1662 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Walter Raleigh

Thomas Fuller, in History of the Worthies of England (1662) 1:262.



SIR WALTER RAWLEIGH. "The sons of Heth said unto Abraham, Thou art a great Prince among us, In the choice of our Sepulchres bury thy dead, none shall withhold them from thee." So may we say to the memory of this worthy Knight, repose yourself in this our Catalogue under what Topick you please, of States-man, Sea-man, Souldier, Learned Writer, and what not? His worth unlocks our closest Cabinets, and provides both room and wellcome to entertain him.

He was born at Budelely in this County [Devonshire], of an Ancient Family, but decaied in Estate, and he the youngest brother thereof. He was bred in Oriel Colledg in Oxford, and thence coming to Court, found some hopes of the Queens favours reflecting upon him. This made him write in a glasse Window, obvious to the Queens eye, "Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall." Her Majesty either espying or being shown it, did under-write, "If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all." However he at last climbed up by the stairs of his own desert. But his Introduction into the Court bare an elder date. From this occasion: This captain Raleigh, coming out of Ireland to the English Court in good habit (his Cloaths being then a considerable part of his estate) found the Queen walking, till meeting with a Plashy place, she seemed to scruple going thereon. Presently Raleigh cast and spread his new Plush Cloak on the ground, whereon the Queen trod gently, rewarding him afterwards with many Suits, for his so free and seasonable tender of so fair a foot Cloath. Thus an advantageous admission into the first notice of a Prince, is more than half a degree to preferment.

It is reported of Women in the Balear Islands, that to make their Sons expert archers; they will not, when children, give them their break-fast before they had hit the mark. Such the dealing of the Queen with this Knight, making him to earn his Honour, and by pain and peril, to purchase what places or credit or profit were bestowed upon him. Indeed it was true of him, what was said of Cato Uticensis: That he seemed to be born to that onely which he went about: So dextrous was he in all his undertakings, In Court, in Camp, by Sea, by Land, with Sword, with Pen, witnesse in the last his History of the World; wherein the onely default or (defect rather) that it wanted was one half thereof. Yet had he many enemies (which never man wanteth) at Court, his cowardly Detractors, of whom Sir Walter was wont to say, If any man accuseth me to my face, I will answer him with my mouth; but my tail is good enough to return an answer to such who traduceth me behind my back.