Percy's Reliques - A Sonnet by Q. Elizabeth.

A Sonnet by Q. Elizabeth.

††††††††††† The following lines, if they display no rich vein of poetry, are yet so strongly characteristic of their great and spirited authoress, that the insertion of them will be pardoned. They are preserved in Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie: a book in which are many sly addresses to the queen's foible of shining as a poetess. The extraordinary manner in which these verses are introduced shews what kind of homage was exacted from the courtly writers of that age, viz:--

††††††††††† "I find," says this antiquated critic, "none example in English metre so well maintaining this figure [Exargasia, or the gorgeous, Lat. Expolitio] as that dittie of her majesties owne making, passing sweete and harmonicall; which figure beyng, as his very originall name purporteth, the most bewtifull and gorgious of all others, it asketh in reason to be reserved for a last complement, and desciphred by a ladies penne, herselfe beyng the most bewtifull, or rather bewtie of queenes.[ 1] And this was the occasion: our soveraigne lady perceiving how the Scottish queenes residence within this realme at so great libertie and ease (as were skarce meete for so great and dangerous a prysoner) bred secret factions among her people, and made many of the nobilitie incline to favour her partie: some of them desirous of innovation in the state: others aspiring to greater fortunes by her libertie and life: the queene our soveraigne ladže, to declare that she was nothing ignorant of those secret practizes, though she had long with great wisdome and pacience dissembled it, writeth this dittie most sweete and sententious, not hiding from all such aspiring minds the danger of their ambition and disloyaltie: which afterwards fell out most truly by th' exemplary chastisement of sundry persons, who in favour of the said Scot. Qu. declining from her majestie, sought to interrupt the quiet of the realme by many evill and undutifull practizes."

††††††††††† This sonnet seems to have been composed in 1569, not long before the Duke of Norfolk, the Earls of Pembroke and Arundel, the Lord Lumley, Sir Nich. Throcmorton, and others, were taken into custody. (See Hume, Rapin, &c.) It was originally written in long lines or Alexandrines, each of which is here divided into two.

††††††††††† The present edition is improved by some readings adopted from a copy printed in a collection from the papers of Sir John Harrington, intitled, Nugś Antiquaś, Lond. 1769, 12mo. where the verses are accompanied with a very curious letter, in which this sonnet is said to be "of her Highness own inditing . . . My Lady Willoughby did covertly get it on her majesties tablet, and had much hazzard in so doing; for the queen did find out the thief, and chid for her spreading evil bruit of her writing such toyes, when others matters did so occupy her employment at this time; and was fearful of being thought too lightly of for so doing."***

THE doubt of future foes
Exiles my present joy;
And wit me warnes to shun such snares,
As threaten mine annoy.

For falshood now doth flow,
And subjects faith doth ebbe:
Which would not be, if reason rul'd,
Or wisdome wove the webbe.

But clowdes of joyes untried
Do cloake aspiring minds;
Which turn to raine of late repent,
By course of changed windes.

The toppe of hope supposed
The roote of ruthe will be;
And frutelesse all their grafted guiles,
As shortly all shall see.

Then dazeld eyes with pride,
Which great ambition blindes,
Shal be unseeld by worthy wights,
Whose foresight falshood finds.

The daughter of debate,[ 2]
That discord ay doth sowe,
Shal reape no game where former rule
Hath taught stil peace to growe.

No forreine bannisht wight
Shall ancre in this port;
Our realme it brookes no strangers force,
Let them elsewhere resort.

Our rusty sworde with rest
Shall first his edge employ,
To poll the toppes, that seeke such change,
Or gape for such like joy.


1. She was at this time near three-score.

2. She evidently means here the Queen of Scots.

*** I cannot help subjoining to the above sonnet another distich of Elizabeth's, preserved by Puttenham (p. 197), "which," says he, "our soveraigne lady wrote in defiance of fortune."

"Never think you, Fortune can beare the sway
Where Vertue's force can cause her to obay.

††††††††††† The slightest effusion of such a mind deserves attention.


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