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At this solemn moment, before he lay down to rest, and at the instant of parting from his lady, with all his domestic affections still warm, to express his feelings in verse was with him a natural effusion, and one to which he had long been used. It is peculiar in the fate of RAWLEIGH, that having before suffered a long imprisonment, with an expectation of a public death, his mind had been accustomed to its contemplation, and had often dwelt on the event which was now passing. The soul, in its sudden departure, and its future state, is often the subject of his few poems; that most original one of the Farewell,"
"Go, soul! the body's guest,
is attributed to RAWLEIGH, though on uncertain evidence. But another, entitled " the Pilgrimage," has this beautiful passage:
"Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My gown of glory, Hope's true gage,
Travelleth towards the land of Heaven."
RAWLEIGH'S cheerfulness was so remarkable, and his fearlessness of death so marked, that the Dean of Westminster, who attended him, at first wondering at the hero, reprehended the lightness of his manner; but Rawleigh gave God thanks that he had never feared death; for it was but an opinion and an imagination; and as for the manner of death, he had rather die so than in a burning fever; and that some might have made shows outwardly, but he felt the joy within. The Dean says, that he made no more of his death than if he had been to take a journey; “ Not, (said he) but that I am a great sinner, for I have been a soldier, a seaman, and a courtier." The writer of the manuscript letter tells us, that the Dean declared, he died not only religiously, but he found him to be a man as ready and as able to give as to take instruction.
On the morning of his death he smoked, as usual, his favourite tobacco, and when they brought him a cup of excellent sack, being asked how he liked it, Rawleigh answered, "As the fellow, that, drinking of St Giles's bowl, as he went to Tyburn, said, that was good drink, if a man might tarry by it.' The day before, in passing from Westminster-Hall to the gate-house, his eye had caught Sir Hugh Beeston in the throng, and calling on him, requested he would see him die to-morSir Hugh, to secure himself a seat on the scaffold, had provided himself with a letter to the sheriff, which was not read at the time, and Sir Walter found his friend thrust by, lamenting that he could not get there. "Farewell!" exclaimed Rawleigh, "I know not what shift you will make, but I am sure to have a place." In going from the
"The Soul's Errand," inserted in this Selection, page 39. is the Poem here alluded to. ED.
prison to the scaffold, among others who were pressing hard to see him, one old man, whose head was bald, came very forward, insomuch that Rawleigh noticed him, and asked, "whether he would have ought of him ?" The old man answered, "Nothing but to see him, and to pray to God for him." Rawleigh replied, "I thank thee, good friend, and I am sorry I have no better thing to return thee for thy good will." Observing his bald head, he continued, "but take this night-cap, (which was a very rich wrought one that he wore) for thou hast more need of it now than I."
His dress, as was usual with him, was elegant, if not rich. Oldys describes it, but, mentions, "that he had a wrought night-cap under his hat," which we have otherwise disposed of; his ruff-band, a black wrought velvet night-gown, over a hair-coloured satin doublet, and a black wrought waistcoat; black cut taffety breeches, and ash-coloured silk stockings.
He ascended the scaffold with the same cheerfulness he had passed to it; and observing the Lords seated at a distance, some at windows, he requested they would approach him, as he wished what he had to y they should all witness. This request was complied with by several. His speech is well known, but some copies contain matters not in others. When finished, he requested Lord Arundel that the king would not suffer any libels to defame him after death. And now I have a long journey to go, and must take my leave." He embraced all the Lords and other friends, with such courtly compliments, as if he had met them at some feast," says a letter writer. Having taken off his gown, he called to the headsman to show him the axe, which not being instantly done, he repeated, "I prithee let me see it. Dost thou think that I am afraid of it ?" He passed the edge slightly over his his finger, and smiling, observed to the sheriff, "This is a sharp medicine, but a sound cure for all diseases," and kissing it, laid it down. Another writer, has, "This is that that will cure all sorrows." After this he went to three several corners of the scaffold, and kneeling down, desired all the people to pray for him, and recited a long prayer to himself. When he began to fit himself for the block, he first laid himself down to try how the block fitted him; after rising up, the excutioner kneeled down to ask his forgiveness, which Rawleigh with an embrace did, but entreated him not to strike till he gave a token by lifting up his hand, and then, fear not, but strike home!" When he laid his head down to receive the stroke, the executioner desired him to lay his face towards the east. "It was no great matter which way a man's head stood, so the heart lay right," said Rawleigh; but these were not his last words. He was once more to speak in this world with the same intripidity he had lived in it-for having lain some minutes on the block in prayer, he gave the signal; but the executioner, either unmindful, or in fear, failed to strike, and Rawleigh, after once or twice putting forth his hands, was compelled to ask him, "Why doest thou not strike! Strike man!" In two blows he was beheaded; but from the first, his body never shrunk from the spot, by any discomposure of posture, which, like his mind was immoveable.
"In all the time he was upon the scaffold, and before," says one of
the manuscript letter writers, there appeared not the least alteration in him, either in his voice or countenance; but he seemed as free from all manner of apprehension as if he had been come thither rather to be a spectator than a sufferer; nay, the beholders seemed much more sensible than did he, so that he hath purchased here, in the opinion of men, such honour and reputation, as it is thought his great enemies are they that are most sorrowful for his death, which they see is like to turn so much to his advantage."
The people were deeply affected at the sight, and so much that one said, that we had not such another head to cut off;" and another "wished the head and brains to be upon Secretary Nanton's shoulders.” The observer suffered for this; he was a wealthy citizen, and great newsmonger, and one who haunted Paul's Walk. Complaint was made, and the citizen summoned to the privy-council. He pleaded that he intended no disrespect to Mr Secretary; but only spake in reference to the old proverb, that "two heads were better than one." His excuse was allowed at the moment; but when afterwards called upon for contribution to St Paul's Cathedral, and having subscribed a hundred pounds, the Secretary observed to him, "that two are better than one Mr Wiemark!" either from fear or charity, the witty citizen doubled his subscription.
Thus died this glorious and gallant cavalier, of whom Osborne says, "His death was managed by him with so high and religious a resolution, as if a Roman had acted a Christian, or rather a Christian a Roman."*
After having read the preceding article, we are astonished at the greatness, and the variable nature of this extraordinary man, and this happy genius. With Gibbon, who once meditated to write his life, we may pause, and pronounce" his character is ambiguous;" but we shall not hesitate to decide, that RAWLEIGH knew better how to die than to live. "His glorious hours," says a contemporary," were his arraignment and execution: but never will be forgotten the intermediate years of his lettered imprisonment !"
THE gentle season of the yeere
And yet mine eies augment their showres.
*The chief particulars in this narrative are drawn from the manuscript letters of the day, in the Sloan Collection, under their respective dates, Nov. 3, 1618, Larkin to Sir Thomas Pickering; Oct. 31, 1618, Chamberlain's letters."
The meades are mantled all with greene,
Whose leafe doth fall amid his spring.
And as you see the scarlet rose,
Because my sunshine is deprived.
My hart, that wonted was of yore,
Amongst the buds, when beautie springs,
Now onely hovers over you,
As dothe the birde thats taken new,
And mourns when all her neighbours sings.
When every man is bent to sport,
Into some solitarie walke,
How love requiteth me with hate :
How fortune frownes upon my state.
And to the gods make this request-
PHENIX NEST, 1593.
DESTRUCTION OF SEMNACHERIB.
THE Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And there lay the steed with his nostrils all wide,
And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail;
And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
LET me not to the marriage of true minds
Or bends with the remover to remove :
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.