56. Poem attributed to Sir Walter Ralegh.


Mr. Cayley, in his life of Ralegh, inserts the following poem, which is said to have been written by Sir Walter the night preceding his execution.


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, hopes true gage,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

Blood must be my bodies balmer,
While my soul, like quiet palmer,
Travelleth toward the land of heaven;
No other balm will here be given.


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.

I’ll take them first
To quench my thirst,
And taste of nectars suckets
At those clear wells
Where sweetness dwells,
Drawn up by saints in crystal buckets.

Then by that happy blestful day,
More peaceful pilgrims I shall see,
That have cast off their rags of clay,
And walk apparelled fresh like me.

And when our bodies and all we
Are fill’d with immortality,
Then the bless’d paths we’ll travel,
Strew’d with rubies thick as gravel,
Ceilings of dimond, sapphire flowers,
High walls of coral, pearly bowers.
From thence to heaven’s bribeless hall,
Where no corrupted voices brawl,
No conscience molten into gold,
No forged accuser bought or sold,


No cause deferr’d, no vain-spent journey,
For there Christ is the king’s attorney;
Who pleads for all without degrees;
And he hath angels, but no fees.

And when the twelve grand million jury
Of our sins, with direful fury
Against our souls black verdicts give,
Christ pleads his death, and then we live.
Be thou my speaker, taintless pleader!
Unblotted lawyer! true proceeder!
Thou wouldst salvation e’en for alms,
Not with a bribed lawer’s palms.

And this is mine eternal plea
To him that made heaven, earth, and sea;
That since my flesh must die so soon,
And want ahead 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 bless’ d paths which before I writ.
Of death and judgment, heaven and hell,
Who oft doth think, must needs die well.

The germ of the first stanza is to be found in P. Louis Richeome’s Pilgrim of Loreto. “Our Pilgrim,” he says, “shall allegorize all the parts of his furniture and apparel, and shall attire his soul to 97the likeness of his body. For his hat he shall take the assistance of God; his shooes shall be the mortification of his affictions; patience shall be his mantle, or leether cloake; civility shall be his coate or cassacke; chastity his girdle; contemplation and meditation shall be his bag and bottle; the love of the crosse his pilgrime’s staff; faith, charity, and good workes, shall be his purse and money; so shall he spiritually attire the inward man of the spirit to the immitation of the Apostle St. Paul; who arming the christian souldier, giveth him his furniture, framed of the stuft of such like allegories, and armes, forged of the same mettal. The shield of verity, a breast plate of justice, shooes of the preparation to the gospell, the buckler of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit of God.”

The Annual Reviewer of Mr. Cayley’s book observes that this poem is not in Ralegh’s usual style, and doubts its 98authenticity; yet adds, that there is a troubled wildness of thought and expression which may be admitted as strong internal evidence in its favour. This evidence goes to prove that the poem was written under the circumstances assigned, but by no means points to Ralegh as the author. Ralegh would not have written in that strain of piety. I believe it to be a catholic poem, and the production of one of the many good, but dangerous men who suffered in those days for a religion which it was impossible to tolerate. Is it by Robert Southwell the Jesuit? a writer of no ordinary powers; yet he was too pure a writer to have made the miserable pun upon angels: there is a levity in that, and in the conceit about wanting a head to dine with, which, if the language were older, might lead one to attribute it to Sir Thomas More. One thing, and only one, is in Ralegh’s temper; the allusions to the king’s attorney. It is likely that one of the last things 99which he remembered with indignation, would be the cruel and cowardly virulence of Coke. That it is catholic, however, I consider as beyond a doubt.


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