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SHAKESPEARE AND QUEEN ELIZABETH *
SIDNEY LANIER Sidney Lanier was born in Macon, Georgia, February 3, 1842. He attended Oglethorpe College, and the Civil War breaking out just after his graduation, he enlisted in the cause of the Confederacy, serving throughout the war. After the war he taught school and studied law for a time, but he longed for opportunity to distinguish himself in music and poetry. From a child he had a wonderful talent for music, the flute being his favorite instrument. Determining to live, if possible, by his flute or his pen, he went North, and obtained a position as first flute in the Peabody Symphony Concerts in Baltimore. He had little time for writing poetry, however, being engaged in work upon boys' books and magazine articles. The exposure during the war had planted in him the seeds of consumption, and in the winter of 1876–77, he was persuaded to.go to Florida, where he might find rest and renewed strength. Returning to Baltimore in 1879, he was appointed lecturer in English literature at Johns Hopkins University. Failing health, however, forced him to relinquish this position. He went to the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina, where he died September 7, 1881.
Without more ado, then, fancy that on the night of Friday, July 8, in the year 1575, about twelve o'clock, when all the good burgesses in Stratford were comfortably
asleep, the family of John Shakespeare, residing in a double5 tenement house in Henley Street, were awakened by a furious knocking at the front door.
The eldest son of the family, then only a couple of months past eleven years of age, was the first to hear the noise.
He was, indeed, always a light sleeper, as if Destiny in10 tended he should lose as little as possible of the world which
he was afterwards to weave into his poems. And so, hastily springing from his bed, he knocked at his father's door, and passed quickly down the steps, and was in the act of unbarring the front door when his father called to
* Reprinted by permission of the publishers, Doubleday, Page & Company, Garden City, N. Y.
him: “Hold, William! wouldst thou unbar the door to every knock, like a dicing house? Let him thunder; perhaps it is some gallant, or drunken roisterer. I'll speak him from the window.” Hereupon John Shakespeare 5 thrust his head from the window of a low chamber in the second story, which projected over the lower part of the house, at the same time calling out, “Who is this below there that beats honest folk out of bed in the midnight?" “Marry, one that wishes he was where
ye have just come from,” replied a voice from the street, where the family could dimly perceive a horseman who had dismounted and was holding the bridle of his horse with one hand while he
banged the door with his riding whip in the other. “Open 15 your door, Master Shakespeare; here is a great ado as
far off as Killingworth” — which was the common pronunciation of Kenilworth in those days — “and Ichington, and there is no man but thee can mend it; to wit, the Queen,
God save her Grace, is to be at Killingworth to-morrow, 20 and my lord of Leicester hath had in a great army of new
serving men and folk of all degree for his pageants and his shows, and there is more men than gloves, and the usher must needs have his gloves, and even he that is to play
the salvage man in the woods before the Queen must have 25 his gloves before her Grace's grace, and thou art to send
by me straightway all the gloves in thy shop to Killingworth, or else, by the usher's moaning, the heaven and the earth will clap together and Domesday come a thousand
years afore his time, for lack of some dozen pieces of leather, 30 and I would the usher were doomed to eat 'em, for sending me on a fool's errand at night.”
But John Shakespeare had by this time hurriedly descended and opened his door, whereupon the servant
for they recognized him as such by his blue livery — 35 entered and finished his story. "And again, Master Shakespeare, and mind thou do this, or we will have two Domesdays together, grinding us like the upper and nether millstone. My lord of Leicester's gentleman hath come flying to me as I rode out of Killingworth Great Gate, and 5 saith: My lord of Leicester to-morrow at Long Ichington shall feast the Queen, and they will hunt from there to Killingworth in the afternoon, and my lord of Leicester will call for his bravest new pair of hunting gloves, and I
cannot find them to have them ready, for belike some of 10 these new gentry in the castle have already stole 'em; and
my lord, if he have not his gloves to prank in before the Queen, will have my head - saith my lord's gentleman; and therefore thou, Master Shakespeare, art to fall straight
way to thy work this very instant, and upon the bravest 15 pair of hunting gloves thou hast thou art to stitch the arms
of my lord of Leicester, with the two ragged staves of silver in white silk; and thou art then to dispatch a trusty messenger on a fleet horse to Long Ichington, who shall arrive
by three of the clock in the afternoon of to-morrow, and 20 shall find my lord of Leicester's gentleman and hand him the gloves thou shalt stitch."
