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ment that Pamela utters the prayer made famous by the fact that Charles I. is supposed to have used it just before his execution. I will quote it here at length, both for its beauty of style and for the sake of this historical associa
“O All-seeing Light and Eternal Life of all things, to whom nothing is either so great that it may resist, or so small that it is contemned; look upon my misery with Thine eye of mercy, and let Thine infinite power vouchsafe to limit out some proportion of deliverance unto me, as to Thee shall seeni most convenient. Let not injury, O Lord, triumph over me, and let my faults by Thy hand be corrected, and make not mine unjust eneiny the minister of Thy justice. But yet, my God, if, in Thy wisdom, this be the aptest chastisement for my inexcusable folly, if this low bondage be fitted for my over high desires, if the pride of my not enough humble heart be thus to be broken, O Lord, I yield unto Thy will, and joyfully embrace what sorrow Thou wilt have me suffer. Only thus much let me crave of Thee: let my craving, O Lord, be accepted of Thce, since even that proceeds from Thee; let me crare, even by the noblest title which in my greatest affliction I may give myself, that I am Thy creature, and by Thy goodness, which is Thyself, that Thou wilt suffer some beam of Thy majesty so to shine into my mind that it may still depend confidently on Thee. Let calamity be the exercise, but not the overthrow of my virtue ; let their power prevail, but prevail not to destruction. Let my greatness be their prey; let my pain be the sweetness of their revenge; let them, if so it seem good unto Thee, vex me with more and more punishment; but, O Lord, let never their wickedness have such a hand but that I may carry a pure mind in a pure body.”
Among the papers given to Bishop Juxon by Charles upon the scaffold was this prayer, slightly altered in some particulars. His enemies made it a cause of reproach against him, especially Milton, in a memorable passage of
Iconoclastes,” from which I have already quoted certain phrases. “Who would have imagined," writes the Latin secretary, “so little fear in him of the true all-secing Deity,
so little reverence of the Holy Ghost, whose office it is to dictate and present our Christian prayers, so little care of truth in his last words, or honour to himself or to his friends, or sense of his afflictions, or that sad hour which was upon him, as immediately before his death to pop into the hand of that grave bishop who attended him, as a special relique of his saintly exercises, a prayer stolen word for word from the mouth of a heathen woman praying to a heathen god; and that in no serious book, but in the vain amatorious poem of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia ?" Charles' defenders pointed out that the papers given to Juxon had been seized by the regicides, and accused them of foisting this prayer in on purpose to have the opportunity of traducing their victim to Puritan England. It is also noticeable that it does not appear in the first edition of Eikon Basiliké, nor in Dr. Earl's Latin version of that book. However the case may be, Dr. Johnson showed good sense when he wrote: “The use of it (the prayer) by adaptation was innocent; and they who could so noisily censure it, with a little extension of their malice could contrive what they wanted to accuse.”
Pamela's prayer has led me so far away from the intricacies of Sidney's Arcadia that I shall not return to further analyses of the fable. The chief merits of the book, as a whole, seem to be an almost inexhaustible variety of incidents, fairly correct character-drawing, purity of feeling, abundance of sententious maxims, and great richness of colouring in the descriptive passages. Its immense popularity may be ascribed to the fact that nothing exactly like it had appeared in English literature; for Euphues is by no means so romantically interesting or so varied in material, while the novels of Greene are both shorter and more monotonous. The chivalrous or heroic incidents are so well combined with the sentimental, and these again are so prettily set against the pastoral background, that, given an appetite for romance of the kind, each reader found something to stimulate his curiosity and to provide him with amusement. The defects of the Arcadia are apparent; as, for instance, its lack of humour, the extravagance of many of its situations, the whimsicality of its conceits, and the want of solid human realism in its portraits. These defects were, however, no bar to its popularity in the sixteenth century; nor would they count as such at present were it not, as Dr. Zouch pertinently remarks, that "the taste, the manners, the opinions, the language of the English nation, have undergone a very great revolution since the reign of Queen Elizabeth.” Such a revolution condemns all works which fascinated a bygone age, and which are not kept alive by humour and by solid human realism, to ever-gradually-deepening oblivion.
Before concluding this chapter there is another point of view under which the Arcadia must be considered. Sidney interspersed its prose with verses, after the model of Sannazzaro's pastoral, sometimes introducing them as occasion suggested into the mouths of his chief personages, and sometimes making them the subject of poetical disputes between the shepherds of the happy country. Some of these poems are among the best which he composed. I would cite in particular the beautiful sonnet which begins and ends with this line: “My true love hath my heart, and I have his;" and another opening with—"Beauty hath force to catch the human sight." But what gives special interest to the verses scattered over the pages of Arcadia is that in a large majority of them Sidney put in practice the theories of the Areopagus. Thus we have English hexameters, elegiacs, sapphics, phaleuciacs or hendecasylla
bles, asclepiads, and anacreontics. I will present some
One elegiac couplet will suffice :
“Fortune, Nature, Love, long have contended about me,
Which should most miseries cast on a worm that I am."
Nor will it be needful to quote more than one sapphic stanza :
“If mine eyes can speak to do hearty errand,
Hope, we do live yet."
The hendecasyllables, though comparatively easy to write in English, hobble in a very painful manner, as thus:
“Reason, tell me thy mind, if here be reason,
Of virtue's regiment, shining in harness.” So do the asclepiads, which, however, are by no means so casy of execution :
“O sweet woods, the delight of solitariness!
The anacreontics, being an iambic measure, come off somewhat better, as may be judged by this transcript from a famous fragment of Sappho :
“My Muse, what ails this ardour ?
My soul begins to take leave." It is obvious from these quotations that what the school called “our rude and beggarly rhyming" is not only more natural, but also more artistic than their “reformed verse.” Indeed, it may be said without reserve that Sidney's experiments in classical metres have no poctical value whatsoever. They are only interesting as survivals from an epoch when the hexameter seemed to have an equal chance of survival with the decasyllabic unrhymed iambic. The same is true about many of Sidney's attempts to acclimatise Italian forms of verse. Thus we find embedded in the Arcadia terza rima and ottava rima, sestines and madrigals, a canzone in which the end of each line rhymes with a syllable in the middle of the next. So conscientious was he in the attempt to reproduce the most difficult Italian metres that he even attempted terza rima with sdrucciolo or trisyllabic rhymes. I will select an example :
“If sunny beams shame heavenly habitation,
But enough of this. It has proved a difficult task to in