Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
A Farewell to the Vanities of the World
By Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?–1618)
FAREWELL, 1 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;        5
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:        10
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        15
Most subject to the rending thunder-stroke;
I would be rich, but see men, too unkind, 2
Dig in the bowels of the richest mind; 3
I would be wise, but that I often see
The fox suspected whilst the ass goes free;        20
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,        25
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,        30
Fame speak me Fortune’s minion, could I vie
Angels with India, 4 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        35
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;        40
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        45
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,        50
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.
Note 1. In the first edition of Walton’s Angler this poem is prefaced by the remark, “as some say written by Dr. D. [Donne.]” In later editions is added “and some say, written by Sir Henry Wotton.” In Ashmolean MS. 38, the verses are entitled Doctor Donne’s Valediction to the World, and in Wit’s Interpreter, 1671, it is credited to Sir Kenelm Digby. Sir H. Nicolas is authority for the statement that the verses are said to have been written by Raleigh in the Tower shortly before his execution, but although, as Schelling says, “‘the bold and insolent vein’ is not unlike Sir Walter,” there seems to be no other authority for ascribing them to him. Archbishop Sancroft gives them with the title An Hermit in an arbour, with a prayer-book in his hand, his foot spurning a globe, thus speaketh (MS. Tam.), but does not mention any author’s name. [back]
Note 2. Unkind: unnatural. [back]
Note 3. Mind: mine. [back]
Note 4. Vie angels with India: Vie, here a technical term from the game gleck or primero, signifying to wager on a hand of cards. Hence here to wager angel-nobles to an amount such as India, with her wealth, would not be able to equal, or “cover.” (Schelling.) [back]

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