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that grievous servitude whereunto it was subject ;"* and he telling her the hard conditions upon which her prayer should be granted,
“She rode forth, clothed on with chastity.”—(TENNYSON.)
Noble-hearted women such as the Lady Godiva were those of Coventry who assisted their husbands to drive out the Danes ; and there they lead their captives in triumph ; and the Hock-play terminates with song and chorus,
But the solemnities of the day are not yet concluded. In the space around Swine Cross, and near St. John's School, is another scaffold erected ; not a lofty scaffold like that of the drapers and shearmen, but gay with painted cloths and ribbons. The pageant of “ The Nine Worthies” is to be performed by the dramatic body of the Grammar School ; the ancient pageant, such as was presented to Henry VI. and his Queen in 1455, and of which the Leet-book contains the faithful copy.t Assuredly there was one who witnessed that performance carefully employed in noting down the lofty speeches which the three Hebrews, Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabæus ; the three Infidels, Hector, Alexander, and Julius Cæsar ; and the three Christians, Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Boulogne, uttered on that occasion. In the Coventry pageant Hector thus speaks :
“ Most pleasant princes, recorded that may be,
I, Hector of Troy, that am chief conqueror,
And Alexander thus :
“I, Alexander, that for chivalry beareth the ball,
Most courageous in conquest through the world am I named, -
And Julius Cæsar thus :
" I, Julius Cæsar, sovereign of knighthood
And emperor of mortal man, most high and mighty,
Welcome you, princes most benign and good." Surely it was little less than plagiary, if it was not meant for downright parody, when, in a pageant of “The Nine Worthies” presented a few years after, Hector comes in to say
“ The armipotent Mars, of lances the almighty,
Gave Hector a gift, the heir of Ilion:
From worn till night, out of his pavilion.
| And Alexander :
“When in the world I liv'd, I was the world's commander ;
By east, west, north, and south, I spread my conquering might :
And Pompey, usurping the just honours of his triumphant rival :
"I Pompey am, Pompey surnamed the great,
That oft in field, with targe and shield, did make my foe to sw cat."
Put the laugh of the parody was a harmless one. The Nine Worthies were utterly dead and gone in the popular estimation at the end of the century. Certainly in the crowd before St. John's School at Coventry there would be more than one who would laugh at the speeches—merry souls, ready to play on the tabor to the Worthies, and let them dance the hay." *
* " Love's Labour's Lost," Act v. It is scarcely necessary to refer the reader to the same play for 'the speeches of Hector, Alexander, and Pompey. The coincidence between these and the old Coventry Pageant is remarkable.
THE happy days of boyhood are nearly over. William Shakspere no longer looks for the close of the day when, in that humble chamber in Henley Street, his father shall learn something of his school progress, and hear him read some English book of history or travel,-volumes which the active presses of London had sent cheaply amongst the people. The time is arrived when he has quitted the free-school. His choice of a worldly occupation is scarcely yet made. It is that pause which so often takes place in the life of a youth, when the world shows afar off like a vast plain with many paths, all bright and sunny, and losing themselves in the distance, where it is fancied there is something brighter still. At this season we may paint the family of John Shakspere at their evening fireside. The mother is plying her distaff, or hearing Richard his lesson out of the A B C book. The father and the elder son are each intent upon a book of chronicles, manly reading. Gilbert is teaching his sister Joan Gamut “the ground of all accord.” A neighbour comes in upon business with the father, who quits the room ; and then all the group crowd round their elder brother, who has laid aside his chronicle, to entreat him for a story ; the mother even joins in the children's prayer to their gentle brother. Has not he himself
pictured such a home scene ? May we not read for Hermione, Mary Shakspere, and for Mamillius, William ?
“Her. What wisdom stirs amongst you? Come, sir, now
Mam. Merry, or sad, shall 't be?
A sad tale's best for winter :
Let's have that, good sir.
Nay, come, sit down ; then on.
