My Last Will

Sir Walter Raleigh 1552 (Hayes Barton, East Budleigh, Devon) – 1618 (London)



When I am safely laid away,
    Out of work and out of play,
    Sheltered by the kindly ground
   From the world of sight and sound,
    One or two of those I leave
    Will remember me and grieve,
    Thinking how I made them gay
    By the things I used to say;
    -- But the crown of their distress
  Will be my untidiness.

  What a nuisance then will be
  All that shall remain of me!
  Shelves of books I never read,
  Piles of bills, undocketed,
  Shaving-brushes, razors, strops,
  Bottles that have lost their tops,
  Boxes full of odds and ends,
  Letters from departed friends,
  Faded ties and broken braces
  Tucked away in secret places,
  Baggy trousers, ragged coats,
  Stacks of ancient lecture-notes,
  And that ghostliest of shows,
  Boots and shoes in horrid rows.
  Though they are of cheerful mind,
  My lovers, whom I leave behind,
  When they find these in my stead,
  Will be sorry I am dead.

  They will grieve; but you, my dear,
  Who have never tasted fear,
  Brave companion of my youth,
  Free as air and true as truth,
  Do not let these weary things
  Rob you of your junketings.

  Burn the papers; sell the books;
  Clear out all the pestered nooks;
  Make a mighty funeral pyre
  For the corpse of old desire,
  Till there shall remain of it
  Naught but ashes in a pit:
  And when you have done away
  All that is of yesterday,
  If you feel a thrill of pain,
  Master it, and start again.

  This, at least, you have never done
  Since you first beheld the sun:
  If you came upon your own
  Blind to light and deaf to tone,
  Basking in the great release
  Of unconsciousness and peace,
  You would never, while you live,
  Shatter what you cannot give;
  -- Faithful to the watch you keep,
  You would never break their sleep.

  Clouds will sail and winds will blow
  As they did an age ago
  O'er us who lived in little towns
  Underneath the Berkshire downs.
  When at heart you shall be sad,
  Pondering the joys we had,
  Listen and keep very still.
  If the lowing from the hill
  Or the tolling of a bell
  Do not serve to break the spell,
  Listen; you may be allowed
  To hear my laughter from a cloud.

  Take the good that life can give
  For the time you have to live.
 Friends of yours and friends of mine
  Surely will not let you pine.
  Sons and daughters will not spare
  More than friendly love and care.
  If the Fates are kind to you,
  Some will stay to see you through;
  And the time will not be long
  Till the silence ends the song.

  Sleep is God's own gift; and man,
  Snatching all the joys he can,
  Would not dare to give his voice
  To reverse his Maker's choice.
  Brief delight, eternal quiet,
  How change these for endless riot
  Broken by a single rest?
  Well you know that sleep is best.

  We that have been heart to heart
  Fall asleep, and drift apart.
  Will that overwhelming tide
  Reunite us, or divide?
  Whence we come and whither go
  None can tell us, but I know
  Passion's self is often marred
  By a kind of self-regard,
  And the torture of the cry
  "You are you, and I am I."
  While we live, the waking sense
  Feeds upon our difference,
  In our passion and our pride
  Not united, but allied.

  We are severed by the sun,
  And by darkness are made one.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

2:56 min read
82

Quick analysis:

Scheme Text too long
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 3,254
Words 584
Stanzas 10
Stanza Lengths 10, 18, 6, 10, 10, 12, 10, 8, 14, 2

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh, also spelled Ralegh, was an English landed gentleman, writer, poet, soldier, politician, courtier, spy and explorer. more…

All Sir Walter Raleigh poems | Sir Walter Raleigh Books

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