Home  »  Poems by Sir Walter Raleigh  »  Continuation of the lost poem, Cynthia; now first published from the Hatfield MSS.; 1604–1618?

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


Continuation of the lost poem, Cynthia; now first published from the Hatfield MSS.; 1604–1618?

IF Cynthia be a Queen, a princess, and supreme,

Keep these among the rest, or say it was a dream;

For those that like, expound, and those that loathe, express

Meanings according as their minds are moved more or less.

For writing what thou art, or showing what thou were,

Adds to the one disdain, to the other but despair.

Thy mind of neither needs, in both seeing it exceeds.

My body in the walls captived

Feels not the wounds of spiteful envy;

But my thralled mind, of liberty deprived,

Fast fettered in her ancient memory,

Doth nought behold but sorrow’s dying face:

Such prison erst was so delightful,

As it desired no other dwelling place:

But time’s effects and destinies despiteful

Have changed both my keeper and my fare.

Love’s fire and beauty’s light I then had store;

But now, close kept, as captives wonted are,

That food, that heat, that light, I find no more.

Despair bolts up my doors; and I alone

Speak to dead walls; but those hear not my moan.

The 21st and Last Book of the Ocean, to Cynthia.
SUFFICETH it to you, my joys interred,

In simple words that I my woes complain;

You that then died when first my fancy erred,—

Joys under dust that never live again?

If to the living were my muse addressed,

Or did my mind her own spirit still inhold,

Were not my living passion so repressed

As to the dead the dead did these unfold,

Some sweeter words, some more becoming verse

Should witness my mishap in higher kind;

But my love’s wounds, my fancy in the hearse,

The idea but resting of a wasted mind,

The blossoms fallen, the sap gone from the tree,

The broken monuments of my great desires,—

From these so lost what may the affections be?

What heat in cinders of extinguished fires?

Lost in the mud of those high-flowing streams,

Which through more fairer fields their courses bend,

Slain with self-thoughts, amazed in fearful dreams,

Woes without date, discomforts without end:

From fruit[less] trees I gather withered leaves,

And glean the broken ears with miser’s hand,

Who sometime did enjoy the weighty sheaves;

I seek fair flowers amid the brinish sand.

All in the shade, even in the fair sun days,

Under those healthless trees I sit alone,

Where joyful birds sing neither lovely lays,

Nor Philomen recounts her direful moan.

No feeding flocks, no shepherd’s company,

That might renew my dolorous conceit,

While happy then, while love and fantasy

Confined my thoughts on that fair flock to wait;

No pleasing streams fast to the ocean wending,

The messengers sometimes of my great woe;

But all on earth, as from the cold storms bending,

Shrink from my thoughts in high heavens or below.

Oh, hopeful love, my object and invention,

Oh, true desire, the spur of my conceit,

Oh, worthiest spirit, my mind’s impulsion,

Oh, eyes transpersant, my affection’s bait;

Oh, princely form, my fancy’s adamant,

Divine conceit, my pains’ acceptance,

Oh, all in one! oh, heaven on earth transparent!

The seat of joys and love’s abundance!

Out of that mass of miracles, my muse

Gathered those flowers, to her pure sense pleasing;

Out of her eyes, the store of joys, did choose

Equal delights, my sorrow’s counterpoising.

Her regal looks my vigorous sighs suppressed;

Small drops of joys sweetened great worlds of woes;

One gladsome day a thousand cares redressed;—

Whom love defends, what fortune overthrows?

When she did well, what did there else amiss?

When she did ill, what empires would have pleased?

No other power effecting woe or bliss,

She gave, she took, she wounded, she appeased.

The honour of her love love still devising,

Wounding my mind with contrary conceit,

Transferred itself sometime to her aspiring,

Sometime the trumpet of her thought’s retreat.

