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“ Raile not gainst Fortunes sacred Deitie,
Fortune will glorie in thy great renowne,
They leave Britain and visit Paphos :
“ farewell that strond, Upon whose craggie rockes my Ship was rent; Your ill beseeming follies made me fond,
And in a vastie Cell I up was pent,
O blame your selves ill nurtred cruell Swaines,
Here follow some immense digressions suggested by the countries over which the pair are supposed to fly, including an account of British cities and their legends, Eastern, Jewish and Christian personages, the Life and Death of King Arthur, the flowers and herbs of the world (under which it appears “that artichocks" are good for conception), its fish, precious stones, beasts and birds. Arrived at Paphos, Nature returns to the point, and, seeing the Turtle, says:
This is the Dove you long'd so much to see."
"O stay, poore Turtle, whereat hast thou gazed,
At the eye-dazzling Sunne .
Natures faire darling, let me kneele to thee,
" Thou shalt no more go weeping al alone,"
Burn both our bodies to revive one name :
“I hope of these another creature springs,
That shall possess both our authority."
The Phoenix and the Turtle retire into a grove, and, kindling a fire, are burned in a mutual flame. A Pelican, who sees the sacrifice, comments on it :
“That they may sing in notes of Chastitie,
The Turtle and the Phoenix amitie.”
The “ Conclusion ” relates :
“ From the sweet fire of perfumed wood
Another princely Phoenix upright stood." There follow 33 pages entitled " Cantoes,” being literary devices of no interest on the subject of the Phoenix and mutual affection, worked out by letters of the alphabet, etc.
Then comes a heading introducing the supplementary contributions described above: “Hereafter follow Diverse Poeticall Essaies on the former Subject; viz., the Turtle and Phænix. Done by the best and chiefest of our moderne writers, with their names subscribed to their particular workes, never before extant."
Ignoto. “ One Phenix borne, another Phenix burne."
Phoenix and Turtle Doves ashes,” namely, “perfection."
82 very dull lines. George Chapman. Peristeros : the male Turtle." 26 equally dull lines, two of which are : "Like him the Turtle] I bound th'instinct of all my
powres, In her that bounds the Empire of desert." Ben Jonson. Writes in praise of true love versus passion, and
interprets the Phønix as woman of beauty, wit and judgment (adorned with learning), and concludes :
“ Alas: then whither wade I,
In thought to praise this Ladie ?
Phenix of beautie, beauteous bird of any,
Accept my home-writ praises of thy love,
It will be seen from these extracts that the Phoenix (or Rosalin) is described in terms of royalty and as the only paragon of the earth. She rules over an island kingdom, where her mind has been abused by Envy, and where the cruelty of the inhabitants has brought stains on her glory. Living in exile from her is a Turtle, who loves her but has given her offence, but he is the soul of honour and she longs to be reunited to him. This union takes place mystically in the fire, and out of it " another princely Phenix "arises. What else can this be but a popular view of the story of Elizabeth and Essex? It will be noticed that “Cell," with a capital letter, is brought in twice and the second time very inappropriately. This, in my opinion, is as near as the writer dared go to “Cecil," and is intended in order to fasten the blame for the Queen's treatment of Essex on him. The poem was evidently written before the death of Essex. Shakespeare's poem, on the other hand, was evidently written after it in the year of publication), and in it both parties are regarded, poetically, as dead. I long ago formed the opinion that his poem referred to Essex and the Queen, and my fuller researches into it in the light of the context have entirely confirmed me in this opinion. I find also that Grosart, who edited a reproduction of Chester's book, arrived at the same conclusion, but no one seems to have taken any notice of what he said, though his argument is well worked out, and he was not a “Baconian," which, in this country, is apparently a test of a critic's capacity.
