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begins with the evening. It is the song of the nightingale that is first heard; lured by which the youth walks forth in moonlight, seeing all objects in their silver aspect, and listening to the sounds of nightfall. Such evening or nocturnal sights and sounds it is that befit the mood of melancholy. And then, indoors again we follow the thoughtful youth, to see him, in his chamber, where the embers glow on the hearth, sitting meditatively, disturbed by no sound, save (for it may be a town that he is now in) the drowsy voice of the passing bellman. Later still, or after midnight, we may fancy him in some high watch-tower, communing, over his books, with old philosophers, or with poets of grave and tragic themes. In such solemn and weirdly phantasies let the whole night pass, and let the morning come, not gay, but sombre and cloudy, the winds rocking the trees, and the rain-drops falling heavily from the eaves. At last, when the sun is up, the watcher, who has not slept, may sally forth; but it is to lose himself in some forest of monumental oaks or pines, where sleep may overtake him recumbent by some waterfall. And always, ere he rejoins the mixed society of men, let him pay his due visit of worship to the Gothic cathedral near, and have his mind raised to its highest by the music of the pealing organ.
The studied antithesis of the two pieces has to be kept in mind in reading them. It needs only be added that the commentators have supposed that Milton may have been aided in his conception of the two poems by some passages in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, by a song in Beaumont and Fletcher's drama of Nice Valor, and by recollections of other pieces of a pensive kind, in octosyllabic measure, including Marlowe's pretty poem, the Passionate Shepherd to his Love, and Sir Walter Raleigh's answer to the same, called The Nymph's Reply. The help from any such quarters, however, must have been very small, the mere suggestion of a cadence here and there.
"Part of an Entertainment presented to the CountessDowager of Derby at Harefield by some noble persons of her Family," are the words added by Milton himself to the title of the poem, to explain its nature. In other words, it is part, and only part, of a masque presented before a venerable lady at her country-seat by some members of her family who had
chosen this way of showing their affection and respect for her. The rest of the masque has perished; only this fragment of it, supplied by Milton, remains. The date is a little uncertain. Historically, the Arcades is connected so closely with Comus that any Introduction to the one must serve also as partly an Introduction to the other; and the manner of the connexion is such that we must assume that the Arcades preceded Comus. Now, as the date of Comus is 1634, the same year, or the immediately preceding year, 1633, has been taken as the probable year for the Arcades; and, though arguments have been adduced in favour of an earlier date, they do not bear strict investigation (see ante, pp. 5, 6). It is chiefly necessary to bear in mind that the Arcades did, at all events, precede Comus, and that the lady in whose honour it was composed was one of the same noble family for whom Comus was subsequently written.
That lady was Alice, Countess-Dowager of Derby, who, in 1633, was about seventy-two years of age. The life of this lady had been one that would have made her venerable in the social and literary history of England even had there not been this association of her later years with the youth of Milton. Born, about the year 1560, one of the daughters of Sir John Spencer of Althorpe, Northamptonshire,—from whom are descended the Earls Spencer and their branches, -she had been married in early life to Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, eldest son of the fourth Earl of Derby. One of her sisters, Elizabeth Spencer, was then, by marriage, Lady Carey, and another, Anne Spencer, was Lady Compton. The three sisters seem to have at that time been especially well known to the poet Spenser, who, indeed, claimed to be related to the Spencers of Althorpe. Spenser's Muiopotmos (1590) was dedicated to Lady Carey; his Mother Hubberd's Tale (1591) was dedicated to Lady Compton; and to the youngest of the three sisters,—the one with whom we are at present concerned,-was dedicated in the same year (1591) his Teares of the Muses. In paying this honour to Alice, Lady Strange, Spenser had regard not only to her own accomplishments and his connexion with her family, but also to the reputation of her husband, Lord Strange. No nobleman of the day was of greater note in the world of letters than Lord Strange. He was himself a poet; among the dramatic companies of the time was one retained by him
and known as "Lord Strange's Players"; and among his clients and panegyrists were Nash, Greene, and others of Shakespeare's seniors in the English Drama. All this is recognised in Spenser's dedication of the Teares of the Muses to Lady Strange. "Most brave and noble Lady," he says, "the things that make ye so much honoured of the world as ye be are such as, without my simple lines' testimony, are throughly known to all men: namely, your excellent beauty, your virtuous behaviour, and your noble match with that most honourable Lord, the very pattern of right nobility. But the causes for which ye have thus deserved of me to be honoured (if honour it be at all) are both your particular bounties and also some private bonds of affinity which it hath pleased your Ladyship to acknowledge. Vouchsafe, noble
Lady, to accept this simple remembrance, though not worthy of yourself, yet such as perhaps, by good acceptance thereof, ye may hereafter cull out a more meet and memorable evidence of your own excellent deserts." Some time after this dedication, to wit, in September 1593,- -the lady so addressed rose still higher in the peerage by the accession of her husband to the earldom of Derby on his father's death. Ferdinando, fifth Earl of Derby, however, enjoyed his new dignity but a few months. He died on the 16th of April 1594, in his thirty-sixth year, much regretted. From that day his widow was known as Alice, Countess-Dowager of Derby. The earldom of Derby went to the next male heir; and the Countess-Dowager, with her three young daughters by her deceased husband,-Lady Anne Stanley, Lady Frances Stanley, and Lady Elizabeth Stanley,-lived on to form new alliances. Spenser, who had honoured her during her husband's life, continued to honour her in her widowhood. his pastoral of Colin Clout's come Home again (completed in 1595), the poet, having enumerated the chief" shepherds' or poets of the British Isle, and having proceeded thence to a mention of some of the chief "shepherdesses" or "nymphs," introduces three of these ladies thus :
"Ne less praiseworthie are the sisters three,
Of which I meanest boast myself to be,
The next to her is bountiful Charillis;
But the youngest is the highest in degree."
