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Or judged the owle in sight,
all this be soe?
THOMAS SACKVILLE, the first Lord Buckhurst, was born in the year 1536, at Buckhurst, in the parish of Witham, Sussex. He studied at Oxford, but afterwards removed to Cambridge, where he took his degree. Having been distinguished at both Universities by his compositions in Latin and in English verse, he entered at the Inner Temple and was called to the Bar; but was soon afterwards returned to Parliament as one of the members for Buckinghamshire. His eminent abilities procured for him the esteem and confidence of Queen Elizabeth, and he was knighted in her presence, in 1567, by the Duke of Norfolk, and at the same time promoted to the peerage; was sent as ambassador to the States-General, was made a Knight of the Garter, elected Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and on the death of Burleigh succeeded him as Lord High Treasurer. On the accession of James the First, he continued to hold this office, and in 1603, was created Earl of Dorset. He died suddenly at the council table at Whitehall, on the 19th of April, 1608, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. As a statesman his character is untarnished. He preserved his integrity amid all the intrigues of a court; and although living, and exercising mighty power, at a time when murder was frequently preceded only by a form of trial, and personal or political opponents were dispatched by a simple process dignified by the term Law, the name of Sackville Lord Buckhurst has descended to us without spot or blemish.
His character was drawn by his friend and chaplain Dr. Abbot, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury—“How many rare things were in him! Who more loving unto his wife? Who more kind unto his children? Who more fast unto his friend? Who more moderate unto his enemy? Who more true to his word ?" “He was a scholar,” adds another friend, “and a person of a quick dispatch; and they say of him that his secretaries did little for him by way of inditement, wherein they could seldom please him, he was so facete in his phrase and style."
His poetical reputation rests upon his being the author of the first English tragedy: and upon his two short but noble poems, “the Induction to a Mirrour for Magistrates," and “the Complaynt of Henrye Duke of Buckingham." His tragedy, in which, it is said by Wood, he was assisted by Norton, is entitled Gorboduc. The dialogue is dignified, and the language pure, and it is praised by Sidney for its “notable moralitie;" but the uninteresting nature of the plot, and its long and tedious speeches, together with a total absence of pathos, deprived it of popularity in his own age, and now it is altogether forgotten. It was acted in 1561, by the gentlemen of the Inner Temple. The plot is thus briefly described by Rymer. “Here is a king and queen and their two sons; the king divides his realm between them. They quarrel, the elder rules the younger, which provokes the mother to kill the elder. Thereupon the king kills the mother, and then to make a clear stage, the people rise and despatch old Gorboduc.” But the fame of Sackville rests upon a surer foundation. A design having been formed to commemorate "the Great Unfortunate" of our English History, he wrote for this the Induction and the Complaynt of Henrye Duke of Buckingham. The Poet, who undoubtedly imitated Dante, feigns a descent into hell, under the guidance and guardianship of Sorrow,-where the various personages to be introduced pass in review before him--each telling his own sad story of his errors and misfortunes :
" Whence come I am, the drery destinie
Of wretched chaunce most wofol mirrours chose." The work was printed under the title of “a Mirrour for Magistrates, being a true Chronicle Historie of the untimely falles of such unfortunate Princes and Men of Note as have happened since the first entrance of Brute into this island, until this our age;" it was added to, from time to time, by various contributors, and an edition published in 1610, contains eighty-six lives.
These poems of Sackville are to the highest degree vigorous and fine. The versification is smooth and harmonious; the shadowy inhabitants of Averne are pictured with fearful reality, strong feeling, and deep interest ;-and it is surmised that they awakened the imagination of Spenser, who has scarcely surpassed his predecessor in the grander attributes by which the poet is distinguished.
THE wrathfull winter prochinge on a pace,
With chilling colde had pearst the tender green;
The soyle that erst so seemly was to seen,
And soot freshe flowers (wherewith the sommers queen
And small fowles flocking, in their song did rewe
And strayt forth stalking with redoubled pace
Her body small forwithered and forespent,
Her iyes swollen with flowing streames aflote,
An hydeous hole al vaste, withouten shape,
A deadly gulfe where nought but rubbishe grows,
And next within the entry of this lake