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, Stratford April 1st. 1816
For Sesus' saxe, good friend pass by
and courting among the blooming bushes and trees of his beautiful home.
Addressing me in the old familiar way, he said: "Jack, my throat and head give me great pain. I long to rest beneath the walls of Old Trinity Church, never again to gaze upon its glinting spire through sunrise or sunset beams.
"You know I feel a horror at the thought of having my poor old bones tumbled out of their grave in future years by vulgar sextons, and to prevent disturbance I scribbled off a few weeks ago these poetic lines, that I wish you would place above my remains. Promise me this last request, and I'll die in the hope of Immortality!"
Gazing intently on the melancholy, dying man, my eyes filled with tears, I made the sacred promise, and more than that, I here give the manuscript imprint of the original epitaph:
STRATFORD, APRIL 1st, 1616.
For Jesus' sake, good friends, pass by,
Disturb not these cold, tongueless stones
Exemplifying soul and heart,
And all my plays were heaven sent
On the morning of the 23d of April, at six o'clock, Judith came rushing into my room, and said that her father was dying. I jumped into my clothes and quickly knelt by his bedside, where I
found Dr. Hall, Susannah, Mr. Quincy, Mrs. Hart, Ben Jonson, and Michael Drayton.
I grasped his hand as he made dying lurches, and asked him how he felt, and then opening his great bluish gray eyes for the last time on earth, I could hear only his death gurgle expression: "God, Truth and Country!"
Thus passed away the noblest and greatest man that ever graced this earthly globe.
The news of his death spread like a prairie fire among the people of Stratford and the surrounding villages, and on to Oxford and London, where the melancholy wail of his obsequies resounded in the halls of the highest court circles, and found the deepest sorrow and regret in the heart of King James.
At twelve o'clock on the 25th of April the re mains of the Bard were followed to Trinity Church by an immense concourse of mourning humanity; and there, under the north wall of the old cathedral he was buried, seventeen feet below the surface, and left forever with his earthly glory and his God.
That very night, as the sun went down, Drayton, Jonson, Burbage and myself bade farewell to the daughters and personal friends of the Bard, going by fast mail car to Oxford and London.
It was one of the saddest nights I had ever experienced, for my dearest friend and lofty teacher would no more humor my lunatic impulses, or guide me in the even, broad road of universal truth. With his voice and form forever gone, there was nothing left to me but to wander over the cheerless, mighty world as a literary pioneer and
soldier of fortune, using my pen and sword wherever Love and Liberty displayed their ban
In the great literary whirlpool of London life I drowned for a season my soul-felt sorrow in the enchanting fumes of the wine cup, and its consequent allurements of variegated, fantastic society.
My destiny of a thousand years of life from birth, looked alternately, bleak and glorious, yet Fate being my master, and being endowed with an irrepressible, forgiving, laughing and progressive disposition, I called up the spirits of the air one midnight hour at the Boar's Head Tavern, and exacted from them a promise that wherever I wandered over the earth to witness the rise and fall of men and nations, like bubbles on a stormy sea, they would strictly obey my command.
Ariel, Puck and Oberon
A thousand years from date of birth,
I have witnessed the greatest events of the centuries in Europe, Asia and Africa, and on the spiritual wings of Truth, rapid as the lightning flash, I have sailed; and fought the battles of the people in every land and clime, being the compeer and critic of the most illustrious poets, philosophers, statesmen and warriors for the past three
hundred years. I move forward for the liberty of
Before leaving old Albion for my investigating flight of centuries, I was a painful witness to the decapitation of my great friend, Sir Walter Raleigh, whose heroic conduct at the block melted the spectators into tears, and brought down loud maledictions on the corrupt head of Lord Bacon, who was the principal villain in the final destruction of the great navigator, warrior and philosopher.
I listened to the great Raleigh on the 29th of October, 1618, standing by the block, addressing the executioner and the multitude, when handling the shining axe: "This is a sharp medicine, but a sound cure for all diseases!" Lying down and fitting himself to the block, the executioner asked him to alter the position of his head, when he replied: "It is no matter which way the head lies, so the heart be right! Why dost thou not strike? Strike, man!" And, then, quick as a flash the glittering axe split the head from the shoulders of one of the noblest men of England.
I turned away from the gloomy precincts of the terrible Tower, and cursed the falsehood and iniquity of Elizabeth, James and Lord Bacon, jealous plotters against growing, illustrious men.
Raleigh in his poem "The Soul's Errand," pictures thus this lying world:
"Go, soul, the body's guest,