Percy's Reliques - The Lye.

The Lye.

BY SIR WALTER RALEIGH.

            This poem is found in a very scarce miscellany intitled "Davison's Poems, or a poeticall Rapsodie divided into sixe books . . . The 4th impression newly corrected and augmented, and put into a forme more pleasing to the reader." Lond. 1621, 12mo. This poem is reported to have been written by its celebrated author the night before his execution, Oct. 29, 1618. But this must be a mistake; for there were at least two editions of Davison's poems before that time, one in 1608,[ 1] the other in 1611:[ 2] so that unless this poem was an after insertion in the 4th. edit. it must have been written long before the death of Sir Walter. Perhaps it was composed soon after his condemnation in 1603. See Oldys s Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, p. 173, fol.

GOE, soule, the bodies guest,
Upon a thankelesse arrant;
Feare not to touche the best,
The truth shall be thy warrant:
Goe, since I needs must dye,
And give the world the lye.

Goe tell the court, it glowes
And shines like rotten wood;
Goe tell the church it showes
What's good, and doth no good:
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lye.

Tell potentates they live
Acting by others actions;
Not lov'd unlesse they give,
Not strong but by their factions;
If potentates reply,
Give potentates the lye.

Tell men of high condition,
That rule affairs of state,
Their purpose is ambition,
Their practise onely hate;
And if they once reply,
Then give them all the lye.

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,
Spare not to give the lye.

Tell zeale, it lacks 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 lye.

Tell age, it daily wasteth;
Tell honour, how it alters:
Tell beauty, how she blasteth;
Tell favour, how she falters;
And as they shall reply,
Give each of them the lye.

Tell wit, how much it wrangles
In tickle points of nicenesse;
Tell wisedome, she entangles
Herselfe in over-wisenesse;
And if they do reply,
Straight give them both the lye.

Tell physicke of her boldnesse;
Tell skill, it is pretension;
Tell charity of coldness;
Tell law, it is contention;
And as they yield reply,
So give them still the lye.

Tell fortune of her blindnesse;
Tell nature of decay;
Tell friendship of unkindnesse;
Tell justice of delay:
And if they dare reply,
Then give them all the lye.

Tell arts, they have no soundnesse,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schooles, they want profoundnesse;
And stand too much on seeming:
If arts and schooles reply,
Give arts and schooles the lye.

Tell faith, it's fled the citie;
Tell how the countrey erreth;
Tell, manhood shakes off pitie;
Tell, vertue least preferreth:
And, if they doe reply,
Spare not to give the lye.

So, when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing,
Although to give the lye
Deserves no less than stabbing,
Yet stab at thee who will,
No stab the soule can kill.

NOTES

1. Catalogue of T. Rawlinson, 1727.

2. Catalogue of Sian College Library. This is either lost or mislaid.

 

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