Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
His Pilgrimage
By Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618)
 
GIVE 1 me my scallop-shell 2 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;        5
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, 3
  Travelleth towards the land of heaven;        10
Over the silver mountains,
Where spring the nectar fountains.
        There will I kiss
        The bowl of bliss;
And drink mine everlasting fill        15
Upon every milken hill. 4
My soul will be a-dry before;
But after it will thirst no more.
 
Then by that happy, blissful day,
  More peaceful pilgrims I shall see,        20
That have cast off their rags of clay,
  And walk apparelled fresh like me.
  I’ll take them first
  To quench their thirst
And taste of nectar suckets, 5        25
  At those clear wells
  Where sweetness dwells,
Drawn up by saints in crystal buckets.
 
And when our bottles and all we
Are filled with immortality,        30
Then the blessèd paths we’ll travel,
Strowed with rubies thick as gravel;
Ceilings of diamonds, sapphire floors,
High walls of coral and pearly bowers,
From thence to heaven’s bribeless hall,        35
Where no corrupted voices brawl;
No conscience molten into gold,
No forged accuser bought or sold,
No cause deferred, no vain-spent journey,
For there Christ is the king’s Attorney,        40
Who pleads for all without degrees,
And he hath angels, 6 but no fees.
And when the grand twelve-million jury
Of our sins, with direful fury,
Against our souls black verdicts give,        45
Christ pleads his death, and then we live.
 
Be thou my speaker, taintless pleader,
Unblotted lawyer, true proceeder!
Thou givest salvation even for alms;
Not with a bribèd lawyer’s palms.        50
And this is mine eternal plea
To him that made heaven, earth, and sea,
That, since my flesh must die so soon,
And want a head to dine next noon,
Just at the stroke, when my veins start and spread,        55
Set on my soul an everlasting head!
Then am I ready, like a palmer fit,
To tread those blest paths which before I writ.
 
Of death and judgment, heaven and hell,
Who oft doth think, must needs die well.        60
 
Note 1. It is asserted that Raleigh wrote this poem, and that beginning, Even such is Time, that takes in trust (see Note to No. 487), in the Tower the night before his execution. “We may, perhaps, account,” says Dr. Hannah (Courtly Poets, p. 221), “for the more strange and startling metaphors in this striking poem, by dating it during Raleigh’s interval of suspense in 1603, after his condemnation and before his reprieve, when the smart of Coke’s coarse cross-examination had not passed away.” Prof. Schelling thinks, “it would be difficult to find a poem more truly representative of the age of Elizabeth, with its poetical fervor, its beauty and vividness of expression, its juggling with words, and its daring mixture of things celestial with things mundane.” (A Book of Elizabethan Lyrics.) [back]
Note 2. Scallop-shell: cockle-hat. (See note to No. 629.) [back]
Note 3. Palmer: a pilgrim who had returned from the Holy Land, had fulfilled his vow, and brought a palm branch to be deposited on the altar of the parish church. (Century Dictionary.) [back]
Note 4. Milken hill: Perhaps hill of plenty, running with milk and honey. (Schelling.) [back]
Note 5. Suckets: sweetmeats, delicacies. [back]
Note 6. Angels: An Elizabethan pun on the popular name for the angel-nobles, a coin first struck by Edward IV.; its value varies from 6s. 8d. sterling to 10s. [back]
 
 
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