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Best Famous Sir Walter Raleigh Poems

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by Sir Walter Raleigh |

A Vision upon the Fairy Queen

Methought I saw the grave where Laura lay,
   Within that temple where the vestal flame
   Was wont to burn; and, passing by that way,
   To see that buried dust of living fame,
Whose tomb fair Love, and fairer Virtue kept:
   All suddenly I saw the Fairy Queen;
   At whose approach the soul of Petrarch wept,
   And, from thenceforth, those Graces were not seen:
For they this queen attended; in whose stead
   Oblivion laid him down on Laura's hearse:
   Hereat the hardest stones were seen to bleed,
And groans of buried ghosts the heavens did pierce:
   Where Homer's spright did tremble all for grief,
   And cursed the access of that celestial thief!


by Sir Walter Raleigh |

A Farewell to False Love

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, [since] 
And for my faith ingratitude I find; 
And sith repentance hath my wrongs bewrayed*, [revealed] 
Whose course was ever contrary to kind*: [nature] 
False love, desire, and beauty frail, adieu. 
Dead is the root whence all these fancies grew. 


by Craig Raine |

In Modern Dress

 A pair of blackbirds
warring in the roses,
one or two poppies

losing their heads,
the trampled lawn
a battlefield of dolls.

Branch by pruned branch,
a child has climbed
the family tree

to queen it over us:
we groundlings search
the flowering cherry

till we find her face,
its pale prerogative
to rule our hearts.

Sir Walter Raleigh
trails his comforter
about the muddy garden,

a full-length Hilliard
in miniature hose
and padded pants.

How rakishly upturned
his fine moustache
of oxtail soup,

foreshadowing, perhaps,
some future time
of altered favour,

stuck in the high chair
like a pillory, features
pelted with food.

So many expeditions
to learn the history
of this little world:

I watch him grub
in the vegetable patch
and ponder the potato

in its natural state
for the very first time,
or found a settlement

of leaves and sticks,
cleverly protected
by a circle of stones.

But where on earth
did he manage to find
that cigarette end?

Rain and wind.
The day disintegrates.
I observe the lengthy

inquisition of a worm
then go indoors to face
a scattered armada

of picture hooks
on the dining room floor,
the remains of a ruff

on my glass of beer, 
Sylvia Plath's Ariel
drowned in the bath.

Washing hair, I kneel
to supervise a second rinse
and act the courtier:

tiny seed pearls,
tingling into sight,
confer a kind of majesty.

And I am author
of this toga'd tribune
on my aproned lap,

who plays his part
to an audience of two,
repeating my words.


by Joyce Kilmer |

The Proud Poet

 (For Shaemas O Sheel)

One winter night a Devil came and sat upon my bed,
His eyes were full of laughter for his heart was full of crime.
"Why don't you take up fancy work, or embroidery?" he said,
"For a needle is as manly a tool as a pen that makes a rhyme!"
"You little ugly Devil," said I, "go back to Hell
For the idea you express I will not listen to:
I have trouble enough with poetry and poverty as well,
Without having to pay attention to orators like you.
"When you say of the making of ballads and songs 
that it is woman's work
You forget all the fighting poets that have been in every land.
There was Byron who left all his lady-loves to fight against the 
Turk,
And David, the Singing King of the Jews,
who was born with a sword in his hand.
It was yesterday that Rupert Brooke went out to the Wars and died,
And Sir Philip Sidney's lyric voice was as sweet as his arm was 
strong;
And Sir Walter Raleigh met the axe as a lover meets his bride,
Because he carried in his soul the courage of his song.
"And there is no consolation so quickening to the 
heart
As the warmth and whiteness that come from the lines of noble poetry.
It is strong joy to read it when the wounds of the spirit smart,
It puts the flame in a lonely breast where only ashes be.
It is strong joy to read it, and to make it is a thing
That exalts a man with a sacreder pride than any pride on earth.
For it makes him kneel to a broken slave and set his foot on a king,
And it shakes the walls of his little soul with the echo of God's 
mirth.
"There was the poet Homer had the sorrow to be 
blind,
Yet a hundred people with good eyes would listen to him all night;
For they took great enjoyment in the heaven of his mind,
And were glad when the old blind poet let them share his powers 
of sight.
And there was Heine lying on his mattress all day long,
He had no wealth, he had no friends, he had no joy at all,
Except to pour his sorrow into little cups of song,
And the world finds in them the magic wine that his broken heart 
let fall.
"And these are only a couple of names from a list 
of a thousand score
Who have put their glory on the world in poverty and pain.
And the title of poet's a noble thing, worth living and dying for,
Though all the devils on earth and in Hell spit at me their disdain.
It is stern work, it is perilous work, to thrust your hand in the 
sun
And pull out a spark of immortal flame to warm the hearts of men:
But Prometheus, torn by the claws and beaks whose task is never 
done,
Would be tortured another eternity to go stealing fire again."


by Sir Walter Raleigh |

Nature that Washed Her Hands in Milk

 Nature, that washed 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 framed 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.


by Sir Walter Raleigh |

His Pilgrimage

 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.


by Sir Walter Raleigh |

Life

 What is our life? A play of passion, 
Our mirth the music of division, 
Our mother's wombs the tiring-houses be, 
Where we are dressed for this short comedy. 
Heaven the judicious sharp spectator is, 
That sits and marks still who doth act amiss. 
Our graves that hide us from the setting sun 
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done. 
Thus march we, playing, to our latest rest, 
Only we die in earnest, that's no jest.


by Sir Walter Raleigh |

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.


by Sir Walter Raleigh |

The Silent Lover ii

 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.


by Sir Walter Raleigh |

Song of Myself

 I was a Poet! 
But I did not know it,
Neither did my Mother,
Nor my Sister nor my Brother.
The Rich were not aware of it;
The Poor took no care of it.
The Reverend Mr. Drewitt
Never knew it.
The High did not suspect it;
The Low could not detect it.
Aunt Sue
Said it was obviously untrue.
Uncle Ned
Said I was off my head:
(This from a Colonial
Was really a good testimonial.)
Still everybody seemed to think
That genius owes a good deal to drink.
So that is how
I am not a poet now,
And why
My inspiration has run dry.
It is no sort of use
To cultivate the Muse
If vulgar people
Can't tell a village pump from a church steeple.
I am merely apologizing
For the lack of the surprising
In what I write
To-night.
I am quite well-meaning,
But a lot of things are always intervening
Between
What I mean
And what it is said
I had in my head.
It is all very puzzling.
Uncle Ned
Says Poets need muzzling.
He might
Be right.
Good-night!