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Classic Poetry from Passions in Poetry

Sir Walter Raleigh 1554 - 1618

English poet. His most famous poems include an 'Epitaph of Sir Philip Sidney', 'Even Such is Time' and the sonnets 'Methought I Saw the Grave Where Laura Lay' which prefaced Spenser's Faerie Queene, and 'Sir Walter Ralegh to His Son'. The standard edition of his Poems was produced by A. Latham in 1951. His prose 'Report of the Truth of the Fight about the Isles of A├žores' (1591) inspired Tennyson's poem 'The Revenge'. Other notable prose works are The Discoverie of Guiana (1596) and The History of the World (1614).


Ralegh mixed scholarship with soldiering from an early age, fighting on the Protestant side in the French Wars of religion before attending Oriel College, Oxford. In 1580 his courage and outspoken manner distinguished him in a campaign against Irish rebels in Munster, and he soon attracted the attention of Elizabeth I.

He became the Queen's favourite at court, receiving a knighthood in 1585 as well as numerous other favours, and huge estates in Ireland. He took part in many expeditions abroad, including attempts to establish colonies in both North and South America, and several literary works resulted from these travels. Ralegh was a very cultured man, and a close friend of the poet Edmund Spenser, whom he met in Ireland in 1580. He was also linked with a group known as the 'School of Atheism', whose circle included Christopher Marlowe and George Chapman.

Ralegh's fiery character ensured that his fortunes at court were very unstable; in 1592 a jealous Queen Elizabeth imprisoned him for a short time for marrying one of her maids of honour, Elizabeth Throckmorton. He eventually regained favour with Elizabeth, but his enemies successfully conspired against him when James I ascended the throne. Ralegh was convicted of treason and spent the next thirteen years in the Tower of London. He passed his time in prison by writing several books, including A Discourse of War and his History of the World. The History was intended for ordinary readers, not just experts, and its outspoken criticisms of unjust kings amount to an indirect attack on James I.

In 1616 he was released from the Tower to lead a gold-hunting expedition to Guiana. The trip was his last chance to prove his worth to King James, but it was a spectacular disaster. Ralegh was struck down by a tropical fever and the officer he entrusted with command not only failed to find any gold, but attacked and burned a Spanish settlement, an action which had been strictly forbidden by the King. Ralegh's eldest son was killed in the fighting, and the officer later committed suicide. Returning home in disgrace, Ralegh was beheaded outside Westminster Hall. The poem 'Even Such is Time' is traditionally said to have been composed on the eve of his execution.

Available Poems
As You Came from the Holy Land
Even Such is Time
The Lie
A Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd
The Passionate Man's Pilgrimage
To His Son
Upon Spenser's Faerie Queene

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