These three ladies were the three married daughters of Sir John Spencer of Althorpe, honoured some years before by dedications of Spenser's earliest poems to them respectively; and Amaryllis, the youngest of them, and "the highest in degree," was the one to whom he had dedicated his Teares of the Muses, then Lady Strange, but now Countess-Dowager of Derby. Indeed, there are special allusions in Colin Clout's come Home again to the widowed condition of this lady:
"But Amaryllis whether fortunate
Or else unfortunate may I aread,
That freed is from Cupid's yoke by fate,
Since which she doth new bands' adventure dread?
In this or that praised diversely apart,
In her thou mayst them all assembled see,
The lady, however, did marry again. In 1600, when Spenser was no longer alive to approve or to regret, she contracted a second marriage with Lord Keeper Egerton,—then only Sir Thomas Egerton and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal to Queen Elizabeth, but afterwards (1603) Baron Ellesmere and Lord Chancellor to King James, and finally (1616) Viscount Brackley. This eminent lawyer and statesman had already been twice married, and was a man of about sixty years of age, with grown-up children, when he made his splendid match with the Countess-Dowager of Derby. The Countess,—who of course, retained that title in her new condition as the Lord Keeper's wife, -was brought once again conspicuously into society by her husband's connexion with public affairs. In 1601 she and her husband jointly purchased the estate of Harefield in Middlesex, —a charming property, with a fine mansion upon it, on a spot of well-wooded hill and meadow, on the river Colne, about four miles from Uxbridge. Here, or in London, the Lord Keeper and his wife mainly resided, doing the honours of their position, and receiving in return the recognitions due to persons of their rank. One very memorable incident in their life at Harefield was a visit of four days paid them there by Queen Elizabeth (July 31 August 3, 1602), when all sorts of pageants were
held for her Majesty's recreation. A long " avenue of elms," leading to the house, was the scene of a kind of masque of welcome at the Queen's reception, and of another of leavetaking on her departure, and was ever afterwards known as "the Queen's Walk." Throughout the reign of James I. there were similar recognitions of the high social rank of the Chancellor and his noble wife, besides not a few of a literary character, in the shape of poems, or dedications of poems, to them. It was not only their own marriage, however,— marriage that proved childless,—that now connected the pair. Not long after that marriage had taken place, the ties of family between the two had been drawn closer by the marriage of the Lord Keeper's son,-then Sir John Egerton, -with Lady Frances Stanley, the Countess's second daughter by her former husband the Earl of Derby. Thus, while the Countess-Dowager was the wife of the father, one of her daughters was the wife of the son. Her other two daughters made marriages of even higher promise at the time. The eldest, Lady Anne Stanley, had married Grey Bridges, fifth Lord Chandos; and the youngest, Lady Elizabeth Stanley, had married at a very early age (1603), Henry, Lord Hastings, who, in 1605, succeeded his grandfather as Earl of Huntingdon and possessor of the fine estate of Ashby-dela Zouch in Leicestershire.
On the 15th of March 1616-17 the Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, then just created Viscount Brackley, died, and the Countess-Dowager of Derby commenced her second widowShe was then probably over five-and-fifty years of age, and she survived for twenty years more. Those twenty years she spent chiefly in retirement at Harefield, where she endowed almshouses for poor widows, and did other acts of charity, but was surrounded all the while, or occasionally visited, by those numerous descendants and other relatives who had grown up, or were growing up, to venerate her, and whose joys and sorrows constituted the chief interest of her declining years. By the year 1630, when she was about seventy years of age, she had at least twenty of her own direct descendants alive, besides collateral relatives in the families of her sisters, Phyllis and Charillis. (1.) One group of the venerable lady's direct descendants consisted of her eldest daughter, Lady Chandos, and that daughter's surviving children by her first husband Lord Chandos, the eldest of