Tuesday poem – ‘Even such is time’ by Sir Walter Raleigh

EVEN SUCH IS TIME, by Sir Walter Raleigh

Even such is time, which takes in trust

Our youth, our joys, and all we have,

And pays us naught but age and dust;

Which in the dark and silent grave,

When we have wandered all our ways,

Shuts up the story of our days!

And from which grave, and earth, and dust,

The Lord shall raise me up, I trust.

This poem was written the night before his death in 1618, when Raleigh was about 68. Adventurer, explorer, navigator, passionate Protestant, and favourite of Elizabeth I who nevertheless confined him to the Tower of London under threat of death at least twice (although it was Elizabeth’s successor on the throne, James I, who finally executed him). A complicated person for sure and a gloriously successful poet too. This poem seems to hold a perfect tension between an aching and deeply felt sorrow, and a hopeful faith.

Check out the other Tuesday Poems – and there will be an extra helping on the site this coming Friday, for New Zealand’s Poetry Day.

8 Responses to “Tuesday poem – ‘Even such is time’ by Sir Walter Raleigh”

  1. Frances Thomas Says:

    Isn’t it 1066 And All That which claimed that Walter Raleigh was executed because he was ‘left over from the last reign’? At any rate the reasons fror executing him didn’t seem that serious. A sad and unfitting ending for an interesting man – and a very good poet

  2. Belinda Says:

    And he was left over from the last reign, wasn’t he? As a writer I have felt that position acutely, having books bought by editors who’ve moved on by the time the book needs in-house attention – but at least I haven’t been executed for being yesterday’s favourite flavour, or for out-staying my welcome. I think Raleigh was executed for attacking a Spanish settlement in South America: exactly the kind of thing he’d been knighted for in the previous reign. ‘The more it changes…’, eh?

  3. Joanna Says:

    I love the change in tone in the last two lines – from a resigned, slightly bitter acceptance to something more triumphant, but still with that hint of uncertainty. From “trust” to “trust” – the story of a life. Great choice.

  4. Helen Says:

    Nice to “meet” you fellow Tuesday Poet!

  5. Belinda Says:

    Yes, Helen, isn’t this a great community? And yes, Joanna – those last two lines do mark a significant change of tone, don’t they? To my ear (and heart) it sounds like a deep breath of courage to take him away from despair.

  6. raven Says:

    Je suis d’accord, Belinda.

    As a child I sat in his very cell, at the Tower, and contemplated these lines… He encapsulates something quite rare, in quiet simplicity.

    Since I have become acquainted with many of the writers of the XVIIth Century. Sadly, they put us to shame.

    But, all of this is a lifetime past…

  7. b. meyer Says:

    isn’t that a picture of sir francis drake?

  8. admin Says:

    Gosh, I hope not! But this one’s listed as being in the National Portrait Gallery as a portrait of Raleigh, so I think it must be right. I think I see why you might have suggested Drake, though, because when I googled images of Francis Drake this portrait comes up in the third line of many pictures … Still, I’d bet on the NPG being right, wouldn’t you?

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