England's Antiphon

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Before this world's great frame, in which all things

Are now contained, found any being place,

Ere flitting Time could wag his eyas[55] wings

About that mighty bound which doth embrace The rolling spheres, and parts their hours by space,

That high eternal power, which now doth move In all these things, moved in itself by love.

It loved itself, because itself was fair,

For fair is loved; and of itself begot

Like to itself his eldest son and heir,

Eternal, pure, and void of sinful blot,

The firstling of his joy, in whom no jot Of love's dislike or pride was to be found, Whom he therefore with equal honour crowned.

       *       *       *       *       *

  Out of the bosom of eternal bliss,
    In which he reignéd with his glorious Sire,
  He down descended, like a most demisse                          _humble._
    And abject thrall, in flesh's frail attire,
    That he for him might pay sin's deadly hire,
  And him restore unto that happy state
  In which he stood before his hapless fate.

       *       *       *       *       *

blessed well of love! O flower of grace! O glorious Morning-Star! O Lamp of Light!

Most lively image of thy Father's face!

Eternal King of Glory, Lord of might!  
Meek Lamb of God, before all worlds behight!
How can we thee requite for all this good?
Or what can prize that thy most precious blood? equal in value.

Yet nought thou ask'st in lieu of all this love

But love of us for guerdon of thy pain:

Ay me! what can us less than that behove?[56]

Had he required life of[57] us again, Had it been wrong to ask his own with gain?

He gave us life, he it restored lost; Then life were least, that us so little cost.

But he our life hath left unto us free--

Free that was thrall, and blessed that was banned; enslaved; cursed.

Nor aught demands but that we loving be,

As he himself hath loved us aforehand, And bound thereto with an eternal band--

Him first to love that us[58] so dearly bought, And next our brethren, to his image wrought.

Him first to love great right and reason is,

Who first to us our life and being gave,

And after, when we faréd had amiss,

Us wretches from the second death did save; And last, the food of life, which now we have,

Even he himself, in his dear sacrament, To feed our hungry souls, unto us lent.

Then next, to love our brethren that were made

Of that self mould, and that self Maker's hand,

That[59] we, and to the same again shall fade,

Where they shall have like heritage of land, the same grave-room. However here on higher steps we stand;

Which also were with selfsame price redeemed,  
That we, however, of us light esteemed. as.

And were they not, yet since that loving Lord

Commanded us to love them for his sake,

Even for his sake, and for his sacred word,

Which in his last bequest he to us spake,
We should them love, and with their needs partake; _share their
Knowing that, whatsoe'er to them we give, [needs._
We give to him by whom we all do live.

Such mercy he by his most holy rede instruction.
Unto us taught, and to approve it true,
Ensampled it by his most righteous deed,
Shewing us mercy, miserable crew!
That we the like should to the wretches[60] shew,

And love our brethren; thereby to approve How much himself that loved us we love.

Then rouse thyself, O earth! out of thy soil,

In which thou wallowest like to filthy swine,
And dost thy mind in dirty pleasures moyle, defile.
Unmindful of that dearest Lord of thine;
Lift up to him thy heavy clouded eyne,
That thou this sovereign bounty mayst behold,
And read through love his mercies manifold.

Begin from first, where he encradled was
In simple cratch, wrapt in a wad of hay, a rack or crib.
Between the toilful ox and humble ass;
And in what rags, and in what base array
The glory of our heavenly riches lay,
When him the silly[61] shepherds came to see,

Whom greatest princes sought on lowest knee.

From thence read on the story of his life,

His humble carriage, his unfaulty ways,

His cankered foes, his fights, his toil, his strife,

His pains, his poverty, his sharp assays, temptations or trials. Through which he passed his miserable days,

Offending none, and doing good to all, Yet being maliced both by great and small.

And look at last, how of most wretched wights

He taken was, betrayed, and false accused;

How with most scornful taunts and fell despites

He was reviled, disgraced, and foul abused; How scourged, how crowned, how buffeted, how bruised;

And, lastly, how 'twixt robbers crucified, With bitter wounds through hands, through feet, and side!

* * * * *

With sense whereof whilst so thy softened spirit

Is inly touched, and humbled with meek zeal

Through meditation of his endless merit,

Lift up thy mind to th' author of thy weal, And to his sovereign mercy do appeal;

Learn him to love that lovéd thee so dear, And in thy breast his blessed image bear.

With all thy heart, with all thy soul and mind,
Thou must him love, and his behests embrace; commands.
All other loves with which the world doth blind
Weak fancies, and stir up affections base,
Thou must renounce and utterly displace,
And give thyself unto him full and free,
That full and freely gave himself to thee.

* * * * *

Thenceforth all world's desire will in thee die,

And all earth's glory, on which men do gaze,

Seem dust and dross in thy pure-sighted eye,

Compared to that celestial beauty's blaze,

Whose glorious beams all fleshly sense do daze

With admiration of their passing light,

Blinding the eyes and lumining the sprite.

