Daring Deeds of Elizabethan Heroes
String Records of the Intrepid Bravery & Boundless Resource of the Men of Queen Elizabeth Reign.
It has often been said that history is nothing more than the biographies of great men - that in all great crises the crowning result has been the work of one man greater than his fellows. But the study of the Age of Elizabeth seems to show us that there is something greater than the individual hero; for in those "spacious times" there was a plentiful crop of heroes - men fired by the same patriotic ambition to do, dare, or die for their Queen and country. Did not that greater and inspiring spirit breathe in the ideal which men were forming of a young and noble Queen who, by her beauty and courage, her talent and her girlhood of suffering, called them to a higher standard of thought and action? Thus it was that many caught the noble impulse from one another, and the very age of Elizabeth grew to the stature of the heroic. Yet we shall see how some of these heroes went forth with high ambition to conquer the wilds of nature in the Arctic cold or the tropical heat, bent on learning the secrets of nature; and how they often returned home and were received with scorn or abuse because they had not thought more of finding gold than of making geographical discoveries.
Many of these heroes were rude, rough men, if compared with our modern standard of conduct; but they were inspired by hopes and ambitions as high and as noble as any that have fired later heroes. There was in the roughest seaman of that time something of the poetic and imaginative yearning which breathed in the gentler spirit of Philip Sidney and Walter Raleigh, of Spenser and of Shakespeare.
As Elizabeth's reign passed on into more dangerous times, the early loyalty to a young Queen began to develop into a fierce and devoted attachment to religious liberty, menaced so long by Spain and the Pope. We must remember what the Englishmen of those days feared for themselves and their families, when we read of cruelties by sea and land that somewhat shock our sense of what is right. Drake will seem to some of us nothing more than an exalted pirate, if we only consider his exploits and fail to remember that deep in his heart he loved righteousness, and was convinced that life was not worth having without freedom - civil and religious.
It is only when we are in danger of losing a blessing that we really and fully awake to its value. Elizabethan heroes were tried by the severest of tests; the fear of foreign invasion never left them. They were, most of them, only brave men seeking to do their duty to their Queen, their country, and their God: they may have a lesson for us who live, so we believe, in times of greater ease, refinement, and security.
The contents of this volume have been taken from Mr Gilliat's larger book entitled Heroes of the Elizabethan Age, published at six shillings.
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