Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

the Twelve Goddesses.” It may surprise some that a Sunday was chosen for so profane an entertainment; but it should be remembered that in England, until the days of the Puritans, the Sabbath was not observed with the rigour that it was afterwards. Plays, revels, bear-baiting, dancing, leaping, archery, etc., were not only allowed, but encouraged. For King James, soon after the time we are treating of, published his “Book of Sportes” for the use of his subjects, in which he declared these and many other recreations to be lawful on Sunday, and stigmatized the puritanical mode of observing the day as leading to "filthie tippling and drunkennesse."

The time was about nine or ten o'clock in the evening, and towards that hour the guests would be seen coming from their lodgings in various parts of the palace, or from lodgings outside the gates, along the cloisters, preceded by their attendants bearing torches. They would pass up the large wooden staircase which leads from the cloisters to the Hall, through the doors now closed, but which then opened under the Minstrel Gallery. Others would arrive under the archway beneath the clock, and go up the stone staircase, the usual entrance now, also leading into the Hall under the Minstrel Gallery. The King, the Prince, and the ministers and great Lords of State, on the other hand, would approach from the Great Watching Chamber at the upper end of the Hall, which then communicated directly with the galleries and chambers belonging to the State Rooms.

The whole appearance presented by the Hall must have been very imposing. On both sides the seats for the spectators were arranged, rising doubtless in tiers one above another, and leaving a large space in the middle of the room for the procession of the Goddesses to advance, and ample scope for them to execute their “measures." At the lower, or Minstrel Gallery end, was reared an elaborate piece of scenery, representing a mountain, rising high into the roof, and concealing the whole of the end wall; at the upper end of the Hall on the left-hand side, on the daïs, was built the “Temple of Peace,” with a lofty cupola, and in the interior an altar tended by the Sibylla. Not far from the Temple was the cave of Somnus, “Sleep.”

When everything was ready, and all the company as

BRILLIANT SPECTACLE IN THE HALL.

167

sembled, the doors at the top of the Hall would be flung open, and the heralds proclaiming aloud "The King," would sound a loud blast on their trumpets, at which the whole company rising would make obeisance to the King, who entered with a throng of courtiers, and counsellors, and am

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

bassadors. He sat beneath the canopy of State, placed near the beautiful south oriel window.

The spectacle must have been brilliant in the extreme. The beautiful scenery for the masque, the splendid and costly dresses of the crowd of courtiers and ladies, the gorgeous colours and marvellous workmanship of the tapestry hangings, "than which the world can show nothing finer," the rich decorations of the exquisitely moulded windows, filled with lustrous stained glass, and above all the glorious Gothic roof, with its maze of delicately carved and softly tinted beams, spandrels, and corbels, amid the pierced tracery of which flickered hundreds of little lamps, must have combined to produce an effect not often experienced in modern times. Milton surely had some such scene in his mind when he wrote the lines :

“ From the arched roof,
Pendent by subtle magic many a row
Of starry lamps and blazing cressets fed
With naphtha and asphaltus yielded light
As from a sky.”.

And when we consider who were present on that night : all the beauty, rank, and state of the Courts of England and Scotland; ambassadors of foreign Powers; statesmen on whom hung the present and future destinies of the British Empire; and beyond all, both the greatest philosopher, Bacon, and the greatest poet, Shakespeare, that the world has ever known—we feel that the interest of the occasion is not undeserving of notice.

And now the masque began:

First appeared “Night,” decked in a black vesture, set over with glittering stars. She rose up by a sort of trapdoor arrangement in the middle of the floor from the cellars below, and marched slowly up to the cave, where her son “Sleep” lay, awakening him in a speech beginning “Awake, dark Sleep,” etc.

Her son at once obeyed her summons, and at her request consented to call forth a Vision to gratify the assembled Court, which he forthwith proceeded to do by an invocation and a waving of his wand, and then retired to slumber again. As soon as he had gone, Iris, the messenger of the Goddesses, appeared on the top of the mountain, clad in a robe striped with all the colours of the rainbow, and descending, advanced to the Temple of Peace. Here she announced to the Sibyl, the priestess thereof, the approach of a "celestial presence of Goddesses,” and at the same time gave her a DESCRIPTION OF DANIEL'S MASQUE.

169

scroll, in which she might read a description of them, and of the symbolical meaning of their several attires.

As soon as the Sibyl had finished reading the description of the Twelve Goddesses, there were seen at the top of the mountain the three Graces in silver robes, emerging from the rocks and trees, and coming down the winding pathway hand in hand, with stately step, to the sound of a loud march, played by minstrels attired as satyrs, or sylvan gods, and seen half disclosed amid the rocks. Next came the Goddesses, three and three, in various coloured dresses, which are fully described in Daniel's explanatory introduction to the masque, each followed by a torchbearer dressed in a flowing white robe, studded over with golden stars, their heads bespangled with the same, and carrying long gilded waxen tapers.

Thus in order the whole procession wended its course down the mountain's sinuous pathway, the whole being so arranged as to admit of all the performers being seen on the mountain at once.

When the Goddesses reached the foot of the mountain, they marched up the centre of the Hall towards the Temple of Peace, while the Graces stood aside on the daïs, and sang a song of three stanzas. In the meanwhile the Goddesses went up one by one, and presented their gifts to the Sibyl, and then turning, came down into the midst of the Hall.

Then, when the Graces had finished their song, they danced their measures, as Daniel says, “with great majesty and art, consisting of divers strains, framed into motions, circular, square, triangular, with other proportions exceeding rare and full of variety," and then pausing, “they cast themselves into a circle." The Graces hereupon sang another song, while the Goddesses prepared “to take out the Lords,” which they did as soon as the song was finished, and danced with them various “galliards” and “corantoes.”

After this Iris appeared again, and announced to the Sibyl that “these Divine Powers” were about to depart, and then they “fell to a short parting dance, and so retired up the mountain in the same order as they came down.”

From thence they went with the King and the ambassadors to a banquet provided in the Presence Chamber

« PreviousContinue »