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

A Farewell to the Vanities of the World

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618)

FAREWELL, ye gilded follies, pleasing troubles!

Farewell, ye honoured rags, ye glorious bubbles!

Fame’s but a hollow echo; gold, pure clay;

Honour, the darling but of one short day,

Beauty—th’ eye’s idol—but a damasked skin;

State, but a golden prison to live in

And torture free-born minds; embroidered trains,

But pageants for proud swelling veins;

And blood allied to greatness, is alone

Inherited, not purchased, nor our own:

Fame, honour, beauty, state, train, blood, and birth

Are but the fading blossoms of the earth.

I would be great, but that the sun doth still

Level his rays against the rising hill;

I would be high, but see the proudest oak

Most subject to the rending thunder-stroke;

I would be rich, but see men, too unkind,

Dig in the bowels of the richest mind;

I would be wise, but that I often see

The fox suspected whilst the ass goes free;

I would be fair, but see the fair and proud,

Like the bright sun, oft setting in a cloud;

I would be poor, but know the humble grass

Still trampled on by each unworthy ass:

Rich, hated; wise, suspected; scorned, if poor,

Great, feared; fair, tempted; high, still envied more;

I have wished all, but now I wish for neither;

Great, high, rich, wise, nor fair, poor I’ll be rather.

Would the World now adopt me for her heir,

Would beauty’s queen entitle me the fair,

Fame speak me Fortune’s minion, could I vie

Angels with India, with a speaking eye

Command bare heads, bowed knees, strike Justice dumb

As well as blind and lame, or give a tongue

To stones by epitaphs, be called great master

In the loose rimes of every poetaster;

Could I be more than any man that lives,

Great, fair, rich, wise, all in superlatives;

Yet I more freely would these gifts resign,

Than ever Fortune would have made them mine;

And hold one minute of this holy leisure

Beyond the riches of this empty pleasure.

Welcome, pure thoughts! welcome, ye silent groves!

These guests, these courts, my soul most dearly loves.

Now the winged people of the sky shall sing

My cheerful anthems to the gladsome spring;

A prayer-book now shall be my looking-glass,

In which I will adore sweet Virtue’s face.

Here dwell no hateful looks, no palace cares,

No broken vows dwell here, nor pale-faced fears,

Then here I’ll sit and sigh my hot love’s folly,

And learn to affect an holy melancholy;

And if contentment be a stranger then

I’ll ne’er look for it, but in heaven, again.