Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/51

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31
THE ELIZABETHAN CHARACTER

to Bideford after a three-years' absence. The time is Sunday morning.

"And what is it," says Kingsley, "which has thus sent old Bideford wild with that 'goodly joy and pious mirth,' of which we now only retain traditions in our translations of the Psalms? Why are all eyes fixed, with greedy admiration, on those four weather-beaten mariners; decked out with knots and ribbons by loving hands; and yet more on that gigantic figure who walks before them, a beardless boy, and yet with a frame and stature of a Hercules, towering, like Saul of old, a head and shoulders above all the congregation, with his golden locks flowing down over his shoulders? And why, as the five go instinctively up to the altar and there fall on their knees before the rails, are all eyes turned to the pew where Mrs. Leigh of Burrough has hid her face between her hands, and her hood rustles and shakes to her joyful sobs? Because there was fellow feeling of old in Merry England, in country and in town; and these are Devon men, and of Bideford … and they, the first of all English mariners, have sailed round the world with Francis Drake, and are come to give God thanks."

Merry England he calls it; Merry England has become a by-word, but it applies to a time long ago, before the Puritans swept away the Maypole