1610
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Englands Eliza: the Induction.

A Mirour for Magistrates: being a true Chronicle Historie of the untimely Falles of such unfortunate Princes and Men of Note, as have happened since the First Entrance of Brute into this Iland, untill this our Latter Age.

Richard Niccols


Invoking "that Fairie Queene sweet singer," Richard Niccols prefaces his concluding contribution to the 1610 Mirror for Magistrates with a prospect view of London and a description of the plague, followed by a vision in which the Queen appears and asks the poet to record her reign.

Thomas Warton: "Our author, but with little propriety, has annexed ENGLAND'S ELIZA [...]. This is a title page. Then follows a Sonnet to 'the virtuous Ladie the Lady Elizabeth Clere, wife to sir Francis Clere, and an Epistle to the Reader. A very poetical INDUCTION is prefixed to the ELIZA, which contains the history of queen Elizabeth, then just dead, in the octave stanza" History of English Poetry (1774-81; 1840) 3:225.

Thomas Park: "A prose address on one page, and a poetical induction on 8, precede the historical narrative, which occupies more than 90 pages. His induction exhibits the following honourable tribute to the memory of Spenser.... Niccols will be found a melodious versifier, if not a first-rate poet" Censura Literaria 3 (1807) 159-60.

Thomas Corser: "His next work [following the Cuckow] was a remodification, or new arrangement of that popular work, The Mirror for Magistrates, in which he omitted some of the former lives, but added ten new histories, with a poetical induction of his own. This 'last part' he entitled A Winter Nights Vision.... At the end of the Winter Nights Vision there is subjoined, with a fresh title, a poem in the octave stanza, entitled 'Englands Eliza.... We have already mentioned the great obligations which Niccols owed to Spenser, and his ardent admiration of that author's writings. In his Induction to this Poem, which contains passages of much poetical beauty, after mentioning the dreadful Plague which ravaged London ... he introduces the following honourable tribute to the memory of Spenser . . ." Collectanea Anglo-Poetica 9 (1879) 76.

Roberta Florence Brinkley: "It seems significant that Richard Niccols in the 1610 edition of the Mirror for Magistrates should include accounts of both Queen Elizabeth and King Arthur. Though the former is probably dated 1603, we have no other date for the section on Arthur than the date of publication. The account continues the Tudor conception of the legend and has the definite purpose of refuting with the true facts Arthur's 'corrupted storie, Defac'd by fleeting times inconstant pen,' in order to combat the growing skeptical attitude. The ghost of Arthur is called up to tell his own story, which is given in great detail, following Geoffrey's account with extreme closeness except that all suspicion of Arthur's bastardy is refuted" Arthurian Legend (1932) 64.

"II, Pt. II, 823; Cf. 828 ('Fidessa')" Frederic Ives Carpenter, Reference Guide to Edmund Spenser (1923) 246. Several allusions are noted in Wells, Spenser Allusions (1972) 123-24.

Henry Neele: "The reign of Queen Elizabeth is the most illustrious period in the literary history of modern Europe. Much has been said of the ages of Leo the Tenth, of Louis the Fourteenth, and of Queen Anne, but we are prepared to show that the literary trophies of the first mentioned period, are more splendid and important, than those of all the other three united. We are not alluding merely to what passed in our own country. The superiority of the literary efforts of that age to all the productions of English genius before or since, is too trite a truism to need our advocacy. But it is not so generally known, or, at least, remembered, that during the same period the other nations of Europe produced their master spirits; and that Tasso, Camoens, and Cervantes, were contemporary with Shakspeare" Russell Institution Lectures on English Poetry, 1827; in Remains (1829) 22.