It is not necessary to say much about Shakespeare's poem, because, in the light of Chester's book, it practically explains itself, but a few points may be noticed. The obscurity of it is, in my opinion, intentional, to serve for concealment, an important matter, regard being had to the subject. Thus, though it tempts us to look for an inner meaning for the various figures, it may very well be that that intention is not present in all of them. Subject to this, it may be suggested, as a speculation, that the “bird of loudest lay” (1) is intended for the author, or for Queen Elizabeth as the sovereign; the "shrieking harbinger" (2) is the owl, and might mean Cecil; the “ eagle" (3) might be "
James of Scotland ; the “ treble-dated crow” and its description (5) offer an attractive subject of speculation, but it may be only the ancient vulgar legend, adopted for the purpose of producing an impression of obscurity, that the crow could change its gender at will by breathing; it might, however, be intended for the mother of Essex, who, by then, had been thrice married !1 Queen” (8), with a capital letter is significant. The subject of the “anthem” is division in
" unity, that is the two persons, though one in heart, were separated by circumstances. Grosart took “property” (10) to mean rank, nobility, but this is clearly wrong. It evidently means “possession," and the sense, then, is that possession was dismayed to find that the object desired could not be contained or appropriated. The "married chastity” of the Threnos is evidently a tribute to the Virgin Queen.
If this interpretation of Shakespeare's poem is sound, as I consider it is, it follows that it is good evidence of the state of mind of Elizabeth after the execution of Essex. A later writer said, “It were no great hyperbole to affirm that the Queene did not only bury Affection but her Power in the Tombe of Essex,”? and other records speak of her deep melancholy. They are collected in Devereux's second volume ; but it has become the fashion among some modern historians to discredit this evidence, apparently because most of it is not contemporary, and because such a man as Howard, in his secret correspondence with James, wrote that “the Queen our sovereign was never so gallant many years, nor so set upon jollity." But this was probably written to
”3 keep James quiet, which was Cecil's great preoccupation, and it is not inconsistent with fits of melancholy. Anyhow the evidence from Manningham's Diary is absolutely contemporary and cannot be disputed : “Dr. Parry told me the Countess Kildare assured him that the Queene caused the
? If my recollection has not played me false, there was a lady about the Court of Elizabeth who was called “ the Crow," but though I bave often searched, I can no longer place the reference. If found, it is just possible that it might be a light.
· Traditional Memories, Osborne.
ring wherwith shee was wedded to the crowne to be cutt from her finger some 6 weekes before her death, but wore a ring which the Earl of Essex gave her unto the day of her death.
The striking thing about Shakespeare's poem is its sombre tone. It seems to mark a parting of the ways. It might almost be said that in it the poet seems to take leave of his youthful gaiety and pass his hand over the strings from which the great tragic music was soon to issue.
A word may be said about the danger of the Essex theme, even some years after the event. In 1605 Daniel produced a play, which he had begun in 1600, called “The Tragedy of Philotas," a play which is transparently written round the tragedy of Essex, and he got into great trouble for it. He wrote an apology for it to Cranbourne (Cecil) and his patron Devonshire (Mountjoy) denying the intention. In the course of it, speaking of "the wrong application and misconceiving of this tragedy," he says that "being driven by necessity to make use of my pen, and the stage to be the mouth of my lines, which before were never heard to speak but in silence, I thought the representing so true a History, in the ancient forme of a Tragedy, could not but have had an unreproveable passage with the time, and the better sort of men ; seeing with what idle fictions, and grosse follies the Stage at this day abused men's recreations." And of
And for mine owne part, having beene particularly beholding to his bounty, I would to God his error and disobedience to his Sovereigns might be so deepe buried underneath the earth, that he might never be remembered among the examples of disloyalty in this kingdome, or paraleld with Foreine Conspirators." This was evidently written under the influence of fear, because in the play, under the analogy of Alexander and his Court, the conspiracy and trial of Essex are clearly indicated. Even his frantic self-condemnations in the Tower, and the confessions by which he implicated his friends, are portrayed under the similar conduct of Philotas, who is put to the torture. And the Chorus comments :
We see Philotas acts his goodnesse ill,
Essex he says,