To seek new worlds for gold, for praise, for glory,

To try desire, to try love severed far,

When I was gone, she sent her memory,

More strong than were ten thousand ships of war;

To call me back, to leave great honour’s thought,

To leave my friends, my fortune, my attempt;

To leave the purpose I so long had sought,

And hold both cares and comforts in contempt.

Such heat in ice, such fire in frost remained,

Such trust in doubt, such comfort in despair,

Which, like the gentle lamb, though lately weaned,

Plays with the dug, though finds no comfort there.

But as a body, violently slain,

Retaineth warmth although the spirit be gone,

And by a power in nature moves again

Till it be laid below the fatal stone;

Or as the earth, even in cold winter days,

Left for a time by her life-giving sun,

Doth by the power remaining of his rays

Produce some green, though not as it hath done;

Or as a wheel, forced by the falling stream,

Although the course be turned some other way,

Doth for a time go round upon the beam,

Till, wanting strength to move, it stands at stay;

So my forsaken heart, my withered mind,—

Widow of all the joys it once possessed,

My hopes clean out of sight with forced wind,

To kingdoms strange, to lands far-off addressed,

Alone, forsaken, friendless, on the shore

With many wounds, with death’s cold pangs embraced,

Writes in the dust, as one that could no more,

Whom love, and time, and fortune, had defaced;

Of things so great, so long, so manifold,

With means so weak, the soul even then depicting

The weal, the woe, the passages of old,

And worlds of thoughts described by one last sighing.

As if, when after Phœbus is descended,

And leaves a light much like the past day’s dawning,

And, every toil and labour wholly ended,

Each living creature draweth to his resting,

We should begin by such a parting light

To write the story of all ages past,

And end the same before the approaching night.

Such is again the labour of my mind,

Whose shroud, by sorrow woven now to end,

Hath seen that ever shining sun declined,

So many years that so could not descend,

But that the eyes of my mind held her beams

In every part transferred by love’s swift thought;

Far off or near, in waking or in dreams,

Imagination strong their lustre brought.

Such force her angelic appearance had

To master distance, time, or cruelty;

Such art to grieve, and after to make glad;

Such fear in love, such love in majesty.

My weary lines her memory embalmed;

My darkest ways her eyes make clear as day.

What storms so great but Cynthia’s beams appeased?

What rage so fierce, that love could not allay?

Twelve years entire I wasted in this war;

Twelve years of my most happy younger days;

But I in them, and they now wasted are:

“Of all which past, the sorrow only stays.”

So wrote I once, and my mishap foretold,

My mind still feeling sorrowful success;

Even as before a storm the marble cold

Doth by moist tears tempestuous times express,

So felt my heavy mind my harms at hand,

Which my vain thought in vain sought to recure:

At middle day my sun seemed under land,

When any little cloud did it obscure.

And as the icicles in a winter’s day,

Whenas the sun shines with unwonted warm,


So did my joys melt into secret tears;

So did my heart dissolve in wasting drops:

And as the season of the year outwears,

And heaps of snow from off the mountain tops

With sudden streams the valleys overflow,

So did the time draw on my more despair:

Then floods of sorrow and whole seas of woe

The banks of all my hope did overbear,

And drowned my mind in depths of misery:

Sometime I died; sometime I was distract,

My soul the stage of fancy’s tragedy;

Then furious madness, where true reason lacked,

Wrote what it would, and scourged mine own conceit.

Oh, heavy heart! who can thee witness bear?

What tongue, what pen, could thy tormenting treat,

But thine own mourning thoughts which present were?

What stranger mind believe the meanest part?

What altered sense conceive the weakest woe,

That tare, that rent, that pierced thy sad heart?

And as a man distract, with triple might

Bound in strong chains doth strive and rage in vain,

Till, tired and breathless, he is forced to rest,—

Finds by contention but increase of pain,

And fiery heat inflamed in swollen breast;

So did my mind in change of passion

From woe to wrath, from wrath return to woe,

Struggling in vain from love’s subjection;

Therefore, all lifeless and all helpless bound,

My fainting spirits sunk, and heart appalled,

My joys and hopes lay bleeding on the ground,

That not long since the highest heaven scaled.

