The Poems of Sir Walter Raleigh: Now First Collected by Sir Walter Raleigh

What is our life? The play of passion.
Our mirth? The music of division:
Our mothers’ wombs the tiring-houses be,
Where we are dressed for life’s short comedy.
The earth the stage; Heaven the spectator is,
Who sits and views whosoe’er doth act amiss.
The graves which hide us from the scorching sun
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done.
Thus playing post we to our latest rest,
And then we die in earnest, not in jest.

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields;
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall.

The gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten,—
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Like truthless dreams, so are my joys expired,
And past return are all my dandled days;
My love misled, and fancy quite retired—
Of all which passed the sorrow only stays.

My lost delights, now clean from sight of land,
Have left me all alone in unknown ways;
My mind to woe, my life in fortune’s hand—
Of all which passed the sorrow only stays.

As in a country strange, without companion,
I only wail the wrong of death’s delays,
Whose sweet spring spent, whose summer well-nigh done—
Of all which passed the sorrow only stays.

Whom care forewarns, ere age and winter cold,
To haste me hence to find my fortune’s fold.

Passions are liken’d best to floods and streams:
The shallow murmur, but the deep are dumb;
So, when affection yields discourse, it seems
  The bottom is but shallow whence they come.
They that are rich in words, in words discover
That they are poor in that which makes a lover.

Farewell, false love, the oracle of lies,
A mortal foe and enemy to rest,
An envious boy, from whom all cares arise,
A bastard vile, a beast with rage possessed,
A way of error, a temple full of treason,
In all effects contrary unto reason.

A poisoned serpent covered all with flowers,
Mother of sighs, and murderer of repose,
A sea of sorrows whence are drawn such showers
As moisture lend to every grief that grows;
A school of guile, a net of deep deceit,
A gilded hook that holds a poisoned bait.

A fortress foiled, which reason did defend,
A siren song, a fever of the mind,
A maze wherein affection finds no end,
A raging cloud that runs before the wind,
A substance like the shadow of the sun,
A goal of grief for which the wisest run.

A quenchless fire, a nurse of trembling fear,
A path that leads to peril and mishap,
A true retreat of sorrow and despair,
An idle boy that sleeps in pleasure’s lap,
A deep mistrust of that which certain seems,
A hope of that which reason doubtful deems.

Sith then thy trains my younger years betrayed,
And for my faith ingratitude I find;
And sith repentance hath my wrongs bewrayed,
Whose course was ever contrary to kind:
False love, desire, and beauty frail, adieu.
Dead is the root whence all these fancies grew.

1.7k
Her Reply

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy Love.

But Time drives flocks from field to fold;
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward Winter reckoning yields:
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall.

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies,
Soon break, soon wither—soon forgotten,
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy-buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,—
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy Love.

But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy Love.

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The Lie

Go, Soul, the body’s guest,
Upon a thankless errand;
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant:
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie.

Say to the court, it glows
And shines like rotten wood;
Say to the church, it shows
What’s good, and doth no good:
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lie.

Tell potentates, they live
Acting by others’ action;
Not loved unless they give,
Not strong but by a faction.
If potentates reply,
Give potentates the lie.

Tell men of high condition,
That manage the estate,
Their purpose is ambition,
Their practice only hate:
And if they once reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell them that brave it most,
They beg for more by spending,
Who, in their greatest cost,
Seek nothing but commending.
And if they make reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell zeal it wants devotion;
Tell love it is but lust;
Tell time it is but motion;
Tell flesh it is but dust:
And wish them not reply,
For thou must give the lie.

Tell age it daily wasteth;
Tell honour how it alters;
Tell beauty how she blasteth;
Tell favour how it falters:
And as they shall reply,
Give every one the lie.

Tell wit how much it wrangles
In tickle points of niceness;
Tell wisdom she entangles
Herself in overwiseness:
And when they do reply,
Straight give them both the lie.

Tell physic of her boldness;
Tell skill it is pretension;
Tell charity of coldness;
Tell law it is contention:
And as they do reply,
So give them still the lie.