It was but a few moments before the household of John Shakespeare presented the unusual scene of an entire
family working after midnight as if it were midday. The 25 package of gloves was made up and the servant remounted
his horse and galloped back toward Kenilworth. John and Mary Shakespeare then went to work on Leicester's gloves, he taking the right and she the left; and while they
stitched, William, with his eyes glistening, begged that he 30 might be allowed to carry the precious package to Long
Ichington. The father was against it: the boy would have to set out before it was fairly light, in order to insure against accidents, and it was a lonesome road, and the like argu
ments. But the mother saw a wild longing in his young 35 eyes; a vague flash of a dream passed before her of what
might happen if William were in such fine company, and so she urged his request.
The consequence was, in short, that before daylight on Saturday morning young William Shakespeare made his 5 way on a good horse out of Stratford and took the road to Long Ichington. As he passed along the deep Warwickshire hedges and under the boughs of many a great oak, the unspeakable enchantment of the early summer morning arose out of the grass and descended from the trees.
Presently the power and the mystery of the deep green woods came over his soul; he burst into tears of unspeakable rapture; he sang at the top of his voice, while a great dome of silver built itself in the sky before the rising sun;
the birds lifted up their voices; the little brooks rippled 15 across the road; the laborers came out into the fields;
the strolling tinker, the great wagon, passed him unnoticed; the farm, the thorp, the country seat, floated by him; and so he fared through the morning in a dream of vague de
light until midday, when the hot sun beating on his head 20 suddenly admonished him to look about.
He pulled himself together and discovered during that operation that he had an amazing appetite, having eaten nothing since his early supper the night before. Upon
asking the distance to Long Ichington, he was told it was 25 but a short mile; so, having three hours to spare, he deter
mined to avail himself of a piece of venison pasty which Mistress Shakespeare had stuffed into his pouch, before he left home, for his breakfast. Observing that a brook
flowed across the way just ahead, he rode up to it, turned 30 his horse's head into the wood, and threaded his way be
tween the tree trunks until he found a spot, some half mile from the highway, where the brook made a round and placid pool, embowered in cool foliage.
Here he dismounted, fastened his horse to a swinging 35 bough which would allow him to nibble the grass - "for I will eat with thee, Flight,” he said to the horse, patting his neck; "though I cared not to munch by the roadside with Jack and Jill” — and sat down on the bank.
Here, with a little laugh of luxury, he drew off his girdle 5 and loosened his doublet. He had caused his mother, some time previously, to sew him up a sort of leathern pouch of a size sufficient to hold two or three books which he owned, and which he was accustomed to carry with
him in his long and lonesome excursions about the country. 10 As he opened the pouch he perceived that his good mother,
in her hurry, had stuffed the pasty in with his books, and so he took all out together. He had recently made a great acquisition; this was a copy of Tottel's Miscellany
of Uncertain Authors (the first printed book of modern 15 poetry); and he now eagerly embraced the chance to read
a poem or two while he was chewing his pasty. So he spread the book open before him and fell to, feeding body and soul at the same time. Presently he came to that perfect parting song of Wyatt's,
“And wilt thou leave me thus,
which first appeared in this book.
At this moment, while he was making fantastic application of the poem to his own case, a small bird flew into the
green paradise of leaves just over his head and began to 25 warble; with a smile the boy gently leaned backward until
he lay on the grass, flat on his back, watching the bird. And so presently the rhythm of the poem melted vaguely into the warble of the bird; the plashing of the brook, the
drowsy swell and passing away of breaths of warm air 30 among the leaves, the mysterious underlull of the noon
tide, came over him with power; the boy's eyes, unaccustomed to the vigils and excitements of the day before, slowly closed, and he passed away into a blissful slumber.
Leaving him sound asleep in the gentle care of the green