Of this poet little is known. He was the son of Mr. Henry Peacham, of Leverton, in Lincolnshire; was born at St. Alban's; educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a master of arts; and afterwards travelled into the Low Countries with Thomas Earl of Arundel, to whose children he was a preceptor, as he appears also to have been to Mr. Hannibal Baskerville. When and where he died has not been discovered.
Peacham was the author of several productions in prose, as well as verse. His Compleat Gentleman, and The Worth of a Penny, are, perhaps, the best, as they are the most known, of the former class; his Minerva Britannia, and his Period of Mourning, undoubtedly rank highest in the latter.
The poetical tribute to the memory of that amiable prince, whose abilities, disposition, and conduct, appear to have endeared him to the English nation, in proportion to the disgust conceived at the foolish pedantry and feeble judgment of his father, is, in its original state, the scarcest of Peacham's works, and affords us a specimen of powers far superior to those discoverable in the minor poets of that day. In the extracts we proceed to make, our readers will, we think, agree with us in an opinion, that they are inferior only to the contemporary strains of Spenser, Shakspeare, and Daniel.
I saw (methought) from Camber's hilly shore,
A goodly arke, as ever eye beheld,
Whose sayles were silke, and tackle twined oare,
That seem'd, reflected, gloriously to guild
The wave around, while thousand colours faire,
Kept time aloft, with every little ayre.
She Archon hight, for that she had no peere
And could command the ocean with her might;
In whom the hopes of many thousands were,
But chiefly of the Muse, and martiall sprite:
Brave man of warre she was, from Britaine bound,
For new discoveries all that might be found.
And, going out, shee did beguile the way,
With sound of trumpet, shawmes and cornet shrill,
That fil'd the shore and seem'd to charme the sea:
(For windes were ceas'd and waves were calme and still.)
Such peales of thunder then anone were sent,
As of she would have torne the firmament.
A wood there was along the Stygian lake,
Where Night and everlasting Horror dwell,
Herein a cave, two hollow rockes did make,
From whence a brooke, as blacke as Lethe, fell.
A common roade led thither, with descent
So steepe, that none return'd that ever went.
It was an uncouth dungeon, darke, and wide,
Where living man nere was, or light had shone.
Save that a little glimmering I espide,
From rotten stickes, that all about were throwne:
The boxe and banefull eugh-tree grew without,
All which, a stinking ditch did moate about.
Within, there hung upon the ragged wals,
Sculs, thirtes of maile, whose owners had been slaine,
Eschotcheons, epitaphes of funerals,
In bottles teares of friends, and lovers vaine:
Spades, mattockes, models, boltes and barres for strength,
With bones of giants of a wondrous length.
Beneath, all formes of monuments were seene,
Whose superscriptions were through age defac'd,
And owners along agoe consumed cleane,
But now as coffers were in order plac'd;
Wherein inditements lay, charmes, deadmen's wills,
Pope's pardons, pleas, and pothecaries bills.
In midst there sat a meagre wretch alone,
That had in sorrow both his e'in outwept,
And was with peine become a sceleton:
I ask'd him why that loathsome cave he kept,
And what he was; my name (quoth he) is Death,
Perplexed here for Henrie's losse of breath.
HENRIE the good, the great, unware I hit
With deadly dart, before the timely day,
For, at one neere him while I level'd it,
That sent more soules than I my selfe away,
Or feare or fate the arrow did misguide,
That he escap'd, and noblest Henry di'd.
With that, he bade me to retire in hast,
For never any came so neere his dore,
And liv'd: herewith mine eye aside I cast,
Where stood a glue-pot, canes and quivers store:
And on a shelfe lay many stinking weedes,
Wherewith, I ghesse, he poison'd arrow heads.
By doubtfull tracks, away through brake and breeze,
I left the wood, and light as last did view;
When Death I heard accused every where,
As thiefe and traytor, of the vulgar crew,
For this misdeed he sware against his will,
For who knew Henry could not meane him ill.