I hated life and cursed destiny;

The thoughts of passed times, like flames of hell,

Kindled afresh within my memory

The many dear achievements that befell

In those prime years and infancy of love,

Which to describe were but to die in writing;

Ah, those I sought, but vainly, to remove,

And vainly shall, by which I perish living.

And though strong reason hold before mine eyes

The images and forms of worlds past,

Teaching the cause why all those flames that rise

From forms external can no longer last,

Than that those seeming beauties hold in prime

Love’s ground, his essence, and his empery,

All slaves to age, and vassals unto time,

Of which repentance writes the tragedy:—

But this my heart’s desire could not conceive,

Whose love outflew the fastest flying time,

A beauty that can easily deceive

The arrest of years, and creeping age outclimb.

A spring of beauties which time ripeth not—

Time that but works on frail mortality;

A sweetness which woe’s wrongs outwipeth not,

Whom love hath chose for his divinity;

A vestal fire that burns but never wasteth,

That loseth nought by giving light to all,

That endless shines each where, and endless lasteth,

Blossoms of pride that can nor fade nor fall;

These were those marvellous perfections,

The parents of my sorrow and my envy,

Most deathful and most violent infections;

These be the tyrants that in fetters tie

Their wounded vassals, yet nor kill nor cure,

But glory in their lasting misery—

That, as her beauties would, our woes should dure—

These be the effects of powerful empery.

Yet have these wounders want, which want compassion;

Yet hath her mind some marks of human race;

Yet will she be a woman for a fashion,

So doth she please her virtues to deface.

And like as that immortal power doth seat

An element of waters, to allay

The fiery sunbeams that on earth do beat,

And temper by cold night the heat of day,

So hath perfection, which begat her mind,

Added thereto a change of fantasy,

And left her the affections of her kind,

Yet free from every evil but cruelty.

But leave her praise; speak thou of nought but woe;

Write on the tale that sorrow bids thee tell;

Strive to forget, and care no more to know

Thy cares are known, by knowing those too well.

Describe her now as she appears to thee;

Not as she did appear in days fordone:

In love, those things that were no more may be,

For fancy seldom ends where it begun.

And as a stream by strong hand bounded in

From nature’s course where it did sometime run,

By some small rent or loose part doth begin

To find escape, till it a way hath won;

Doth then all unawares in sunder tear

The forced bounds, and, raging, run at large

In the ancient channels as they wonted were;

Such is of women’s love the careful charge,—

Held and maintained with multitude of woes;

Of long erections such the sudden fall:

One hour diverts, one instant overthrows,

For which our lives, for which our fortune’s thrall

So many years those joys have dearly bought;

Of which when our fond hopes do most assure,

All is dissolved; our labours come to nought;

Nor any mark thereof there doth endure:

No more than when small drops of rain do fall

Upon the parched ground by heat updried;

No cooling moisture is perceived at all,

Nor any show or sign of wet doth bide.

But as the fields, clothed with leaves and flowers,

The banks of roses smelling precious sweet,

Have but their beauty’s date and timely hours,

And then, defaced by winter’s cold and sleet,


So far as neither fruit nor form of flower

Stays for a witness what such branches bare,

But as time gave, time did again devour,

And change our rising joy to falling care:

So of affection which our youth presented;

When she that from the sun reaves power and light,

Did but decline her beams as discontented,

Converting sweetest days to saddest night,

All droops, all dies, all trodden under dust,

The person, place, and passages forgotten;

The hardest steel eaten with softest rust,

The firm and solid tree both rent and rotten.

