1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Walter Raleigh

Peter L. Courtier, in Lyre of Love (1806) 1:40.



This distinguished character, whose fate constitutes an indelible reproach to the country that his services had adorned, was born in 1552, at the village of Hayes in Devonshire. No less an admirer of genius, than a valiant warrior, and enlightened statesman, RALEIGH has the credit of having strenuously befriended Spenser, by introducing his works more particularly to the notice of Queen Elizabeth. There is an anecdote respecting Sir Walter, which, while it explains the origin of her favour towards him, affords no inconsiderable evidence of his general gallantry to the sex. The circumstance is thus recited by William King, in his poem of the Art of Love.

Oh, think it not a too officious care,
With eagerness to run and help the Fair!
So, when Eliza (whose propitious days
Revolving Heaven does seem again to raise,
Whose ruling genius shew'd a master-stroke
In every thing she did, and all she spoke,)
Was stepping o'er a passage, which the rain
Had fill'd, but seem'd as stepping back again;
Young RALEIGH scorn'd to see his Queen retreat,
And threw his velvet cloke beneath her feet.
The Queen approv'd the thought, and made him great!

Perhaps this predilection on her Majesty's part induced her afterwards to oppose his passion for Mrs. Throckmorton, one of her ladies in waiting; on which occasion, RALEIGH was commanded to withdraw from court, in order that distance might cool the fervour of his attachment! Having, at length, the misfortune to survive his royal mistress, he was sacrificed by her successor, James I. to the malignant jealousy of his enemies; being beheaded in Old Palace Yard, October 29, 1618. Those who could not vanquish him in the field, were contented to triumph on a scaffold.