Imatges de pàgina

redoubted Sir Launcelot, and whose beauty had proved too powerful both for the wisdom and the spells of the mighty Merlin. Since that early period she had remained possessed of her crystal dominions, she said, despite the various men of fame and might by whom Kenilworth had been successively tenanted. The Saxons, the Danes, the Normans, the Saintlowes, the Clintons, the Mountforts, the Mortimers, the Plantagenets, great though they were in arms and magni. ficence, had never, she said, caused her to raise her head from the waters which hid her crystal palace. But a greater than all these great names had now appeared, and she came in homage and duty to welcome the peerless Elizabeth to all sport, which the castle and its environs, which lake or land could afford.

The queen received this address also with great courtesy, and made answer in raillery, “ We thought this lake had belonged to our own dominions, fair dame; but since so famed a lady claims it for hers, we will be glad at some other time to have further communing with you touching our joint interests.”

With this gracious answer the Lady of the Lake vanished, and Arion, who was amongst the maritime deities, appeared upon his dolphin. But Lambourne, who had taken upon him the part in the absence of Wayland, being chilled with remaining immersed in an element to which he was not friendly, having never got his speech by heart, and not having, like the porter, the advantage of a prompter, paid it off with impu. dence, tearing off his vizard, and swearing, “ Cogs bones! he was none of Arion or Orion either, but honest Mike Lambourne, that had been drinking her majesty's health from morning till midnight, and was come to bid her heartily welcome to Kenilworth Castle.”

This unpremeditated buffoonery answered the purpose probably better than the set speech would have done. The queen laughed heartily, and swore (in her turn) that he had made the best speech she had heard that day. Lambourne, who instantly saw his jest had saved his bones, jumped on shore, gave his dolphin a kick, and declared he would never meddle with fish again, except at dinner.

At the same time that the queen was about to enter the castle, that memorable discharge of fire-works by water and land took place, which Master Laneham, formerly introduced to the reader, has strained all his eloquence to describe.

“Such,” says the clerk of the council-chamber door, 6 was the blaze of burning darts, the gleams of stars coruscant, the streams and hail of fiery sparks, lightnings of wild-fire, and flight-shot of thunder-bolts, with continuance, terror, and vehemency, that the heavens thundered, the waters surged, and the earth shook ; and for my part, hardy as I am, it made me very vengeably afraid.” *

• See Laneham's Account of the Queen's Entertainment at Killing worth Castle, in 1575, a very diverting tract, written by as great a coxcomb as ever blotted paper. The original is ex. tremely rare, but it has been twice reprinted; once in Mr. Nichols's very curions and interesting collection of the Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, vol. i.; and more lately in No. 1. of a work termed Kenilu'orth Illustrated, beautifully printed at Chiswick, for Meridew of Coventry, and Radclyff of Birmingham, and which, if continued with the same good taste and execution, will be one of the finest antiquarian publications that has lately appeared.


Nay, this is matter for the month of March,
When hares are maddest. Either speak in reason,
Giving cold argument the wall of passion,
Or I break up the court.

· Beaumont and Fletcher.

It is by no means our purpose to describe minutely all the princely festivities of Kenilworth, after the fashion of Master Robert Laneham, whom we quoted in the conclusion of the last chapter. It is sufficient to say, that under discharge of the splendid fire-works, which we have borrowed Laneham's eloquence to describe, the queen entered the base-court of Kenilworth, through Mortimer's Tower, and moving on through pageants of heathen gods and heroes of antiquity, who offered gifts and compliments on the bended knee, at length found her way to the great hall of the castle, gorgeously hung for her reception with the richest silken tapestry, blazing with torches, misty with perfumes, and sounding to strains of soft and delicious music. At the upper end of the splendid apartment, was a state canopy, overshadowing a royal throne, and beside was a door, which opened to a long suite of apartments, decorated with the utmost magnificence for the queen and her ladies, whenever it should be her pleasure to be private.

The Earl of Leicester having handed the queen up to her throne, and seated her there, knelt down before her, and kissing the hand which she held out, with an air in which romantic and respectful gallantry was happily mingled with loyal devotion, he thanked her, in terms of the deepest gratitude, for the highest

honour which a sovereign could render to a subject. So handsome did he look when kneeling before her, that Elizabeth was tempted to prolong the scene a little longer than there was, strictly speaking, necessity for; and ere she raised him, she passed her hand over his head, so near, as almost to touch his long curled and perfumed hair, and with a movement of fondness, that seemed to intimate, she would, if she dared, have made the motion of a slight caress.

She at length raised him, and, standing beside the throne, he explained to her the various preparations which had been made for her amusement and accommodation, all of which received her prompt and gracious approbation. The earl then prayed her majesty for permission, that he himself, and the nobles who had been in attendance upon her during the journey, might retire for a few minutes, and put themselves into a guise more fitting for dutiful attendance; during which space, those gentlemen of worship, (pointing to Varney, Blount, Tressilian, and others, who had already put themselves into fresh attire, would have the honour of keeping her presence-chamber.

“ Be it so, my lord,” answered the queen ; “ you could manage a theatre well, who can thus command a double set of actors. For ourselves, we will receive your courtesies this evening but clownishly, since it is not our purpose to change our riding attire, being in effect something fatigued with a journey, which the concourse of our good people hath rendered slow, though the love they have shewn our person hath, at the same time, made it delightful.”

Leicester, having received this permission, retired accordingly, and was followed by those nobles who had attended the queen to Kenilworth in person. The gentlemen who had preceded them, and were of course

dressed for the solemnity, remained in attendance. But being most of them of rather inferior rank, they remained at an awful distance from the throne which Elizabeth occupied. The queen's sharp eye soon distinguished Raleigh amongst them, with one or two others who were personally known to her, and she instantly made them a sign to approach, and accosted them very graciously. Raleigh, in particular, the adventure of whose cloak, as well as the incident of the verses, remained on her mind, was very graciously received ; and to him she most frequently applied for information concerning the names and rank of those who were in presence. These he communicated concisely, and not without some traits of humorous satire, by which Elizabeth seemed much amused. “And who is yonder clownish fellow ?” she said, looking at Tressilian, whose soiled dress on this occasion greatly obscured his good mien.

" A poet, if it please your grace,” replied Raleigh.

“I might have guessed that from his careless garb,” said Elizabeth. “ I have known some poets so thoughtless as to throw their cloaks into gutters."

“It must have been when the sun dazzled both their eyes and their judgment,” answered Raleigh,

Elizabeth smiled, and proceeded, “ I asked that slovenly fellow's name, and you only told me his profession."

“ Tressilian is his name,” said Raleigh,” with internal reluctance, for he foresaw nothing favourable to his friend from the manner in which she took notice of him.

66 Tressilian !” answered Elizabeth. “0, the Menelaus of our romance. Why, he has dressed himself in a guise that will go far to exculpate his fair and false Helen. And where is Farnham, or whatever his

« AnteriorContinua »