Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
The Soul’s Errand
By Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618)
 
GO, Soul, the body’s guest,
Upon a thankless errand;
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant:
  Go, since I needs must die,        5
  And give them all the lie.
 
Go tell the Court it glows
And shines like rotten wood;
Go tell the Church it shows
What’s good, but does no good:        10
  If Court and Church reply,
  Give Court and Church the lie.
 
Tell Potentates they live
Acting, but oh! their actions;
Not loved, unless they give,        15
Nor strong but by their factions;
  If Potentates reply,
  Give Potentates the lie.
 
Tell men of high condition,
That rule affairs of state,        20
Their purpose is ambition;
Their practice only hate:
  And if they do reply,
  Then give them all the lie.
 
Tell those that brave it most        25
They beg for more by spending,
Who in their greatest cost
Seek nothing but commending:
  And if they make reply,
  Spare not to give the lie.        30
 
Tell Zeal it lacks devotion;
Tell Love it is but lust;
Tell Time it is but motion;
Tell Flesh it is but dust:
  And wish them not reply,        35
  For thou must give the lie.
 
Tell Age it daily wasteth;
Tell Honor how it alters;
Tell Beauty that it blasteth;
Tell Favor that she falters:        40
  And as they do reply,
  Give every one the lie.
 
Tell Wit how much it wrangles
In fickle points of niceness;
Tell Wisdom she entangles        45
Herself in over wiseness:
  And if they do reply,
  Then give them both the lie.
 
Tell Physic of her boldness;
Tell Skill it is pretension;        50
Tell Charity of coldness;
Tell Law it is contention:
  And if they yield reply,
  Then give them all the lie.
 
Tell Fortune of her blindness;        55
Tell Nature of decay;
Tell Friendship of unkindness;
Tell Justice of delay:
  And if they do reply,
  Then give them still the lie.        60
 
Tell Arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell Schools they lack profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming:
  If Arts and Schools reply,        65
  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 preferreth:        70
  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        75
Deserves no less than stabbing:
  Yet stab at thee who will,
  No stab the Soul can kill!
 
 
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