Home  »  Poems by Sir Walter Raleigh  »  An Epitaph upon the Right Honourable Sir Philip Sidney, Knight, Lord Governor of Flushing; 1586

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618). Poems. 1892.


An Epitaph upon the Right Honourable Sir Philip Sidney, Knight, Lord Governor of Flushing; 1586

TO praise thy life or wail thy worthy death,

And want thy wit,—thy wit high, pure, divine,—

Is far beyond the power of mortal line,

Nor any one hath worth that draweth breath;

Yet rich in zeal (though poor in learning’s lore),

And friendly care obscured in secret breast,

And love that envy in thy life suppressed,—

Thy dear life done,—and death hath doubled more.

And I, that in thy time and living state

Did only praise thy virtues in my thought,

As one that seeld the rising sun hath sought,

With words and tears now wail thy timeless fate.

Drawn was thy race aright from princely line;

Nor less than such, by gifts that nature gave,—

The common mother that all creatures have,—

Doth virtue show, and princely lineage shine.

A king gave thee thy name; a kingly mind,—

That God thee gave,—who found it now too dear

For this base world, and hath resumed it near

To sit in skies, and sort with powers divine.

Kent thy birth-days, and Oxford held thy youth;

The heavens made haste, and stayed nor years nor time;

The fruits of age grew ripe in thy first prime;

Thy will, thy words; thy words the seals of truth.

Great gifts and wisdom rare employed thee thence,

To treat from kings with those more great than kings;

Such hope men had to lay the highest things

On thy wise youth, to be transported hence.

Whence to sharp wars sweet honour did thee call,

Thy country’s love, religion, and thy friends;

Of worthy men the marks, the lives, and ends,

And her defence, for whom we labour all.

There didst thou vanquish shame and tedious age,

Grief, sorrow, sickness, and base fortune’s might;

Thy rising day saw never woeful night,

But passed with praise from off this worldly stage.

Back to the camp by thee that day was brought,

First thine own death; and after thy long fame;

Tears to the soldiers; the proud Castilian’s shame;

Virtue expressed, and honour truly taught.

What hath he lost that such great grace hath won?

Young years for endless years, and hope unsure

Of fortune’s gifts for wealth that still shall dure:

O happy race, with so great praises run!

England doth hold thy limbs, that bred the same;

Flanders thy valour, where it last was tried;

The camp thy sorrow, where thy body died;

Thy friends thy want; the world thy virtue’s fame;

Nations thy wit; our minds lay up thy love;

Letters thy learning; thy loss years long to come;

In worthy hearts sorrow hath made thy tomb;

Thy soul and spright enrich the heavens above.

Thy liberal heart embalmed in grateful tears,

Young sighs, sweet sighs, sage sighs, bewail thy fall;

Envy her sting, and spite hath left her gall;

Malice herself a mourning garment wears.

That day their Hannibal died, our Scipio fell,—

Scipio, Cicero, and Petrarch of our time;

Whose virtues, wounded by my worthless rhyme,

Let angels speak, and heaven thy praises tell.