Those thoughts, so full of pleasure and content,

That in our absence were affection’s food,

Are razed out and from the fancy rent;

In highest grace and heart’s dear care that stood,

Are cast for prey to hatred and to scorn,—

Our dearest treasures and our heart’s true joys;

The tokens hung on breast and kindly worn,

Are now elsewhere disposed or held for toys.

And those which then our jealousy removed,

And others for our sakes then valued dear,

The one forgot, the rest are dear beloved,

When all of ours doth strange or vild appear.

Those streams seem standing puddles, which before

We saw our beauties in, so were they clear;

Belphœbe’s course is now observed no more;

That fair resemblance weareth out of date;

Our ocean seas are but tempestuous waves,

And all things base, that blessed were of late…..

And as a field, wherein the stubble stands

Of harvest past, the ploughman’s eye offends;

He tills again, or tears them up with hands,

And throws to fire as foiled and fruitless ends,

And takes delight another seed to sow;

So doth the mind root up all wonted thought,

And scorns the care of our remaining woes;

The sorrows, which themselves for us have wrought,

Are burnt to cinders by new kindled fires;

The ashes are dispersed into the air;

The sighs, the groans of all our past desires

Are clean outworn, as things that never were.

With youth is dead the hope of love’s return,

Who looks not back to hear our after-cries:

Where he is not, he laughs at those that mourn;

Whence he is gone, he scorns the mind that dies.

When he is absent, he believes no words;

When reason speaks, he, careless, stops his ears;

Whom he hath left, he never grace affords,

But bathes his wings in our lamenting tears.

Unlasting passion, soon outworn conceit,

Whereon I built, and on so dureless trust!

My mind had wounds, I dare not say deceit,

Were I resolved her promise was not just.

Sorrow was my revenge and woe my hate;

I powerless was to alter my desire;

My love is not of time or bound to date;

My heart’s internal heat and living fire

Would not, or could, be quenched with sudden showers;

My bound respect was not confined to days;

My vowed faith not set to ended hours;

I love the bearing and not bearing sprays

Which now to others do their sweetness send;

The incarnate, snow-driven white, and purest azure,

Who from high heaven doth on their fields descend,

Filling their barns with grain, and towers with treasure.

Erring or never erring, such is love

As, while it lasteth, scorns the account of those

Seeking but self-contentment to improve,

And hides, if any be, his inward woes,

And will not know, while he knows his own passion,

The often and unjust perseverance

In deeds of love and state, and every action

From that first day and year of their joy’s entrace.

But I, unblessed and ill-born creature,

That did embrace the dust her body bearing,

That loved her, both by fancy and by nature,

That drew, even with the milk in my first sucking,

Affection from the parent’s breast that bare me,

Have found her as a stranger so severe,

Improving my mishap in each degree;

But love was gone: so would I my life were!

A queen she was to me,—no more Belphœbe;

A lion then,—no more a milk-white dove;

A prisoner in her breast I could not be;—

She did untie the gentle chains of love.


Love was no more the love of hiding

All trespass and mischance for her own glory:

It had been such; it was still for the elect;

But I must be the example in love’s story;

This was of all forepast the sad effect.

But thou, my weary soul and heavy thought,

Made by her love a burthen to my being,

Dost know my error never was forethought,

Or ever could proceed from sense of loving.

Of other cause if then it had proceeding,

I leave the excuse, sith judgment hath been given;

The limbs divided, sundered, and ableeding,

Cannot complain the sentence was uneven.

This did that nature’s wonder, virtue’s choice,

The only paragon of time’s begetting,

Divine in words, angelical in voice,

That spring of joys, that flower of love’s own setting,

The idea remaining of those golden ages,

That beauty, braving heavens and earth embalming,

Which after worthless worlds but play on stages,

Such didst thou her long since describe, yet sighing

That thy unable spirit could not find aught,

In heaven’s beauties or in earth’s delight,

For likeness fit to satisfy thy thought:

But what hath it availed thee so to write?

