are wrong,' leaves only the impression that all men are wrong, and ends by being unjust to every one. So has Elizabeth and Essex's quarrel been treated. There was some evil in Essex; therefore Elizabeth was a fool for liking him. There was some good in Essex; therefore Elizabeth was cruel in punishing him. This is the sort of slipshod dilemma by which Elizabeth is proved to be wrong, even while Essex is confessed to be wrong too; while the patent facts of the case are, that Elizabeth bore with him as long as she could, and a great deal longer than any one else could. Why Raleigh should be accused of helping to send Essex into Ireland, I do not know. Camden confesses (at the same time that he gives a hint of the kind) that Essex would let no one go but himself. And if this was his humour, one can hardly wonder at Cecil and Raleigh, as well as Elizabeth, bidding the man begone and try his hand at government, and be filled with the fruit of his own devices. He goes; does nothing; or rather worse than nothing; for in addition to the notorious ill-management of the whole matter, we may fairly say that he killed Elizabeth. She never held up her head again after Tyrone's rebellion. Elizabeth still clings to him, changing her mind about him every hour, and at last writes him such a letter as he deserves. He has had power, money, men, such as no one ever had before. Why has he done nothing but bring England to shame? He comes home frantically--the story of his bursting into the dressing-room rests on no good authority--with a party of friends at his heels, leaving Ireland to take care of itself. Whatever entertainment he met with from the fond old woman, he met with the coldness which he deserved from Raleigh and Cecil. Who can wonder? What had he done to deserve aught else? But he all but conquers; and Raleigh takes to his bed in consequence, sick of the whole matter; as one would have been inclined to do oneself. He is examined and arraigned; writes a maudlin letter to Elizabeth. Elizabeth has been called a fool for listening to such pathetical 'love letters': and then hardhearted for not listening to them. Poor Lady! do what she would, she found it hard enough to please all parties while alive; must she be condemned over and above in aeternum to be wrong whatsoever she did? Why is she not to have the benefit of the plain straightforward interpretation which would be allowed to any other human being; namely, that she approved of such fine talk as long as it was proved to be sincere by fine deeds: but that when these were wanting, the fine talk became hollow, fulsome, a fresh cause of anger and disgust? Yet still she weeps over Essex when he falls sick, as any mother would; and would visit him if she could with honour. But a 'malignant influence counteracts every disposition to relent.' No doubt, a man's own folly, passion, and insolence has generally a very malignant influence on his fortunes; and he may consider himself a very happy man if all that befalls to him thereby is what befell Essex, namely, deprivation of his offices and imprisonment in his own house. He is forgiven after all; but the spoilt child refuses his bread and butter without sugar. What is the pardon to him without a renewal of his licence of sweet wines? Because he is not to have that, the Queen's 'conditions are as crooked as her carcase.' Flesh and blood can stand no more, and ought to stand no more. After all that Elizabeth has been to him, that speech is the speech of a brutal and ungrateful nature. And such he shows himself to be in the hour of trial. What if the patent for sweet wines is refused him? Such gifts were meant as the reward of merit; and what merit has he to show? He never thinks of that. Blind with fury, he begins to intrigue with James, and slanders to him, under colour of helping his succession, all whom he fancies opposed to him. What is worse, he intrigues with Tyrone about bringing over an army of Irish Papists to help him against the Queen, and this at the very time that his sole claim to popularity rests on his being the leader of the Puritans. A man must have been very far gone, either in baseness or in hatred, who represents Raleigh to James as dangerous to the commonweal on account of his great power in the west of England and Jersey, 'places fit for the Spaniard to land in.' Cobham, as Warden of the Cinque Ports, is included in his slander; and both he and Raleigh will hear of it again.

Some make much of a letter, supposed to be written about this time by Raleigh to Cecil, bidding Cecil keep down Essex, even crush him, now that he is once down. I do not happen to think the letter to be Raleigh's. His initials are subscribed to it; but not his name and the style is not like his. But as for seeing 'unforgiveness and revenge in it,' whose soever it may be, I hold and say there is not a word which can bear such a construction. It is a dark letter: but about a dark matter and a dark man. It is a worldly and expediential letter, appealing to low motives in Cecil, though for a right end; such a letter, in short, as statesmen are wont to write nowadays. If Raleigh wrote it, God punished him for doing so speedily enough. He does not usually punish statesmen nowadays for such letters; perhaps because He does not love them as well as Raleigh. But as for the letter itself. Essex is called a 'tyrant,' because he had shown himself one. The Queen is to 'hold Bothwell,' because 'while she hath him, he will even be the canker of her estate and safety,' and the writer has 'seen the last of her good days and of ours after his liberty.' On which accounts, Cecil is not to be deterred from doing what is right and necessary 'by any fear of after-revenges' and 'conjectures from causes remote,' as many a stronger instance--given- -will prove, but 'look to the present,' and so 'do wisely.' There is no real cause for Cecil's fear. If the man who has now lost a power which he ought never to have had be now kept down, then neither he nor his son will ever be able to harm the man who has kept him at his just level. What 'revenge, selfishness, and craft' there can be in all this it is difficult to see; as difficult as to see why Essex is to be talked of as 'unfortunate,' and the blame of his frightful end thrown on every one but himself: the fact being that Essex's end was brought on by his having chosen one Sunday morning for breaking out into open rebellion, for the purpose of seizing the city of London and the Queen's person, and compelling her to make him lord and master of the British Isles; in which attempt he and his fought with the civil and military authorities, till artillery had to be brought up and many lives were lost. Such little escapades may be pardonable enough in 'noble and unfortunate' earls: but readers will perhaps agree that if they chose to try a similar experiment, they could not complain if they found themselves shortly after in company with Mr. Mitchell at Spike Island or Mr. Oxford in Bedlam. However, those were days in which such Sabbath amusements on the part of one of the most important and powerful personages of the realm could not be passed over so lightly, especially when accompanied by severe loss of life; and as there existed in England certain statutes concerning rebellion and high treason, which must needs have been framed for some purpose or other, the authorities of England may be excused for fancying that they bore some reference to such acts as that which the noble and unfortunate earl had just committed, as wantonly, selfishly, and needlessly, it seems to me, as ever did man on earth.

I may seem to jest too much upon so solemn a matter as the life of a human being: but if I am not to touch the popular talk about Essex in this tone, I can only touch it in a far sterner one; and if ridicule is forbidden, express disgust instead.

Sir Walter Raleigh - Part 1
Sir Walter Raleigh - Part 2
Sir Walter Raleigh - Part 3

The Discovery of Guiana

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