Contents © Copyright Maria-Luisa Minio-Paluello, 2005|
Ralegh's position at court previous to the events of 1592 is stated in these transparent terms:
"...I have rais'd thee, Sol, I list not tell,
Nashe seems here to have achieved a perfect metaphor: when we recall the post of Captain of the Queen's Guard given to Ralegh, which made him live practically in the Queen's apartments (l. 452); when we recall what an "eye-sore" he was to young Essex himself, as we see for instance from Essex's outburst of "disdain" against Ralegh (l. 453) ; and when we recall that he had at one time been in such a position as to be able to put in a good (or a bad) word on behalf of other people (454). It was he in fact who could reassure Leicester, after the latter's marriage, when the Queen's displeasure had subsided. Even Lord Burleigh once asked Ralegh "to speak a word in the Queen's ear on his behalf". As Sir Robert Naunton puts it "she took him for a kind of Oracle, which nettled them all". In short, Ralegh was in such a position that anyone could say: "the sun rises and sets by him", or "to give the day her life" (454).
On the other hand, in the following lines the signs of the present disfavour are again evident:
"Some service or some profit I expect:
There is here a note of diffidence, almost a declaration that no contribution of Sol's will be accepted as satisfactory. The last line, being in the negative, seems a warning to Sol that the odds are against him, that he will not be promoted or, since the passage probably refers to the favour and advancement that Sol has been granted in the past (the implication being that he has a debt to pay for this,) that he may be demoted if he fails to meet Summer's expectations, which seems rather likely. In fact Summer is very doubtful about Sol's contributions: "some service or some profit...for some respect"; he is so vague about it, so lukewarm that he sounds as if he already knows that he will not be satisfied. The link with Ralegh here is the fact that his enemies had found occasion to suggest that the results of his expeditions were sometimes financially unsatisfactory; tales of wonderful but faraway and unknown lands, rather than more rich spoils to share with the country. His tales of mysterious, marvellous, distant lands were not necessarily believed: Mr Oakeshott speaks of the "bogus nature of the Virginia enterprise which Ralegh's enemies regarded as what might be called in the slang of today an 'advertising stunt' ".
Sol's reply to Summer is:
"My Lord, what needs these termes betwixt us two?
Keeping the figure of Ralegh in mind, immediately two links with him appear in this speech: an attitude of boldness, and the stress on an ideal of power and glory as opposed to short-term profit.
This speech begins on a tone of familiarity remarkable even in one so close to his Sovereign; the expression of line 462 suggests great familiarity and self-assurance. Sol had been put in the "height of honors glorious heaven", and the boldness of his words is not necessarily gratuitous in a person in such a position; nevertheless in the particular circumstances Sol's words are out of place; they are obviously considered arrogant by Summer, who is not at all pleased at the thought of having in him "so great a subject... mightie as your selfe", as Sol boldly states.
Besides, the implication in Sol's speech that "glorie and magnificence" are more valuable than "service or profit", is characteristic, if we allow for a slight exaggeration, of Sir Walter Ralegh. He was pursuing a dream of power and glory for the Queen and the nation; and, although this included riches and territories, it often required the sacrifice of short-term gains. Ralegh's enemies were always ready to point out the lack of immediate advantage in the results of his explorations, and used this to undermine the belief in his good faith and to sleight the merits of his voyages. When, after the estrangement of 1592, Ralegh had to defend himself in writing, we find him defending his ideals of honour and glory ("many nations [to be] won to her majesties love and obedience") ...(continued Page 4)
2 W. OAKESHOTT, op. cit., p. 24 and 25, where some letters of Ralegh's are quoted and commented upon from this point of view; theses letters range from 1583 to 1587.
3. Fragmenta Regalia, cit, p. 49
4. Op. cit., p. 31.
5. Sol and his fellow officers, being on trial, hold positions of apparent extremism for strategic reasons.
6. Sir Walter RALEGH, A Discovery of Guiana, in The Works, Oxford U. P., 1829, Vopl. VIII, p. 466.
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