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THE FIRST, OF
PERSONATED AT THE COURT AT WHITEHALL, ON
THE TWELFTH-NIGHT, 1605.
Salve festa dies, meliorque revertere semper. OVID.
The MASQUE OF BLACKNESS.] This and the Masque of Beauty which follows it, were published in 4to. with this title. “The characters of two royal Masques, the one of Blacknesse, the other of Beautie, personated by the most magnificent of Queens, Anne, Queen of Great Britain, &c., with her honourable Ladyes, 1605 and i6o8; at Whitehall.”
Great preparations were made for this masque, which was performed with unusual magnificence. Among Winwood's State Papers, tirere is å letter to that minister from Mr. Chamberlaine, of which the following passage is an extract.
“Here is great provision of masks and revells against the marriage of sir Phillip Herbert and the lady Susan Vere, which is to be celebrated on St. John's day; the Queen hath likewise a great mask in hand against Twelfth-tide, for which there was 30001. delivered a month ago." Dec. 18, 1604, vol. ii. p. 41.
Sir Thomas Edmonds also thus writes to the great earl of Shrewsbury, Dec. 5, 1604. “Our corte is preparing to solempnize the Christmas with a gallant maske, which doth cost the Exchequer 3000l. Sir Phi. Harberte's marriage will also produce an other maske among the noblemen and gentlemen.” Lodge's Illustrations, vol. iii. p. 250.
It should be added that this was the first entertainment given by the Queen, that her brother, the duke of Holstein, was present at it, and that the day was a day of peculiar state, several knights of the Bath having been installed and the king's second son (the unfortunate Charles) created duke of York.
The Garrick copy of this masque, now in the British Museum, was the presentation copy of Jonson to the queen, (James's wife,) and has this inscription in the poet's own writing :
HE honour and splendour of these
Spectacles was such in the performance, as, could those hours have lasted, this of mine, now, had been a most
unprofitable work. But when it is the fate even of the greatest, and most absolute births, to need and borrow a life of posterity, little had been done to the study of magnificence in these, if presently with the rage of the people, who (as a a part of greatness) are privileged by custom, to deface their carcases, the spirits had also perished. In duty therefore to that Majesty, who gave them their authority and grace, and, no less than the most royal of predecessors, deserves eminent celebration for these solemnities, I add this later hand to redeem them as well from ignorance as envy, two common evils, the one of censure, the other of oblivion.
Pliny," Solinus, Ptolemy, and of late Leod the African, remember unto us a river in Æthiopia, famous by the name of Niger ; of which the people were called Nigritæ, now Negroes; and are the
a Nat. Hist. 1. v. c. 8 c Lib. iv. c. 5.
6 Poly. Hist. C. 40, and 43. d Descrip. Afric.
blackest nation of the world. This rivere taketh spring out of a certain lake, eastward ; and after a long race, falleth into the western ocean. Hence (because it was her majesty's will to have them blackmoors at first) the invention was derived by me, and.presented thus :
First, for the scene, was drawn a landtschap (landscape), consisting of small woods, and here and there a vold place filled with huntings; which falling, an artificial sea was seen to shoot forth, as if it flowed to the land, raised with waves which seemed to move, and in some places the billows to break, as imitating that orderly disorder which is common in nature. In front of this sea were placed six tritons, in moving and sprightly actions, their upper parts human, save that their hairs were blue, as partaking of the sea-colour : their desinent parts fish, mounted above their heads, and all varied in disposition. From their backs were borne out certain light pieces of taffata, as if carried by the wind, and their music made out of wreathed shells. Behind these, a pair of sea-maids, for song, were as conspicuously seated; between which, two great sea-horses, as big as the life, put forth themselves; the one mounting aloft,
e Some take it to be the same with Nilus, which is by Lucan called Melas, signifying Niger. Howsoever Plin. in the place above noted, hath this: Nigri fluvio eadem natura, quæ Nilo, calamum, papyrum, et easdem gignit animantes. See Solin. abovementioned.
1 And falleth into the Western Ocean.] We now know that the Niger runs towards the east. Had the adventurous discoverer of this important geographical fact happily lived to return from his second expedition, we should probably have also learned whether the Niger loses itself in the sands, is swallowed up in some vast inland lake, or constitutes, as some think, the chief branch or feeder of the Nile.
i The form of these tritons, with their trumpets, you may read lively described in Ov. Met. lib. i. Cæruleum Tritona vocat, &c.; and in Virg. Æneid. lib. x. Hunc vehit immanis triton, et sequent.
and writhing his head from the other, which seemed to sink forward; so intended for variation, and that the figure behind might come off better :s upon their backs, Oceanus and Niger were advanced.
Oceanus presented in a human form, the colour of his flesh blue; and shadowed with a robe of seagreen; his head gray, and horned," as he is described by the ancients : his beard of the like mixed colour : he was garlanded with alga, or sea-grass; and in his hand a trident.
Niger, in form and colour of an Æthiop; his hair and rare beard curled, shadowed with a blue and bright mantle : his front, neck, and wrists adorned with pearl, and crowned with an artificial wreath of cane and paper-rush.
These induced the masquers, which were twelve nymphs, negroes, and the daughters of Niger ; attended by so many of the Oceaniæ,' which were their light-bearers.”
The masquers were placed in a great concave shell, like mother of pearl, curiously made to move on those waters and rise with the billow; the top thereof was stuck with a cheveron of lights, which indented to the proportion of the shell, struck a
8 Lucian in Pntop. Aidao. presents Nilus so, Equo fluviatili insidentem. And Statius Neptune, in Theb.
h The ancients induced Oceanus always with a bull's head : propter vim ventorum, à quibus incitatur, et impellitur : vel quia tauris similem fremitum emittat; vel quia tanquam taurus furibundus, in littora feratur. Euripid. in Orest. 'Ikeavos óv ravpokpavos aykalais ελισσων, κυκλει χθονα. And rivers Sometimes were so called. Look Virg. de Tiberi et Eridano. Georg. iv. Æneid. viii. Hor. Car. lib. iv. ode 14, and Euripid. in Ione. i The daughters of Oceanus and Tethys. See Hesiod. in
. Theogon. Orph. in Hym. and Virgil in Georg.
2 Which were their light-bearers.] It will not be amiss to observe here once for all, that every masquer was invariably attended by his torch-bearer, who preceded his entrance and exit, and sided him (though at a distance) while in action.
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