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Thursday, 13 December 2012

POET OF THE MONTH #1: Sir Walter Ralegh

SIR WALTER RALEGH, c. 1590




LIKE TRUTHLESS DREAMS  


 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 past, 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 past, 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 past, the sorrow only stays;

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

(published 1593)





The Poet:  Sir Walter Ralegh (or 'Raleigh' as many scholars prefer despite the fact that his name is most often pronounced 'Rawley' to rhyme with 'crawly') is thought to have written this poem while imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he had been sent by Queen Elizabeth in June 1592 for the unpardonable crime of impregnating and secretly marrying one of her ladies-in-waiting, Bess Throckmorton, without first gaining his (possibly jealous) sovereign's permission.  Bess was also sent to the Tower –– a harsh punishment which no doubt resulted in much anxiety and many a sleepless night for her new, much older husband.  Ralegh was released in August while Bess wasn't freed until December, their infant son having died of the plague in the meantime.  Although he had formerly been the Queen's favourite, this incident marked the beginning of Ralegh's surprisingly rapid fall from favour –– a descent which culminated in his 1603 re-arrest, second stay in the Tower (for fifteen years this time) and eventual beheading for the crime of attempted treason by Elizabeth's successor, James I, on 29 October 1618.  Bess never deserted him and is rumoured to have carried his embalmed head with her everywhere she went as she set about the task of restoring his reputation to something approaching its former monarch-approved glory.


Click HERE to read more about the life and work of SIR WALTER RALEGH (1552-1618).

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