Tell fortune of her blindness;
Tell nature of decay;
Tell friendship of unkindness;
Tell justice of delay:
And if they will reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming:
If arts and schools reply,
Give arts and schools the lie.

Tell faith it’s fled the city;
Tell how the country erreth;
Tell manhood shakes off pity
And virtue least preferreth:
And if they do reply,
Spare not to give the lie.

So when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing—
Although to give the lie
Deserves no less than stabbing—
Stab at thee he that will,
No stab the soul can kill.

Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

  Blood must be my body’s balmer,
No other balm will there be given,
Whilst my soul, like a white palmer,
Travels to the land of heaven;
Over the silver mountains,
Where spring the nectar fountains;
And there I’ll kiss
The bowl of bliss,
And drink my eternal fill
On every milken hill.
My soul will be a-dry before,
But after it will ne’er thirst more;
And by the happy blissful way
More peaceful pilgrims I shall see,
That have shook off their gowns of clay,
And go apparelled fresh like me.
I’ll bring them first
To slake their thirst,
And then to taste those nectar suckets,
At the clear wells
Where sweetness dwells,
Drawn up by saints in crystal buckets.

  And when our bottles and all we
Are fill’d with immortality,
Then the holy paths we’ll travel,
Strew’d with rubies thick as gravel,
Ceilings of diamonds, sapphire floors,
High walls of coral, and pearl bowers.

  From thence to heaven’s bribeless hall
Where no corrupted voices brawl,
No conscience molten into gold,
Nor forg’d accusers bought and sold,
No cause deferr’d, nor vain-spent journey,
For there Christ is the king’s attorney,
Who pleads for all without degrees,
And he hath angels, but no fees.
When the grand twelve million jury
Of our sins and sinful fury,
‘Gainst our souls black verdicts give,
Christ pleads his death, and then we live.
Be thou my speaker, taintless pleader,
Unblotted lawyer, true proceeder,
Thou movest salvation even for alms,
Not with a bribed lawyer’s palms.
And this is my eternal plea
To him that made heaven, earth, and sea,
Seeing my flesh must die so soon,
And want a head to dine next noon,
Just at the stroke when my veins start and spread,
Set on my soul an everlasting head.
Then am I ready, like a palmer fit,
To tread those blest paths which before I writ.

Nature, that wahed her hands in milk,
  And had forgot to dry them,
Instead of earth took snow and silk,
  At Love’s request to try them,
If she a mistress could compose
To please Love’s fancy out of those.

Her eyes he would should be of light,
  A violet breath, and lips of jelly;
Her hair not black, nor overbright,
  And of the softest down her belly;
As for her inside he’d have it
Only of wantonness and wit.

At Love’s entreaty such a one
  Nature made, but with her beauty
She hath fram’d a heart of stone;
  So as Love, by ill destiny,
Must die for her whom Nature gave him
Because her darling would not save him.

But Time, which Nature doth despise
  And rudely gives her love the lie,
Makes hope a fool, and sorrow wise,
  His hands do neither wash nor dry;
But being made of steel and rust,
Turns snow and silk and milk to dust.

The light, the belly, lips, and breath,
  He dims, discolors, and destroys;
With those he feeds but fills not death,
  Which sometimes were the food of joys.
Yea, Time doth dull each lively wit,
And dries all wantonness with it.

Oh, cruel Time, which takes in trust
  Our youth, or joys, and all we have,
And pays us but with age and dust;
  Who in the dark and silent grave
When we have wandered all our ways
Shuts up the story of our days.

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Epitaph

Even such is time, which takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, and all we have,
And pays us but with age and dust,
Who in the dark and silent grave
When we have wandered all our ways
Shuts up the story of our days,
And from which earth, and grave, and dust
The Lord will raise me up, I trust.

As you came from the holy land
      Of Walsingham,
Met you not with my true love
      By the way as you came?

  “How shall I know your true love,
      That have met many one,
I went to the holy land,
      That have come, that have gone?”

  She is neither white, nor brown,
      But as the heavens fair;
There is none hath a form so divine
      In the earth, or the air.