Then shalt thy ravished soul inspiréd be
With heavenly thoughts far above human skill, reason.
And thy bright radiant eyes shall plainly see
The Idea of his pure glory present still
Before thy face, that all thy spirits shall fill
With sweet enragement of celestial love,

Kindled through sight of those fair things above.

There is a companion to the poem of which these verses are a portion, called An Hymne of Heavenly Beautie, filled like this, and like two others on Beauty and Love, with Platonic forms both of thought and expression; but I have preferred quoting a longer part of the former to giving portions of both. My reader will recognize in the extract a fuller force of intellect brought to bear on duty; although it would be unwise to take a mind like Spenser's for a type of more than the highest class of the age. Doubtless the division in the country with regard to many of the Church's doctrines had its part in bringing out and strengthening this tendency to reasoning which is so essential to progress. Where religion itself is not the most important thing with the individual, all reasoning upon it must indeed degenerate into strifes of words, vermiculate questions, as Lord Bacon calls them--such, namely, as like the hoarded manna reveal the character of the owner by breeding of worms--yet on no questions may the light of the candle of the Lord, that is, the human understanding, be cast with greater hope of discovery than on those of religion, those, namely, that bear upon man's relation to God and to his fellow. The most partial illumination of this region, the very cause of whose mystery is the height and depth of its truth, is of more awful value to the human being than perfect knowledge, if such were possible, concerning everything else in the universe; while, in fact, in this very region, discovery may bring with it a higher kind of conviction than can accompany the results of investigation in any other direction. In these grandest of all thinkings, the great men of this time showed a grandeur of thought worthy of their surpassing excellence in other noblest fields of human labour. They thought greatly because they aspired greatly.

Sir Walter Raleigh was a personal friend of Edmund Spenser. They were almost of the same age, the former born in 1552, the latter in the following year. A writer of magnificent prose, itself full of religion and poetry both in thought and expression, he has not distinguished himself greatly in verse. There is, however, one remarkable poem fit for my purpose, which I can hardly doubt to be his. It is called Sir Walter Raleigh's Pilgrimage. The probability is that it was written just after his condemnation in 1603--although many years passed before his sentence was carried into execution.

Give me my scallop-shell[62] of Quiet;

My staff of Faith to walk upon;
My scrip of Joy, immortal diet;
My bottle of Salvation;
My gown of Glory, hope's true gage; And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.
Blood must be my body's balmer,--
No other balm will there be given-- Whilst my soul, like quiet palmer, Travelleth towards the land of Heaven; Over the silver mountains,
Where spring the nectar fountains-- There will I kiss
The bowl of Bliss,
And drink mine everlasting fill
Upon every milken hill:
My soul will be a-dry before,
But after, it will thirst no more. Then by that happy blissful day,
More peaceful pilgrims I shall see, That have cast off their rags of clay, And walk apparelled fresh like me: I'll take them first,

To quench their thirst,
And taste of nectar's suckets, sweet things--things to suck.
At those clear wells
Where sweetness dwells,
Drawn up by saints in crystal buckets.
And when our bottles and all we

Are filled with immortality,
Then the blessed paths we'll travel, Strowed with rubies thick as gravel. Ceilings of diamonds! sapphire floors! High walls of coral, and pearly bowers!-- From thence to Heaven's bribeless hall, Where no corrupted voices brawl;
No conscience molten into gold;
No forged accuser bought or sold;
No cause deferred; no vain-spent journey;

For there Christ is the King's Attorney,
Who pleads for all without degrees, irrespective of rank.
And he hath angels, but no fees.
And when the grand twelve million jury
Of our sins, with direful fury,
'Gainst our souls black verdicts give,

Christ pleads his death, and then we live. Be thou my speaker, taintless Pleader, Unblotted Lawyer, true Proceeder!
Thou giv'st salvation even for alms,-- Not with a bribéd lawyer's palms. And this is my eternal plea
To him that made heaven, earth, and sea, That, since my flesh must die so soon, And want a head to dine next noon,-- Just at the stroke, when my veins start and spread, Set on my soul an everlasting head: Then am I ready, like a palmer fit, To tread those blest paths which before I writ. Of death and judgment, heaven and hell Who oft doth think, must needs die well.

This poem is a somewhat strange medley, with a confusion of figure, and a repeated failure in dignity, which is very far indeed from being worthy of Raleigh's prose. But it is very remarkable how wretchedly some men will show, who, doing their own work well, attempt that for which practice has not--to use a word of the time--enabled them. There is real power in the poem, however, and the confusion is far more indicative of the pleased success of an unaccustomed hand than of incapacity for harmonious work. Some of the imagery, especially the "crystal buckets," will suggest those grotesque drawings called Emblems, which were much in use before and after this period, and, indeed, were only a putting into visible shape of such metaphors and similes as some of the most popular poets of the time, especially Doctor Donne, indulged in; while the profusion of earthly riches attributed to the heavenly paths and the places of repose on the journey, may well recall Raleigh's own descriptions of South American glories. Englishmen of that era believed in an earthly Paradise beyond the Atlantic, the wonderful reports of whose magnificence had no doubt a share in lifting the imaginations and hopes of the people to the height at which they now stood.