She cares not for thy praise, who knows not theirs;

It’s now an idle labour, and a tale

Told out of time, that dulls the hearer’s ears;

A merchandize whereof there is no sale.

Leave them, or lay them up with thy despairs!

She hath resolved, and judged thee long ago.

Thy lines are now a murmuring to her ears,

Like to a falling stream, which, passing slow,

Is wont to nourish sleep and quietness;

So shall thy painful labours be perused,

And draw on rest, which sometime had regard;

But those her cares thy errors have excused.

Thy days fordone have had their day’s reward;

So her hard heart, so her estranged mind,

In which above the heavens I once reposed;

So to thy error have her ears inclined,

And have forgotten all thy past deserving,

Holding in mind but only thine offence;

And only now affecteth thy depraving,

And thinks all vain that pleadeth thy defence.

Yet greater fancy beauty never bred;

A more desire the heart-blood never nourished;

Her sweetness an affection never fed,

Which more in any age hath ever flourished.

The mind and virtue never have begotten

A firmer love, since love on earth had power;

A love obscured, but cannot be forgotten;

Too great and strong for time’s jaws to devour;

Containing such a faith as ages wound not,

Care, wakeful ever of her good estate,

Fear, dreading loss, which sighs and joys not,

A memory of the joys her grace begat;

A lasting gratefulness for those comforts past,

Of which the cordial sweetness cannot die;

These thoughts, knit up by faith, shall ever last;

These time assays, but never can untie,

Whose life once lived in her pearl-like breast,

Whose joys were drawn but from her happiness,

Whose heart’s high pleasure, and whose mind’s true rest,

Proceeded from her fortune’s blessedness;

Who was intentive, wakeful, and dismayed

In fears, in dreams, in feverous jealousy,

Who long in silence served, and obeyed

With secret heart and hidden loyalty,

Which never change to sad adversity,

Which never age, or nature’s overthrow,

Which never sickness or deformity,

Which never wasting care or wearing woe,

If subject unto these she could have been,—

Which never words or wits malicious,

Which never honour’s bait, or world’s fame,

Achieved by attempts adventurous,

Or aught beneath the sun or heaven’s frame

Can so dissolve, dissever, or destroy

The essential love of no frail parts compounded,

Though of the same now buried be the joy,

The hope, the comfort, and the sweetness ended,

But that the thoughts and memories of these

Work a relapse of passion, and remain

Of my sad heart the sorrow-sucking bees;

The wrongs received, the frowns persuade in vain.

And though these medicines work desire to end,

And are in others the true cure of liking,

The salves that heal love’s wounds, and do amend

Consuming woe, and slake our hearty sighing,

They work not so in thy mind’s long decease;

External fancy time alone recureth:

All whose effects do wear away with ease

Love of delight, while such delight endureth;

Stays by the pleasure, but no longer stays….

But in my mind so is her love inclosed,

And is thereof not only the best part,

But into it the essence is disposed:

Oh love! (the more my woe) to it thou art

Even as the moisture in each plant that grows;

Even as the sun unto the frozen ground;

Even as the sweetness to the incarnate rose;

Even as the centre in each perfect round:

As water to the fish, to men as air,

As heat to fire, as light unto the sun;

Oh love! it is but vain to say thou were;

Ages and times cannot thy power outrun.

Thou art the soul of that unhappy mind

Which, being by nature made an idle thought,

Began even then to take immortal kind,

When first her virtues in thy spirits wrought.

From thee therefore that mover cannot move,

Because it is become thy cause of being;

Whatever error may obscure that love,

Whatever frail effect in mortal living,

Whatever passion from distempered heart,

What absence, time, or injuries effect,

What faithless friends or deep dissembled art

Present to feed her most unkind suspect.


Yet as the air in deep caves underground

Is strongly drawn when violent heat hath vent,

Great clefts therein, till moisture do abound,

And then the same, imprisoned and uppent,

Breaks out in earthquakes tearing all asunder;

So, in the centre of my cloven heart—

My heart, to whom her beauties were such wonder—

Lies the sharp poisoned head of that love’s dart

Which, till all break and all dissolve to dust,

Thence drawn it cannot be, or therein known:

There, mixed with my heart-blood, the fretting rust

The better part hath eaten and outgrown.

But what of those or these? or what of ought

Of that which was, or that which is, to treat?

What I possess is but the same I sought:

My love was false, my labours were deceit.

Nor less than such they are esteemed to be;

A fraud bought at the price of many woes;

A guile, whereof the profits unto me—

Could it be thought premeditate for those?

Witness those withered leaves left on the tree,

The sorrow-worn face, the pensive mind;

The external shews what may the internal be:

Cold care hath bitten both the root and rind.

But stay, my thoughts, make end: give fortune way:

Harsh is the voice of woe and sorrow’s sound:

Complaints cure not, and tears do but allay

Griefs for a time, which after more abound.

To seek for moisture in the Arabian sand

Is but a loss of labour and of rest:

The links which time did break of hearty bands

Words cannot knit, or wailings make anew.

Seek not the sun in clouds when it is set….

On highest mountains, where those cedars grew,

Against whose banks the troubled ocean beat,

And were the marks to find thy hoped port,

Into a soil far off themselves remove.

On Sestus’ shore, Leander’s late resort,

Hero hath left no lamp to guide her love.

Thou lookest for light in vain, and storms arise;

She sleeps thy death, that erst thy danger sighed;

Strive then no more; bow down thy weary eyes—

Eyes which to all these woes thy heart have guided.

She is gone, she is lost, she is found, she is ever fair:

Sorrow draws weakly, where love draws not too:

Woe’s cries sound nothing, but only in love’s ear.

Do then by dying what life cannot do.

Unfold thy flocks and leave them to the fields,

To feed on hills, or dales, where likes them best,

Of what the summer or the spring-time yields,

For love and time hath given thee leave to rest.

Thy heart which was their fold, now in decay

By often storms and winter’s many blasts,

All torn and rent becomes misfortune’s prey;

False hope my shepherd’s staff, now age hath brast

My pipe, which love’s own hand gave my desire

To sing her praises and my woe upon,—

Despair hath often threatened to the fire,

As vain to keep now all the rest are gone.

Thus home I draw, as death’s long night draws on;

Yet every foot, old thoughts turn back mine eyes:

Constraint me guides, as old age draws a stone

Against the hill, which over-weighty lies

For feeble arms or wasted strength to move:

My steps are backward, gazing on my loss,

My mind’s affection and my soul’s sole love,

Not mixed with fancy’s chaff or fortune’s dross.

To God I leave it, who first gave it me,

And I her gave, and she returned again,

As it was hers; so let His mercies be

Of my last comforts the essential mean.

But be it so or not, the effects are past;

Her love hath end; my woe must ever last.

The end of the books of the “Ocean’s Love to Cynthia,” and the beginning of the 22nd book, entreating of Sorrow.

My days’ delights, my spring-time joys fordone,

Which in the dawn and rising sun of youth

Had their creation, and were first begun,

Do in the evening and the winter sad

Present my mind, which takes my time’s account,

The grief remaining of the joy it had.

My times that then ran o’er themselves in these,

And now run out in other’s happiness,

Bring unto those new joys and new-born days.

So could she not if she were not the sun,

Which sees the birth and burial of all else,

And holds that power with which she first begun,

Leaving each withered body to be torn

By fortune, and by times tempestuous,

Which, by her virtue, once fair fruit have born;

Knowing she can renew, and can create

Green from the ground, and flowers even out of stone,

By virtue lasting over time and date,

Leaving us only woe, which, like the moss,

Having compassion of unburied bones,

Cleaves to mischance, and unrepaired loss.

For tender stalks—

(MS. abruptly ends here.)