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The famous Earl of Leicester, Queen Elizabeth's favourite, was early married to the unfortunate subject of the following poem, by name Amy Robsart. After his advancement at Court, his former love to his Countess was changed into hatred, as he considered her as the only bar to his ambitious project of marrying Queen Elizabeth. Accordingly, far from bringing her to Court, he confined her in an ancient Gothic building in Berkshire, upon his manor of Cumnor, which had formerly been an Abbey. From this dreary solitude she disappeared so very unaccountably, and her husband's account of her death seemed so suspicious, that it was generally believed she was there murdered. The particulars which led to these suspicions may be found in a book called Leicester's Commonwealth, well known to book-collectors, and supposed to be written by Parsons the Jesuit.
This beautiful ballad was written by William Julius Mickle, the translator of the Lusiad, and published in Evan's Ancient Ballads. The Author of Waverley's admiration of the ballad induced him to found, on the same incidents, the popular Romance of Kenilworth.
THE dews of night did falle,
The moone (sweet regente of the sky,)
And many an oake that grew therebye.
Now noughte was hearde beneathe the skies,
That issued from that lonely pile.
Leicester,' shee cried,' is thys thy love
To leave mee in this lonely grove,
No more thou com'st with lover's speede,
But bee she alive, or bee she deade,
I feare (sterne earle's) the same to thee.
Not such the usage I received,
When happye in my father's halle;
I rose up with the cheerful morne,
No lark more blithe, no flower more gaye; And, like the bird that hauntes the thorne, So merrillie sung the live-long daye.
Say that my beautye is but smalle,
Among court ladies all despised, Why didst thou rend it from that halle, Where (scornful earle,) it well was prizede?
you first to mee made suite,
How fayre I was, you oft woulde saye! And, proude of conquest-plucked the fruite, Then lefte the blossom to decaye.
Yes, now neglected and despised,
For knowe, when sickening griefè doth preye, And tender love's repay'd with scorne,
The sweetest beautye will decaye ;
At Court I'm tolde is beautye's throne,
Then, earle, why didst thou leave those bedds,
To seek a primrose, whose pale shades
'Mong rural beauties I was one,
Among the fields wild flowers are faire ; Some countrye swayne might mee have won, And thoughte my beautie passing rare.
But, Leicester, (or I much am wronge,)
Makes thee forget thy humble spouse.
Then, Leicester, why, again I pleade,
(The injured surelie may repyne,) Why didst thou wed a countrye maide, When some fair princesse might be thyne ?
Why didst thou praise my humble charmes,
The village maidens of the plaine
The simple nymphs! they little knowe,
How fare lesse bleste am I than them?
Nor (cruel earle !) can I enjoye
The humble charms of solitude;