“Such a one did I meet, good sir,
      Such an angelic face,
Who like a queen, like a nymph, did appear
      By her gait, by her grace.”

She hath left me here all alone,
      All alone, as unknown,
Who sometimes did me lead with herself,
      And me loved as her own.

“What’s the cause that she leaves you alone,
      And a new way doth take,
Who loved you once as her own,
      And her joy did you make?”

I have lov’d her all my youth;
      But now old, as you see,
Love likes not the falling fruit
      From the withered tree.

Know that Love is a careless child,
      And forgets promise past;
He is blind, he is deaf when he list,
      And in faith never fast.

His desire is a dureless content,
      And a trustless joy:
He is won with a world of despair,
      And is lost with a toy.

Of womenkind such indeed is the love,
      Or the word love abus’d,
Under which many childish desires
      And conceits are excus’d.

But true love is a durable fire,
      In the mind ever burning,
Never sick, never old, never dead,
      From itself never turning.

Wrong not, sweet empress of my heart,
  The merit of true passion,
With thinking that he feels no smart,
  That sues for no compassion.

Silence in love bewrays more woe
  Than words, though ne’er so witty:
A beggar that is dumb, you know,
  May challenge double pity.

Then wrong not, dearest to my heart,
  My true, though secret passion;
He smarteth most that hides his smart,
  And sues for no compassion.

Now Serena be not coy,
Since we freely may enjoy
Sweet embraces, such delights,
As will shorten tedious nights.
Think that beauty will not stay
With you always, but away,
And that tyrannizing face
That now holds such perfect grace
Will both changed and ruined be;
So frail is all things as we see,
So subject unto conquering Time.
Then gather flowers in their prime,
Let them not fall and perish so;
Nature her bounties did bestow
On us that we might use them, and
’Tis coldness not to understand
What she and youth and form persuade
With opportunity that’s made
As we could wish it.  Let’s, then, meet
Often with amorous lips, and greet
Each other till our wanton kisses
In number pass the day Ulysses
Consumed in travel, and the stars
That look upon our peaceful wars
With envious luster.  If this store
Will not suffice, we’ll number o’er
The same again, until we find
No number left to call to mind
   And show our plenty.  They are poor
   That can count all they have and more.

Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
  My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
  My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage;
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

Blood must be my body’s balmer;
  No other balm will there be given:
Whilst my soul, like quiet palmer,
  Travelleth towards the land of heaven;
Over the silver mountains,
Where spring the nectar fountains;
        There will I kiss
        The bowl of bliss;
And drink mine everlasting fill
Upon every milken hill.
My soul will be a-dry before;
But, after, it will thirst no more.

Prais’d be Diana’s fair and harmless light;
Prais’d be the dews wherewith she moists the ground;
Prais’d be her beams, the glory of the night;
Prais’d be her power by which all powers abound.

Prais’d be her nymphs with whom she decks the woods,
Prais’d be her knights in whom true honour lives;
Prais’d be that force by which she moves the floods;
Let that Diana shine which all these gives.

In heaven queen she is among the spheres;
In aye she mistress-like makes all things pure;
Eternity in her oft change she bears;
She beauty is; by her the fair endure.

Time wears her not: she doth his chariot guide;
Mortality below her orb is plac’d;
By her the virtue of the stars down slide;
In her is virtue’s perfect image cast.

      A knowledge pure it is her worth to know:
      With Circes let them dwell that think not so.

Like truthless dreams, so are my joys expir’d,
And past return are all my dandled days;
My love misled, and fancy quite retir’d—
Of all which pass’d the sorrow only stays.

My lost delights, now clean from sight of land,
Have left me all alone in unknown ways;
My mind to woe, my life in fortune’s hand—
Of all which pass’d the sorrow only stays.

As in a country strange, without companion,
I only wail the wrong of death’s delays,
Whose sweet spring spent, whose summer well-nigh done—
Of all which pass’d only the sorrow stays.

Whom care forewarns, ere age and winter cold,
To haste me hence to find my fortune’s fold.

— The End —