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preparing even then his pathway to the great poems of Venus and Adonis, Lucrece, the sonnets and the immortal plays that were incubating in the procreant soul of the Divine Bard. He was his own schoolmaster, drawing daily draughts from the universal fountains of Nature.
And what a blessing it is to the public to have even a social scapegrace hatch out golden ideas for their education and amusement, notwithstanding the neglect of farm and family!
The greatest good to the greatest number is best for all time.
"God moves in a mysterious way,
He plants His footsteps in the sea
On the first of September, 1586, the lord high sheriff of Coventry invited the people to an archery and drinking contest.
Representatives from twenty-five villages and towns were selected, from the various working guilds and professions, to conquer or die (drunk) in the Queen's name for the honor of Old Albion.
Ceres, the Goddess of Harvest, had showered her riches on the fields and forests of Warwickshire, and to glorify her abundance, a great athletic and semimilitary carnival was thus given by the authorities to test the bravery, endurance and greatness of the sons of Saint George and the Dragon.
The beautiful, broad, undulating, winding highways, leading from Stratford, Warwick, Kenilworth and Birmingham to the ancient town of Coventry
were filled with jolly pilgrims to pay devotion at the shrine of Hercules and Bacchus, with the influence of Venus as an ever-present incentive to passionate pleasure.
That bright September morning I well remember! Dame Nature was just donning her variegated gown of rustic-brown, while fitful airs from the realms of Jack Frost were painting the wild roses and forest leaves in cardinal hue, and the blackbird, thrush and musical nightingale flew low and sang hoarse, but continually, in their assemblages for migration to lands of sun and flowers.
From Kenilworth to Coventry the rural scenery is as various and beautiful as visions of a dream, and the undulating landscape by hill and dale, field and forest, river, marge, cottage, hall, church and castle, grouping themselves in shifting pictures of beauty and grandeur, where lofty elms and sycamores rise and bend their willowy arms to the passing breeze, indelibly impresses the beholder with a splendid kaleidoscopic view of English hospitality and agricultural cultivation.
The tall turrets of monasteries, castles and soaring church spires of Coventry looked luminous in the morning sunshine, while the brazen tongues of century bells rolled their mellifluous matin tones in voluminous welcome to the great multitude of revelers within her embattled walls and hospitable homes.
Promptly at nine o'clock in the morning, in the Leicester Park, twenty-five accoutered long bow men, in archery uniform, took their stand before the bull's eye targets two hundred yards away.
At the words "draw," "aim" and "fly" the whiz
zing arrows centered and shivered in the oak targets, and none hit the bull's but Will Shakspere of Stratford, who was proclaimed winner of the first prize, an ox, a barrel of sack and butt of wine, with the privilege of kissing every girl in the county.
The entire day was spent in all kinds of sports, and with roasts, joints, bread, pudding, sack, ale, gin, brandy and whiskey, the revelers did not break up until daylight, when all were laid under the table but William and his friends Burbage, Condell and Dick Field, who had come away from his printing house in London to witness one of the greatest rural sports of England.
Although Stratford was not a day's walk from Coventry, William and his friends did not succeed in getting back for three days, and often they traveled by the light of the moon believing it was the sun in midday splendor.
Anne Hathaway heard of William's official and social victory, not in the proud light of his Stratford and Shottery alehouse companions, but with a tongue like a gad, she proposed to lash him into shame as a husband or drive him from his cottage home to earn a living for his infant children.
William was a little dubious as to his reception, and in order to temper the storm to the "ambling lamb," he earnestly requested me to accompany him home, as a buffer to his contemplated reception, believing that Anne would mellow her words and actions in the presence of an old friend.
I respectfully declined his pressing invitation and twitted him on being afraid of a woman, when he plaintively exclaimed:
Anne Hath-a-way that gives me pain,
And leave her house and land
I met William the next morning on his way to the Crown Tavern in search of a "Martini Cocktail," a new drink that an Indian from America had invented for Admiral Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh.
William bore the appearance of a man who had slept by a smoky chimney, or encountered the butt end of a threshing flail. He seemed sombre and muttered to himself:
"When sorrows come they come not single
I joined him in liquidation at the tavern, for, to tell the truth, my throat felt like the rough edge of a buffalo robe, and my nerves trembled like aspen leaves in July.
When our usual village sports filed around the table, and glee and song once more prevailed, William began to soften in his statuesque attitude, and laughingly proposed that we "go a poaching" on the imprisoned animals and birds that Squire Lucy corraled for his special delectation, to the detriment of honest apprentices and pure-minded yeomanry.
His proposition was agreed to unanimously,
and just as the sun tipped the treetops of the Charlecote domain, we had scared up a couple of fat deer, and sent our arrows through their trembling anatomy, and the number of hares, grouse and pigeons we slaughtered that evening kept the landlord of the Crown Tavern busy for two days to dish up to his jolly revelers.
In this escapade we only imitated the aristocratic students of Oxford College, who frequently made inroads into lordly domains and took some of the treasures that God and Nature intended for all men, instead of being hatched, bred and watched by impudent and cruel gamekeepers, employed by tyrannical landlords, in defiance of the natural rights of the people.
Even the fish in the Avon, Severn and Bay were registered and claimed by scrubs of royalty for their exclusive use, fine and imprisonment being imposed for hunting on the land and fishing in the streams that God made for all men.
These parliamentary laws should be voted or bulleted out of the statute books, and the people again inherit their inalienable rights.
My friend William was arrested by the malicious Lucy, and the gamekeeper, Tom Snap, swore to enough facts to exile, hang and quarter the Bard.
Through the influence of his father and John A. Combe, William, the chief culprit, was not imprisoned, but compelled to pay a fine of one pound ten.
He did not have but three shillings, yet the boys secretly passed the hat around in the court yard and tavern, and soon extricated our chum from the toils of Sir Thomas Lucy.