Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
The Excuse
By Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618)
CALLING 1 to mind, my eyes went long about
  To cause my heart for to forsake my breast;
All in a rage I sought to pull them out
  As who had been such traitors to my rest:
    What could they say to win again my grace?—        5
    Forsooth, that they had seen my Mistress’ face.
Another time, my heart I called to mind,—
  Thinking that he this woe on me had brought,
For he my breast the fort of love, resigned,
  When of such wars my fancy never thought:        10
    What could he say when I would have him slain?
    That he was hers, and had forgone my chain.
At last, when I perceived both eyes and heart
  Excuse themselves as guiltless of my ill,
I found myself the cause of all my smart,        15
  And told myself that I myself would kill:
    Yet when I saw myself to you was true,
    I loved myself, because myself loved you.
Note 1. In Oldys and Birch’s Ed. of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Works, vol. viii., this poem is given from the Ashmolean MSS. Puttenham gave it in The Art of English Poesey, 1589, as “a most excellent ditty, written by Sir Walter Raleigh.” It was printed in The Phœnix’ Nest, 1593, as anonymous. [back]

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