Primary Resource

"The Lie" (ca. 1590s)

"The Lie," by Sir Walter Raleigh, was likely composed in the 1590s, after falling out with his beloved Queen Elizabeth. Raleigh secretly married one of Elizabeth's Maids-of-Honor on November 19, 1591, so angering the queen that she had him confined in the Tower of London.

Transcription from Original

— page 25 —

  • Go, Soul! the body's guest,
  • Upon a thankless arrant!
  • Fear not to touch the Best!
  • The truth shall be thy warrant.
  • Go! since I needs must die,
  • And give the world the lie!
  • Say to the Court, it glows
  • And shines like rotten wood!
  • Say to the Church, it shows
  • What's good, and doth no good!
  • If Church and Court reply,
  • Then given them both the lie!
  • Tell Potentates they live
  • Acting by others' action!
  • Not loved unless they give,
  • Not strong but by their faction.
  • If Potentates reply,
  • Give Potentates the lie!
  • Tell men of high condition
  • That manage the Estate,
  • Their purpose is ambition,
  • Their practice only hate!
  • And if they once reply,
  • Then give them all the lie!
  • Tell them that brave it most,
  • They beg for more by spending,
  • Who in their greatest cost
  • Seek nothing but commending!
  • And if they make reply,
  • Then give them all the lie!

— page 26 —

  • Tell Zeal it wants devotion!
  • Tell Love it is but lust!
  • Tell Time it is but motion!
  • Tell Flesh it is but dust!
  • And wish them not reply:
  • For thou must give the lie.
  • Tell Age it daily wasteth!
  • Tell Honour how it alters!
  • Tell Beauty how she blasteth!
  • Tell Favour how it falters!
  • And as they shall reply,
  • Give every one the lie!
  • Tell Wit how much it wrangles
  • In tickle points of niceness!
  • Tell Wisdom she entangles
  • Herself in over-wiseness!
  • And when they do reply,
  • Straight give them both the lie!
  • Tell Physic of her boldness!
  • