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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Elizabethan Verse. 1907.

The Soul’s Errand

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618)

GO, Soul, the Body’s guest,

Upon a thankless arrant,

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,

Like 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 so 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;

Tell Virtue least preferrèth;

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,—

Yet stab at thee that will,

No stab my soul can kill!