The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage

By Sir Walter Ralegh 1552–1618 Sir Walter Ralegh

[Supposed to be written by one at the point of death]

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, hope’s true gage,
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 a white palmer,
Travels to the land of heaven;
Over the silver mountains,
Where spring the nectar fountains;
And there I’ll kiss
The bowl of bliss,
And drink my eternal fill
On every milken hill.
My soul will be a-dry before,
But after it will ne’er thirst more;
And by the happy blissful way
More peaceful pilgrims I shall see,
That have shook off their gowns of clay,
And go apparelled fresh like me.
I’ll bring them first
To slake their thirst,
And then to taste those nectar suckets,
At the clear wells
Where sweetness dwells,
Drawn up by saints in crystal buckets.

   And when our bottles and all we
Are fill’d with immortality,
Then the holy paths we’ll travel,
Strew’d with rubies thick as gravel,
Ceilings of diamonds, sapphire floors,
High walls of coral, and pearl bowers.

   From thence to heaven’s bribeless hall
Where no corrupted voices brawl,
No conscience molten into gold,
Nor forg’d accusers bought and sold,
No cause deferr’d, nor vain-spent journey,
For there Christ is the king’s attorney,
Who pleads for all without degrees,
And he hath angels, but no fees.
When the grand twelve million jury
Of our sins and sinful fury,
’Gainst our souls black verdicts give,
Christ pleads his death, and then we live.
Be thou my speaker, taintless pleader,
Unblotted lawyer, true proceeder,
Thou movest salvation even for alms,
Not with a bribed lawyer’s palms.
And this is my eternal plea
To him that made heaven, earth, and sea,
Seeing my flesh must die so soon,
And want a head 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 blest paths which before I writ.

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Poet Sir Walter Ralegh 1552–1618

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Renaissance

Subjects Religion, Living, Death, Christianity

Occasions Funerals

Poetic Terms Mixed

 Sir Walter  Ralegh

Biography

Before his execution for treason, Sir Walter Ralegh won fame as an explorer of the New World — both for voyages to Roanoke Island in present-day North Carolina (whose capital is named after him), and to Venezuela in search of El Dorado, the mythical city of gold. Also a scholar and a gifted lyric poet, Ralegh brought glory to Elizabethan England along with the potatoes and tobacco he is said to have introduced there.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Living, Death, Christianity

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Renaissance

Poetic Terms Mixed

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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