Come on then, And give't me in mine ear."* And truly that boy must have had access to a prodigious mine of such stories, whether “merry or sad.” What a storehouse was “The Palace of Pleasure, beautified, adorned, and well furnished with pleasaunt histories and excellent nouelles, selected out of diuers good and commendable authors ; by William Painter, Clarke of the Ordinaunce and Armarie.” In this book, according to the dedication of the translator to Ambrose Earl of Warwick, was set forth “ the great valiance of noble gentlemen, the terrible combats of courageous personages, the virtuous minds of noble dames, the chaste hearts of constant ladies, the wonderful patience of puissant princes, the mild sufferance of well-disposed gentlewomen, and, in divers, the quiet bearing of adverse fortune.” Pleasant little apophthegms and short fables were there in that book. There was Æsop's fable of the old lark and her young ones, wherein "he prettily and aptly doth premonish that hope and confidence of things attempted by man ought to be fixed and trusted in none other but in himself.” There was the story, most delightful to a child, of the bondman at Rome, who was brought into the open place upon which a great multitude looked, to fight with a lion of marvellous bigness; and the fierce lion when he saw him “suddenly stood still, and afterwards by little and little, in gentle sort, he came unto the man as though he had known him," and licked his hands and legs; and the bondman told that he had healed in former time the wounded foot of the lion, and the beast became his friend. In the same storehouse was a tale which Painter translated from the French of Pierre Boisteau-a true tale, as he records it, “the memory whereof to this day is so well known at Verona, as unnethst their blubbered eyes be yet dry that saw and beheld that lamentable sight.” It was “The goodly history of the true and constant love between Romeo and Julietta ;” and there was described how Romeo came into the hall of the Capulets whose family were at variance with his 091, the Montesches, and,“ very shamefaced, withdrew himself into a corner ;—but by reason of the light of the torches, which burned very bright, he was by and by known and looked upon by the whole company ;" how he held the frozen hand of Juliet, the daughter of the Capulet, and it warmed and thrilled, so that from that moment there was love between them ; how the lady was told that Romeo was the * son of her father's capital enemy and deadly foe;" how, in the little street before her father's house, Juliet saw Romeo walking, “through the brightness of the moon;" how they were joined in holy marriage secretly by the good Friar Lawrence ; and then came bloodshed, and grief, and the banishment of Romeo, and the friar gave * "Winter's Tale,” Act 11., Scene I.
t Unneths, scarcely.
the lady a drug to produce a pleasant sleep, which was like unto death ; and she, “so humble, wise, and debonnaire,” was laid " in the ordinary grave of the Capulets," as one dead, and Romeo, having bought poison of an apothecary, went to the tomb, and there laid down and died ; and the sleeping wife awoke, and with the aid of the dagger of Romeo she died beside him. From the same collection of tales would he learn the story of “Giletta of Narbonne,” who cured the King of France of a painful malady, and the King gave her in marriage to the Count Beltramo, with whom she had been brought up, and her husband despised and forsook her, but at last they were united, and lived in great honour and felicity. There was another collection,—the “Gesta Romanorum,” translated by R. Robinson in 1577,-old legends, come down to those latter days from monkish historians, who had embodied in their narratives all the wild traditions of the ancient and modern world. Such was the story of the rich heiress who chose a husband by the machinery of a gold, a silver, and a leaden casket ;-and another story of the merchant whose inexorable creditor required the fulfilment of his bond in cutting a pound of flesh nearest the merchant's heart, and by the skilful interpretation of the bond the cruel creditor was defeated. There was the story, too, in these legends, of the Emperor Theodosius, who had three daughters ; and those two daughters who said they loved him more than themselves were unkind to him, but the youngest, who only said she loved him as much as he was worthy, succoured him in his need, and was his true daughter. There was in that collection also a feeble outline of the history of a king whose wife died upon the stormy sea, and her body was thrown overboard, and the child she then bore was lost, and found by the father after many years, and the mother was also wonderfully kept in life. Stories such as these, preserved amidst the wreck of time, were to that youth like the seeds that are found in the tombs of ruined cities, lying with the bones of forgotten generations, but which the genial influences of nature will call into life, and they shall become flowers, and trees, and food for man.
But, beyond all these, our Mamillius had many a tale “ of sprites and goblins." He told them, we may well believe at that period, with an assenting faith, if not a prostrate reason. They were not then, in his philosophy, altogether “the very coinage of the brain.” Such appearances were above nature, but the commonest movements of the natural world had them in subjection :
. “I have heard,
Powerful they were, but yet powerless. They came for benevolent purposes : to warn the guilty ; to discover the guilt. The belief in them was not a debasing thing. It was associated with the enduring confidence that rested upon a world beyond this material world. Love hoped for such visitations ; it had its dreams of such—where the loved one looked smilingly, and spoke of regions where change and separation were not. They might be talked of, even amongst children then, without terror. They lived in that corner of the soul which had trust in angel protections ; which believed in celestial hierarchies ; which listened to hear the stars moving in harmonious music
“Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins," —