Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
A Farewell to Arms
By George Peele (1556–1596)
 
[To Queen Elizabeth]

HIS 1 golden locks Time hath to silver turn’d;
  O Time too swift, O swiftness never ceasing!
His youth ’gainst time and age hath ever spurn’d,
  But spurn’d in vain; youth waneth by increasing:
Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fading seen;        5
Duty, faith, love, are roots, and ever green.
 
His helmet now shall make a hive for bees; 2
  And, lovers’ sonnets turn’d to holy psalms,
A man-at-arms must now serve on his knees,
  And feed on prayers, which are Age his alms:        10
But though from court to cottage he depart,
His Saint is sure of his unspotted heart.
 
And when he saddest sits in homely cell,
  He’ll teach his swains this carol for a song,—
‘Blest be the hearts that wish my sovereign well,        15
  Curst be the souls that think her any wrong.’
Goddess, allow this agèd man his right
To be your beadsman now that was your knight.
 
Note 1. From Polyhymnia, Describing, The Honourable Triumph at Tylt, before her Maiestie, on the 17. of November past (1590), being the first day of the three and thirtieth yeare of her Hignnesse raigne, etc. The following account of the yearly Triumph at Tilt is condensed by Oliphant from Sir W. Segars’ Honors Military and Civil, 1602, contained in Nichols’ Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, vol. iii., p. 60, as given by Dyce’s ed. of Peele, p. 265: “Certain yearly Triumphs were solemnized in memory of the applause of her Majesty’s subjects at the day of her most happy accession to the crown of England, which triumphs were first begun and occasioned by the right virtuous and honourable Sir Henry Lea, master of her Highness’ armory; who of his great zeal and desire to eternize the glory of her Majesty’s court in the beginning of her reign, voluntarily vowed,—unless infirmity, age, or other accident did impeach him,—during his life to present himself at the tilt, armed, the day aforesaid, yearly; there to perform in honour of her sacred Majesty the promise he formerly made. The worthy knight, however, feeling himself at length overtaken with old age, and being desirous of resigning his championship, did on the 17th of November, 1590, present himself, together with the Earl of Cumberland, unto her Highness under her gallery window in the tilt yard at Westminster, where at that time her Majesty did sit, accompanied with the Viscount Turyn, Ambassador of France, by many ladies and the chiefest nobility. Her Majesty, beholding these armed knights coming toward her, did suddenly hear a music so sweet and secret, as every one thereat did greatly marvel. The music aforesaid was accompanied with these verses, pronounced and sung by Mr. Hale, her Majesty’s servant, a gentleman in that art excellent, and for his voice both commendable and admirable: My golden locks, etc. After the ceremonies Sir Henry Lea disarmed himself, and kneeling upon his knees presented the Earl of Cumberland, humbly beseeching that she would receive him for her knight, to continue the yearly exercise aforesaid. Her Majesty having accepted the offer, this aged knight armed the earl, and mounted him upon his horse. That being done, he put upon his own person a side-coat of black velvet and covered his head in lieu of an helmet with a button-cap of the country fashion.” The poem has been assigned to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, in a Masque at Greenwich. (Arber’s English Garner.) It was set to music in the First Book of John Dowland’s Songs and Airs, 1597. [back]
Note 2. His helmet now shall make a hive for bees: In Alciati’s Emblems there is an engraving of bees swarming in a helmet. Cf. Geoffrey Whitney’s Choice of Emblems, 1586:
  The helmet strong that did the head defend,
Behold, for hive the bees in quiet served;
And when that wars with bloody blows had end,
They honey wrought where soldier was preserved:
  Which doth declare the blessed fruits of peace,
  How sweet she is when mortal wars do cease.
Something of the modern popularity of this song is due to Thackeray’s application of it in The Newcomes, chap, xxxviii., where it is put into the mouth of George Warrinton in consolation to Col. Newcome when he became a pensioner at old Grey Friars. [back]
 
 
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