Sunday Poetry – Sir Walter Raleigh

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. My last Sunday Poetry post featuring Sir Walter Raleigh back in January attracted a large number of hits & continues to do so. It’s still at the top of my list of most popular posts. I have no idea why. Maybe students are studying Raleigh’s life or poetry & were led here by their favourite search engine. So, I thought I would see what else by Raleigh was in my anthology & came across this poem called Walsingham. As I read it, I could hear the words being sung & as I traced the memory, I realised it was being sung by the distinctively rich bass voice of Joel Frederiksen. The song is on his CD with Ensemble Phoenix Munich called The Elfin Knight which is a collection of English & Scottish ballads & songs. Apart from the songs, the music of lutes, viola da gamba & percussion is very beautiful. In the notes, Frederiksen describes the research he has done to create his arrangements of these early songs, which I also find very interesting.

Serendipity led me to the CD as well. I heard a song called Lord Darly on Classic FM one morning & I was fascinated because it was about the murder of Lord Darnley, second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots & it was sympathetic to Darnley who I’ve always thought was rather a dreadful young man. I loved the song but I wanted to read the words so I bought the CD & discovered many other gorgeous songs. You can listen to Lord Darly here. The only trouble with the CD is that the tunes are insidious, as ballads often are, & I often find I’m humming one of them for days afterwards. Even this morning, thinking about this post on my daily walk, I found myself walking in time to Whittingham Faire, a version of The Elfin Knight story, also known as Scarborough Fair. Listen to it here & see if you can get it out of your head! I can’t find Joel Frederiksen’s version of Walsingham on Youtube but here’s the poem which may or may not be by Raleigh. Apparently scholars now disagree but it’s attributed to him in my anthology & it’s a good excuse to look at that beautiful Hilliard miniature again.

As you came from the holy land
Of Walsingham,
Met you not with my true Love
By the way as you came?


‘How shall I know your true Love,
That have met many one,
As I went to the holy land,
That have come, that have gone?’


She is neither white nor brown,
But as the heavens fair;
There is none hath a form so divine
In the earth or the air.


‘Such a one did I meet, good sir,
Such an angelic face,
Who like a queen, like a nymph, did appear
By her gate, by her grace.’


She hath left me here all alone,
All alone, as unknown,
Who sometimes did me lead with her self,
And me loved as her own.


‘What’s the cause that she leaves you alone,
And a new way doth take,
Who loved you once as her own,
And her joy did you make?’


I have loved her all my youth;
But now old, as you see,
Love likes not the falling fruit
From the withered tree.


Know that Love is a careless child,
And forgets promise past;
He is blind, he is deaf when he list,
And in faith never fast.


His desire is a dureless content,
And a trustless joy:
He is won with a world of despair,
And is lost with a toy.


Of womenkind such indeed is the love,
Or the word love abused,
Under which many childish desires
And conceits are excused.


But love is a durable fire,
In the mind ever burning,
Never sick, never old, never dead,
From itself never turning.

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