Out of this diplomatic tangle Elizabeth took her own way, as she usually did. On April 4, 1581, she suggested to Drake that she would be his guest at a banquet on board the little, worm-eaten ship. All the court was there, and a multitude of on-lookers besides, for those were the days when royalty sometimes dined in public. After the banquet, the like of which, as Mendoza wrote his master, had not been seen in England since the time of her father, Elizabeth requested Drake to hand her the sword she had given him before he left England. “The King of Spain demands the head of Captain Drake,” she said with a little laugh, “and here am I to strike it off.” As Drake knelt at her command she handed the sword to Marchaumont, the envoy of her French suitor, asking that since she was a woman and not trained to the use of weapons, he should give the accolade. This open defiance of Philip thus involved in her action the second Catholic power of Europe before all the world. Then, as Marchaumont gave the three strokes appointed the Queen spoke out clearly, while men thrilled with sudden presage of great days to come,—
“Rise up,—Sir Francis Drake!”
Where the Russian Bear stirs
blindly in the leash of a mailed hand,
Bright in the frozen sunshine, the domes of Moscow stand,
Scarlet and blue and crimson,
blazing across the snow
As they did in the Days of Terror, three hundred years ago.
Courtiers bending before him,
envoys from near and far,
Sat in his Hall of Audience Ivan the Terrible Tsar,
(He of the knout and torture,
poison and sword and flame)
Yet unafraid before him the English envoy came.
And he was Sir Jeremy Bowes,
born of that golden time
When in the soil of Conquest blossomed the flower of Rhyme.
Dauntless he fronted the Presence,—and
the courtiers whispered low,
“Doth Elizabeth send us madmen, to tempt the torture so?”
“Have you heard of that
foolhardy Frenchman?” Ivan the Terrible said,—
“He came before me covered,—I nailed his hat to his head.”
Then spoke Sir Jeremy Bowes,
“I serve the Virgin Queen,—
Little is she accustomed to vail her face, I ween.
“She is Elizabeth Tudor,
mighty to bless or to ban,
Nor doth her envoy give over at the bidding of any man!
“Call to your Cossacks
and hangmen,—do with me what ye please,
But ye shall answer to England when the news flies over seas.”
Ivan smiled on the envoy,—the
courtiers saw that smile,
Glancing one at the other, holding their breath the while.
Then spoke the terrible Ivan,
“His Queen sits over sea,
Yet he hath bid me defiance,—would ye do as much for me?”