Man Alive!

(i.e., Good Lord!)

Oh My Word! All day I’ve been racking my brain to recall the name of a poem me and my man did analyse a semester or two ago. I actually wrote a post about this memory lapse earlier on today: Within the hour /, see how I began,


I’ll not lie… the poem that is obsessing my thoughts now… its name I cannot recall.

Well as the British do say in a non-literal way, “fuck me!” The poem I’ve been hunting is called: ‘The Lie.’ It was there in plain sight ( { [ Lie ] } ), it was on the tip of my tongue but my brain didn’t allow me to know so ( { [ LIE ] }.

The Lie


Go, soul, the body’s guest,
Upon a thankless errand;
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant:
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie.

Say to the court, it glows
And shines like rotten wood;
Say to the church, it shows
What’s good, and doth no good:
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lie.

Tell potentates, they live
Acting by others’ action;
Not loved unless they give,
Not strong but by a faction.
If potentates reply,
Give potentates the lie.

Tell men of high condition,
That manage the estate,
Their purpose is ambition,
Their practice only hate:
And if they once reply,
Then give them all the lie.

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,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell zeal it wants 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 lie.

Tell age it daily wasteth;
Tell honour how it alters;
Tell beauty how she blasteth;
Tell favour how it falters:
And as they shall reply,
Give every one the lie.

Tell wit how much it wrangles
In tickle points of niceness;
Tell wisdom she entangles
Herself in overwiseness:
And when they do reply,
Straight give them both the lie.

Tell physic of her boldness;
Tell skill it is pretension;
Tell charity of coldness;
Tell law it is contention:
And as they do reply,
So give them still the lie.

Tell fortune of her blindness;
Tell nature of decay;
Tell friendship of unkindness;
Tell justice of delay:
And if they will reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming:
If arts and schools reply,
Give arts and schools the lie.

Tell faith it’s fled the city;
Tell how the country erreth;
Tell manhood shakes off pity
And virtue least preferreth:
And if they do reply,
Spare not to give the lie.

So when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing–
Although to give the lie
Deserves no less than stabbing–
Stab at thee he that will,
No stab the soul can kill.

— Sir Walter Ralegh

This is sublime, fucking sublime. At first I thought what the fuck’s going on here, but — as we say — step by step, it all became clearer and clearer and then dearer and dearer to me. As I say here:


Literature, like other forms of cultural production, is not created in a vacuum. It is created in a specific context (time, place, and situation), and therefore it is a product of specific historical, cultural, and social circumstances. …it is widely argued that without an understanding of the given text’s social, cultural, and historical context the experience and significance of the work may well be diminished.

In short, this poem is about betrayal, about how everyone turned on Walter as he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Luckily for us, for posterity they allowed him to have and use pencil and paper whilst he awaited mortem eius.


p.s.

“Wracking” or “Racking” Your Brain?
If you are “racked” with pain or guilt or you feel nerve-racked, you are feeling as if you were being stretched out to snapping point on a medieval instrument of torture: the rack. It isn’t surprising that ‘rack’ was adopted as a verb meaning to cause pain and anguish. You rack your brains when you stretch them vigorously to e.g., remember the name of a poignant poem. On the other hand, “wrack” has to do with ruinous accidents — meaning “to ruin or wreck” it is recorded in print from the 1560s onward and initially it specifically meant “to be shipwrecked.” — so if the stock market is wracked by rumours of imminent recession, it is wrecked. n.b., if things are wrecked, we can say they’ve gone to “wrack and ruin.”

“Did I do that? Did I say that? Yes, yes I confess!”

Within the hour /

his power totally consumed me

( { [ Sir Walter Ralegh ] } )

I’ll not lie, I studied him several semesters ago and, the poem that is obsessing my thoughts now (a highly charged and thinly veiled critique of the duplicity of the powers that be), its name I cannot recall; it is in here somewhere:

…but that anthology’s at the house I dwell in and I am here on this hallowed campus, this poisoned chalice, where life’s been lived, where love was found and, alas, where love was lost. For now, for the right here and right now, I’ll post this (on love & loss):


Farewell, false love, the oracle of lies,
A mortal foe and enemy to rest,
An envious boy, from whom all cares arise,
A bastard vile, a beast with rage possessed,
A way of error, a temple full of treason,
In all effects contrary unto reason.

A poisoned serpent covered all with flowers,
Mother of sighs, and murderer of repose,
A sea of sorrows whence are drawn such showers
As moisture lend to every grief that grows;
A school of guile, a net of deep deceit,
A gilded hook that holds a poisoned bait.

A fortress foiled, which reason did defend,
A siren song, a fever of the mind,
A maze wherein affection finds no end,
A raging cloud that runs before the wind,
A substance like the shadow of the sun,
A goal of grief for which the wisest run.

A quenchless fire, a nurse of trembling fear,
A path that leads to peril and mishap,
A true retreat of sorrow and despair,
An idle boy that sleeps in pleasure’s lap,
A deep mistrust of that which certain seems,
A hope of that which reason doubtful deems.

Sith then thy trains my younger years betrayed,
And for my faith ingratitude I find;
And sith repentance hath my wrongs bewrayed,
Whose course was ever contrary to kind:
False love, desire, and beauty frail, adieu.
Dead is the root whence all these fancies grew.

— Sir Walter Ralegh

And this (on life & loss):


Even such is time, which takes in trust
  Our youth, our joys, and all we have,
And pays us nought but age and dust;
  Which in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days!
And from which grave, and earth, and dust,
The Lord shall raise me up, I trust.

— Sir Walter Ralegh

Dwell on his works awhile, they are profound and powerful. He was much more than a swashbuckling pirate with a crush on the virgin qween.

Sir_Walter_Ralegh_by_'H'_monogrammist

Sir_Walter_Raleigh_Signature
(artist, unknown) Inscriptions: on left — Raleigh’s motto ‘Amor et Virtute’ (“By Love and Virtue”); on right — Aetatis suae 34 An(no) 1588 (“In the year 1588 of his age 34”)


p.s.

Swashbuckle
To engage in daring and romantic adventures with bravado or flamboyance. A swashbuckler is a heroic archetype in European adventure literature that is typified by the use of a sword, acrobatics and chivalric ideals.