In that sad month, whose name at first begun
From Romes Augustus, great Octavius son,
When heav'ns fierce dog, sterne Alhabor did rise
To bait the Lion in th' Olympian skies;
Whose hot fier-breathing influence did cracke
Our thirstie grandame Terraes aged back:
By wrathfull Jove, thicke darted from the skie
The thunder shafts of Pestilence did flie;
In top of heav'n he tooke his wreakfull stand
Ore that great Towne upon the Northerne strand,
Of silver Thamisis, upon whose towres
Downe dropt his shafts, as thicke as winters showres,
Which daily did his indignation show
In every place, dispersing worlds of woe:
Witnesse ye ghosts and spirits dolefull drerie,
Untimely sent by troopes to Charons ferrie,
Leaving your limbes wrapt up in sheets of clay,
As dustie reliques of your lives decay:
Yea (thou sweet Genius of that ancient towne,
Thou Ladie of great Albions chiefe renowne)
Of that sad time a witnesse maist thou bee,
When death did take so many sonnes from thee;
Whose funerall rites inconsolate alone,
When thou unkindely left, didst kindly mone;
Who staid with thee, alas, to helpe thee mourne,
And fled not from thee, leaving thee forlorne?
Mongst whom (though I) strooke terror-sicke with dread
Of heav'ns hot plague, was one that from thee fled;
Yet of thy sight I daily did partake,
Which of thy woes a partner did me make:
Not far from off that slimie Southerne strand,
By which with Isis, Thames runnes hand in hand,
In that high mountaine countries fruitful soile,
That nere in sight of forren foes tooke foile,
Where those same famous stout men-moving wood,
Against the Norman Conqueror boldly stood;
Was my abode, when foule infections breath
In Troynouvant imploy'd the workes of death.
There in this wofull time upon a day,
So soone as Tythons love-lasse gan display
Her opall colours in her Easterne throne;
It was my chance in walking all alone,
That ancient castle-crowned hill to scale,
Which proudly overlookes the lowly vale,
Where great Elizaes birth-blest palace stands,
Gainst which great Thames casts up his golden sands.
There when I came, from thence I might descrie
The sweetest prospects, that the curious eie
Of any one did ever elsewhere see,
So pleasant at that time they seem'd to mee:
It is a choice selected plot of land,
In which this ayrie mount doth towring stand;
As if that natures cunning for the best,
Had choicely pickt it out from all the rest:
Beneath this loftie hill shot up on high,
A pleasant parke impaled round doth lie,
In which the plaine so open lies to sight,
That on this hill oft times with great delight
That heav'nly Queene, Plantagenets great blood,
The farie Elizaes selfe hath often stood,
And seene the swift-foot dogs in eager chace
Pursue the gentle Hinde from place to place.
From hence recalling my weake wandring eye,
I gan behold that Kingly Palace by,
Whose loftie towres built up of ancient time
By worthie Princes, to the stars do clime;
Proud, that so many a Prince to do them grace,
Beneath their roofe made their resting place.
Fast by this princely house, afront before
Thames gliding waves do wash the sandie shore,
Whose fruitfull streames with winding in and out,
Forcing their way through hollow lands about,
From th' Occidentall with swift course do run,
Where Hesper bright brings up the golden Sun:
And on the silver brest of this great lord
Of all the deepes, that Albions wombe doth hoard,
Downe from the Easterne seas I might descrie
Many swift-winged barkes, that seem'd to flie,
Cutting their passage through the threatning wave,
That 'bout their sides in vaine did rore and rave;
With swelling sailes not fearing sad mischance,
Each after other came in stately dance,
And nimblie capring on the purple wave,
With loftie foretops did the welkin brave,
Untill they came unto that stately place
Fam'd for the birth of great Elizae's grace:
To which they vail'd their towring tops before,
And from their sides the thundring cannons rore
Flew as a witnesse of their loyaltie
And love unto that house of Majestie;
From thence full fraught with many a precious prise
They sail'd along, whereas the passage lies
To Troynovaunt, whose pride of youthfull lust
The hand of death had smothered in the dust;
The smiling heav'ns, that with sweet sunshine howres
Did once vouchsafe t' adorne her hie topt towres,
Now with grim lookes, which did my heart appall,
Did seeme to threaten her approaching fall;
Downe from their cloudie browes in threatning pride,
Death-darting Pestilence did seeme to slide:
Grim-visag'd like the grizly dreaded night,
In noysome fumes and mistie fogs bedight:
The aire once pure and thin now wing'd with death
Grewe gloomie thick being poyson'd by her breath,
In which, I thought she took her horrid stand,
And with fierce look and stiff-bent bowe in hand,
She drew her shafts, impatient in her minde,
From forth her quiver at her back behinde:
Then did I thinke upon the shreekes and cries
Of dying soules, that did ascend the skies
By thousands sent unto the gaping grave,
On whom no mercie Pestilence would have:
Yea then (thou glorie of great Albion)
Thy sad distresse I gan to think upon,
Thy mournefull widowes, groveling in sad swound
On their dead husbands, on the ashie ground,
Thy husbands striving to preserve the breath
Of their dear spouse from unrelenting death;
Thy Orphans left poore parentlesse alone
The future times sad miserie to mone:
The thought of which, in that unhappie season
With woefull passion did so master reason,
That as I stood upon that pleasant hill
To fancie sweet delight I had no will;
But seeking for some grove or gloomie wood,
Where I might feede my melancholie mood:
Upon this hils South side at last I found
Fitting my thoughts a pleasing spot of ground;
It was to wit, that wel knowne happie shade,
Which for delight the royall Britaine Maid
Did oft frequent, as former times can tell,
When her sweet soule in mortall mould did dwell:
It is a walke thicke set with manie a tree;
Whose arched bowes ore hed combined bee,
That nor the golden eye of heaven can peepe