There may be an appearance of irreverence in the way in which he contrasts the bribeless Hall of Heaven with the proceedings at his own trial, where he was browbeaten, abused, and, from the very commencement, treated as a guilty man by Sir Edward Coke, the king's attorney. He even puns with the words angels and fees. Burning from a sense of injustice, however, and with the solemnity of death before him, he could not be guilty of conscious irreverence, at least. But there is another remark I have to make with regard to the matter, which will bear upon much of the literature of the time: even the great writers of that period had such a delight in words, and such a command over them, that like their skilful horsemen, who enjoyed making their steeds show off the fantastic paces they had taught them, they played with the words as they passed through their hands, tossing them about as a juggler might his balls. But even herein the true master of speech showed his masterdom: his play must not be by-play; it must contribute to the truth of the idea which was taking form in those words. We shall see this more plainly when we come to transcribe some of Sir Philip Sidney's work. There is no irreverence in it. Nor can I take it as any sign of hardness that Raleigh should treat the visual image of his own anticipated death with so much coolness, if the writer of a little elegy on his execution, when Raleigh was fourteen years older than at the presumed date of the foregoing verses, describes him truly when he says:

I saw in every stander-by
Pale death, life only in thy eye.

The following hymn is also attributed to Raleigh. If it has less brilliance of fancy, it has none of the faults of the preceding, and is far more artistic in construction and finish, notwithstanding a degree of irregularity.

Rise, oh my soul, with thy desires to heaven;

And with divinest contemplation use

Thy time, where time's eternity is given;

And let vain thoughts no more thy thoughts abuse,

But down in darkness let them lie: So live thy better, let thy worse thoughts die!

And thou, my soul, inspired with holy flame,

View and review, with most regardful eye,

That holy cross, whence thy salvation came,

On which thy Saviour and thy sin did die!

For in that sacred object is much pleasure, And in that Saviour is my life, my treasure.

To thee, O Jesus, I direct my eyes;

To thee my hands, to thee my humble knees,

To thee my heart shall offer sacrifice;

To thee my thoughts, who my thoughts only sees--

To thee myself,--myself and all I give; To thee I die; to thee I only live!

See what an effect of stately composure quiet artistic care produces, and how it leaves the ear of the mind in a satisfied peace!

There are a few fine lines in the poem. The last two lines of the first stanza are admirable; the last two of the second very weak. The last stanza is good throughout.

But it would be very unfair to judge Sir Walter by his verse. His prose is infinitely better, and equally displays the devout tendency of his mind--a tendency common to all the great men of that age. The worst I know of him is the selfishly prudent advice he left behind for his son. No doubt he had his faults, but we must not judge a man even by what he says in an over-anxiety for the prosperity of his child.

Another remarkable fact in the history of those great men is that they were all men of affairs. Raleigh was a soldier, a sailor, a discoverer, a politician, as well as an author. His friend Spenser was first secretary to Lord Grey when he was Governor of Ireland, and afterwards Sheriff of Cork. He has written a large treatise on the state of Ireland. But of all the men of the age no one was more variously gifted, or exercised those gifts in more differing directions, than the man who of them all was most in favour with queen, court, and people--Philip Sidney. I could write much to set forth the greatness, culture, balance, and scope of this wonderful man. Renowned over Europe for his person, for his dress, for his carriage, for his speech, for his skill in arms, for his horsemanship, for his soldiership, for his statesmanship, for his learning, he was beloved for his friendship, his generosity, his steadfastness, his simplicity, his conscientiousness, his religion. Amongst the lamentations over his death printed in Spenser's works, there is one poem by Matthew Roydon, a few verses of which I shall quote, being no vain eulogy. Describing his personal appearance, he says:

sweet, attractive kind of grace, A full assurance given by looks,

Continual comfort in a face,

The lineaments of Gospel books!--

I trow, that countenance cannot lie Whose thoughts are legible in the eye.

Was ever eye did see that face,

Was ever ear did hear that tongue,

Was ever mind did mind his grace

That ever thought the travel long?

But eyes and ears, and every thought, Were with his sweet perfections caught.

His Arcadia is a book full of wisdom and beauty. None of his writings were printed in his lifetime; but the Arcadia was for many years after his death one of the most popular books in the country. His prose, as prose, is not equal to his friend Raleigh's, being less condensed and stately. It is too full of fancy in thought and freak in rhetoric to find now-a-days more than a very limited number of readers; and a good deal of the verse that is set in it, is obscure and uninteresting, partly from some false notions of poetic composition which he and his friend Spenser entertained when young; but there is often an exquisite art in his other poems.

The first I shall transcribe is a sonnet, to which the Latin words printed below it might be prefixed as a title: Splendidis longum valedico nugis.

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