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umented in the memory of mankind for his bravery and silent self-sacrifice !
For seven school years Will and myself were daily companions. Spring, with its cowslips and primroses, and hawthorn blossoms, found us rambling through the woods and fields, and angling for the finny tribe disporting in the purling waters of the crystal Avon.
Summer brought its grain and fruits, with boys and girls scrambling over hedges, fences, stiles and brooks, in search of berries and ripe apples; autumn with its nuts, birds and hares, invited us to hunting grounds, along the rolling ridges and the dense forest of Arden, even poaching on the domain of Sir Thomas Lucy and the royal reaches of Warwick Castle, and old winter with his snowy locks and whistling airs brought the roses to our young cheeks, skipping and sporting through his fantastic realm like the snow birds whirling in clumps of clouds across the withered world.
Looking back over the fields, forests and waters of the past through the variegated realms of celestial imagination, I behold after the lapse of more than three centuries of human wrecks, the brilliant boys and glorious girls I played with in childhood years—still shining as bright and fresh as the flowers and fruits of yesterday !
“For we are the same our fathers have been, We see the same sights our fathers have seen, We drink the same streams and view the same
sun, And run the same course our fathers have run!” I remember well the first time Will and myself attended a theatrical performance. It was on the first of April, 1573, when we were about nine years of age.
A strolling band of comic, and Punch and Judy players had made a sudden invasion of Stratford and established themselves in the big barn of the old Bear Tavern on Bridge street.
The town was alive with expectation and the school children were wild to behold the great play of “The Scolding Wife," which was advertised through the streets, in the daytime, by a cartload of bedizened harlequins, belaboring each other with words and gestures, the wife with bare arms, short dress and a bundle of rods, standing rampant over the prostrate form of a drunken husband.
Fifes, drums and timbrels kept up a frantic noise, filling the bylanes and streets of Stratford with astonished country louts and tradesmen, until the fantastic parade ended in the wagon yard of the tavern.
The old barn had been rigged up as a rustic playhouse, the stage covering one end, elevated about three feet from the threshing floor. Curtains with daub pictures were strung across the stage, separated in the center and shifted backward and forward, as the varying scenes of the family play were presented for the hisses or cheers of the variegated audience.
The play consisted of three acts, showing the progress of courtship and marriage at the altar, country and town life with growing children, work, poverty, and final windup of the husband driven from home by the scolding wife, bruised in an alehouse, dead and followed to the graveyard by the Beadle, undertaker and a brindle dog.
The climax scene of the play exhibited the wife with a bundle of rods, surrounded by ragged children, driving out into a midnight storm the husband of her bosom, while peals of thunder and flashes of lightning brought goose pimples and shivers to the frightened audience.
The impression made upon the mind of William and myself did not give us a very hopeful view of married life, and while the haphazard working, drinking habits of the husband seemed to deserve all the punishment he received, the modesty, benevolence and beauty of woman was shattered in our
On our way home from the country-tragedy performance we were gladdened by the thought, that although the rude, vulgar, criminal passions of mankind were portrayed and enacted day by day all over the globe, we could look up into the star-lit heavens and see those glittering lamps of night shining with reflected light on the murmuring bosom of the Avon, as it flowed in peaceful ripples to the Severn and from the Severn to the sea. Nature soothed our young hearts, and soon, in the mysterious realms of sleep, we forgot the sorrows and poverty of earth, tripping away with angelic companions through the golden fields of celestial dreams.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Ho
ratio, Than are dreamt of in our philosophy.”
I shall never forget the great shows and pageants that took place in Warwickshire County, in July, 1575. All England was alive to the grand entrance of Queen Elizabeth to Kenilworth Castle, as the royal guest of her favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Proclamation had gone forth that all work be suspended, while yeoman, trader, merchant, doctor, lawyer, minister, lords and earls should pay a pilgrimage to Kenilworth and pay tribute to the Virgin Queen.
Stratford and the surrounding villages were aflame with enthusiasm, and as John Shakspere, the alderman and mayor, took great interest in theatricals and particularly those festivities inaugurated for the entertainment of royalty, he led a great concourse of devoted patriots through the forests of Arden, blooming parks of Warwick Castle on to the grand surroundings of Kenilworth, where the people en masse camped, sang, danced, took part in country plays, feasted and went wild for eighteen days, over the illustrious daughter of Henry the Eighth.
William and myself were among the enthusiastic revelers, and for boys of twelve years of age, we felt more cheer than any of the lads and lasses from Stratford, because our parents furnished us with milk white ponies, to pay tribute, and typify the virtue and chastity of the "Virgin Queen!” We did not particularly care about virtue or virginity, so we shared in the cakes and ale that were lavished in profusion to the rural multitude.
A high grand throne made out of evergreens and wild flowers was erected in the central park of Kenilworth, rimmed in by lofty elms, oaks and sycamores.
There, through the fleeting days and nights, the Queen and her royal suite of a thousand purpled cavaliers and bejeweled maids of honor, held court and viewed the ever-changing, living panorama evolved for their entertainment. The Queen looked like a wilderness of lace and variegated velvet, irrigated with a shower of diamonds.
On the 9th of July Queen "Bess" and her illuminated suite entered the Castle of Kenilworth, and the hands of the clock in the great tower pointed to the hour of two, where they remained until her departure, as invitation to a continual banquet.
The Earl expended a thousand pounds a day for the fluid and food entertainment of his guests, while woodland bowers and innumerable tents were scattered through the royal domain generously donated to man and maid by night and day. We boys and girls seldom went to bed.
Companies of circus performers, and theatrical artists, from London and other towns were brought down to the heart of Old Albion to swell the pleasure of the reigning Queen. Continual plays were going on, while horn, fife, bugle and drum lent music to the kaleidoscopic revel.
Dancing, hunting, hawking and archery parties, through the day, lent their antics to the scene, and when night came with bright Luna showing her mystic face, forest fires, rockets and illuminated balloons filled the air with celestial wonder, vieing with the stars in an effort to do universal honor