Into that place, ne yet, when heaven doth weepe,
Can the thin drops of drizeling raine offend
Him, that for succour to that place doth wend.
Where when alone I first did enter in,
And call to minde, how that truth-shielding Queene
In former times the same did beautifie
With presence of her princelie majestie;
(O) how the place did seeme to mourne to mee,
That she should thence for ever absent bee!
In this sad passion, which did still abound,
I sat me downe upon the grassie ground,
Wishing that heav'n into my infant Muse
That antique Poets spirit would infuse,
Who, when in Thracian land hee did rehearse
Ianthees wofull end in tragick verse,
Did make men, birds, beasts, trees and rockes of stone
That virgins timelesse tragedie to mone:
For then I thought, that to that mournefull place,
I might have sung my verse with lesse disgrace
To great Elizaes worth: for who doth bring
Her deeds to light, or who her worth doth singe?
(O) did that Fairie Queenes sweet singer live,
That to the dead eternitie could give,
Or if, that heaven by influence would infuse
His heavenlie spirit on mind earth-borne Muse,
Her name ere this a mirror should have been
Lim'd out in golden verse to th' eyes of men:
But my sad Muse, though willing; yet too weak
In her rude rymes Elizaes worth to speak,
Must yeeld to those, whose Muse can mount on high,
And with brave plumes can clime the loftie skie.
As thus I sat all sad upon the greene
In contemplation of that royall Queene,
And thinking, what a Mirrour she might be
Unto all future times posteritie,
Inclining downe my hed, soft fingered sleepe
With pleasing touch throughout my limbes did creepe,
Who having seas'd upon mee with strong hands,
Bound up my thoughts in soporiferous bands,
And held mee captive, while his servant slie
A vision strange did unto mee descrie:
For up from Morpheus den a vision came,
Which were it sent in mightie Joves own name,
Or by some other power, I wot not well:
But as I slept, I say, thus it befell:
As at that time in walking to and fro,
I 'bout this pleasant place alone did goe,
Each object of the same all suddenlie
Seemd strangelie metapmorphiz'd to myne eye;
The Helliconian spring, that did proceed
From th' hoofe of Pegasus that heavenlie steed,
And those pure streames of virgin Castalie,
The place of Joves nine daughters nurserie,
Did seeme to have resign'd their proper place,
Transported thither to that lands disgrace:
Where, as I thought, I heard an heavenlie sound,
Of which the place did everie where redound:
Unto the which as I attentive stood,
Descending downe from out a neihbouring wood,
I might behold the sacred sisters nine,
Whether from heaven or other place divine,
I am uncertaine; but their way they made
Where as I stood beneath the leavie shade:
Before them all a goodlie Ladie came
In stately portance like Joves braine-borne dame,
To wit, that virgin Queene, the faire Elize,
That whilom was our Englands richest prize;
In princelie station with great Junoes grace
(Mee seem'd) she came in her majesticke pace,
Grac'd with the lookes of daunting majestie,
Mixt with the meekenesse of milde clemencie;
Such have I seene her, when in Princely State
She goddesse-like in chariot high hath sate,
When troops of people with loud shouts and cries,
Have sounded out their Avies in the skies:
And rid each other in the present place
With great desire to see her heav'nly face:
Mongst whom she came, as if Aurora faire
Out of the East had newly made repaire,
Making a sun-like light with golden shine
Of her bright beautie in the gazers eine.
Approching neere the place where I did stand,
With gratious beckning of her princely hand,
She seem'd to call to me; but sillie I,
Daunted with presence of such Majestie,
Fell prostrate downe, debasht with reverent shame
At sudden sight of so divine a dame;
Till she with gentle speech thus mildely said:
Stand up, quoth she, and be no whit dismaid;
Let loyall love and Zeale to me inflame
Thy Muse to sing the praises of my name;
And let not thoughts of want, of worth, and skill,
Impeach the purpose of thy forward quill;
For though thy homely stile and slender verse
Too humble seeme my praises to rehearse:
Yet to the world, that I a Mirrour bee
Amongst those many Mirrours writ by thee;
Feare neither bite of dogged Theons tooth,
Nor soone-shot bolts of giddie headed youth;
For th' awfull power of my sole dreaded name,
Shall from thy verse avert all foule defame:
And lest in any point thou chance to faile,
Which may my names great glorie ought availe;
Loe here the cheefest of the daughters nine
Of sacred Memorie and Jove divine,
Greate Clioes selfe, in order shall rehearse
My storie to thee in here stately verse.
This said, more swift then lightening from the skie,
She on the suddaine vanisht from mine eye
With all her nymphes: for none of all her traine
Excepting Clio did with mee remaine,
Who beeing the first borne childe of Memorie,
The Ladie was of noble Historie,
A peerelesse dame past al compare to sing
The deeds, that vertue unto light doth bring:
In comelie garments, like some virgin maid
Of Dians troope, shee trimlie was arraid,
Save goddesse-like her globe-like head around
With verdant wreath of sacred bay was crownd;
From which downe either side here comelie face,
Her golden lockes did flow with goodlie grace,
And in her hand a lute divinely strung
She held; to which oft times she sweetlie sung;
With this she sat her downe upon the ground
And with her fingers made the strings to sound,
Unto the which her sweet voice she did frame
To sing the praises of Elizaes name.
Which having done, she thus did silence break;
Would God (quoth shee) her prayses could I speak,
Who claimes a greater power her praise to sound,
Then Phoebus self, if greater could be found:
Yet will I triall make with all my might,
With her great fame the golden starres to smite:
Which while I sing, heark thou with heedful eare,
And in thy mind the same hereafter beare:
This said, she lightlie toucht each trembling string,
And with sweet voice did thus divinely sing.

[pp. 775-82]