Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sir Walter Raleigh on the hypocrisy of our times: "The Soul's Errand" (a poem)

The Soul’s Errand

By Sir Walter Raleigh

(Written by the English soldier and statesman, 1554?–1618, just before his execution)

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 Physic of her boldness;        25
  Tell Skill it is pretension;
Tell Charity of coldness;
  Tell Law it is contention:
    And if they yield reply,
    Then give them all the lie.…        30

So when thou hast, as I
  Commanded thee, done blabbing;
Although to give the lie
  Deserves no less than stabbing:
    Yet stab at thee who will,        35
    No stab the Soul can kill.

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