Page images

ing of love and admiration. Though his character was composed of all the elements which constitute a hero and a favourite bravery, generosity, frankness, courtesy, a noble disinterestedness, and much graceful accomplishment, his person and manners must have created the charm which made him, before the age of thirty-two, the

most popular man that ever lived in England. It was the uniform practice of the age in which he lived,

for youths liberally educated to attend both the universities; and Sydney did so before going on his travels. At Paris he was made a gentleman of the bedchamber-a mark of high distinction to a young foreigner. He was here seen and admired by Henry IV., then only King of Navarre. “ He used him," says Sydney's friend and biographer, Sir Fulke Greville, “ like an equal in nature, and fit for friendship with a king.” The massacre of the Protestants, which took place during his residence in Paris, disgusted Sydney with France. He went to Frankfort, and at the court of the Emperor distinguished himself by his skill in martial exercises. Printers were at this time among the most learned men; and it is a curious trait of ancient manners to find scholars and foreigners lodged in their houses. At Frankfort Sydney lived in the house of Andrew Wechel. Before returning home he spent a year in Italy, and it is presumed became acquainted with Tasso. On his return he was immediately taken into favour by Queen Elizabeth, who sent him as ambassador to Vienna, with a secret mission to unite the Protestant states of the empire against Spain. Sydney was but a young diplomatist, but he skilfully accomplished this important object ; his manliness and candour being found more effective in swaying men's minds, than the subtlety and crooked policy which statesmen of more cunning than wisdom think it needful to employ. He was at this time only about twenty years of age. On his return, at a tournament held at court, the prize which Sydney had truly gained was adjudged to the Earl of Oxford; and a quarrel ensued, of which the result was a challenge given by Oxford, after the affair had become public, and the council had interfered to prevent the duel. Another account, which is probably tbe correct one, records this affair as having taken place in the ten. nis-court, where Oxford, presuming on his rank, had ordered Sydney, for some imagined offence, to leave the room. Sydney gave his lordship the lie, and then left the place, expecting to be followed, which Oxford thought it prudent to delay till the council had time to receive intimation. Wherever the quarrel originated, the result was alike creditable to Sir Philip; for when the Queen interfered to remind him of the difference “between earls and gentlemen, and of the respect which inferiors owed to superiors,” he manfully stated to her Majesty, that “rank among freemen could claim no other homage than precedency,” and refused to obey her commands to make an apology to the Earl. It was after this that, in retirement at the seat of his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, afterwards the subject of the celebrated epitaph, he wrote the romance of ARCADIA for her amusement. In 1583 he married the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, and was knighted. Two years afterwards Sydney was named as a candidate for the throne of Poland; but this proposal, which shows the estimation in which he was held, was crushed by the Queen both from political and private reasons. “She refused,” says the historian " to farther the advancement, out of the fear that she should

lose the jewel of her times." Sir Philip, having formerly united the Protestant states, was

appointed to assist the people of the Netherlands in throwing off the yoke of Spain, and for this purpose he commanded the military force sent from England. He was also made colonel of all the newly-raised Dutch regiments. He was soon joined by Leicester with more troops, and appointed general of horse. On the 22d of September, 1586, in a skirmish near Zutphen, Sydney beat a superior force of the enemy which he casually encountered, but lost his own life. After his horse had been shot under him he mounted another, and continued to fight till he received his death-wound. The anecdote of his dying moments has been told a thousand times, but will never lose its interest :- While borne off the field, faint with the sick languor which attends the loss of blood, he requested a draught of water; but just as it was put to his lips, seeing a dying soldier beside him look wistfully at it, he put it away, saying, “ This man's necessity is yet greater than mine.”—He languished till the 15th of October, and died in Holland, whence his body was brought for burial. All England wore mourning for his death, and volumes of poetical laments and elegies

were poured forth in all languages. As an author, Sydney, though named as the writer of The

Arcadia, is only known by his Defence of Poesie, Sonnets, and Poems. His poems cannot be rated very highly; but, as is justly observed by one of his critics," the variety of his ambition perhaps unfavourably divided the force of his genius:"-It is not awarded to the same individual to be at once the most finished courtier, the most accomplished soldier, and the first poet. His love-verses have a warmth and depth of feeling which flowed from his own heart, unrestrained by the coldness of Italian conceits, and the false taste of his models. He dealt in real existences, and into the inventions of the poet carried the spirit of the man and the soldier. Many evidences of his natural good taste remain in his Defence of Poesie ; and even in the languid and wire-drawn Arcadia, which looks like an overgrown school-boy exercise of the age of Elizabeth, there are traits of great beauty. If not an emi. ment poet, Sydney was, in the most generous sense, the warm friend and patron of letters. But in literature, as


in every other department, his short life was one of bright promise rather than of wonderful achievement; and perhaps at the age of thirty-two the grave never closed over any man who combined such universal accomplishment, with so many amiable qualities, as this darling of the people of England. His learned tutor had recorded on his tomb, that “ he was the tutor of Sir Philip Sydney;" and his friend Sir Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, who long survived Sydney, had this inscription put on his monument :-“ Fulke Greville, servant of Queen Elizabeth, counsellor to King James, and friend of Sir Philip Sydney.“ The life of Sir Philip Sydney,” says Mr Campbell," was poetry put in action.”

He that loves, and fears to try,
Learns his mistress to deny.
Doth she chide thee? 'tis to shew it
That thy coldness makes her do it.
Is she silent, is she mute ?
Silence fully grants thy suit.
Doth she pout and leave the room ?
Then she goes to bid thee come.

Is she sick ? why then be sure
She invites thee to the cure.
Doth she cross thy suit with “No ?”
Tush ! she loves to hear thee woo.
Doth she call the faith of men
In question ? nay, she loves thee then ;
And if e'er she makes a blot,
She's lost if that thou hit'st her not.

He that, after ten denials,
Dares attempt no farther trials,
Hath no warrant to acquire
The dainties of his chaste desire.


Only joy, now here you are,
Fit to hear and ease my care ;
Let my whispering voice obtain
Sweet reward, for sharpest pain.

Take me to thee, and thee to me
No, no, no, no, my dear, let be.

Night hath closed all in her cloak,
Twinkling stars love-thoughts provoke,
Danger hence good care doth keep,
Jealousy itself doth sleep.

Take me, &c.

Better place no wit can find,
Cupid's yoke to loose, or bind :
These sweet flow'rs on fine bed too,
Us in their best language woo.

Take me, &c.


BECAUSE I breathe not love to every one,

Nor do not use such colours for to wear,

Nor nourish special locks of vowed hair, Nor give each speech a full point of a groan ;

« PreviousContinue »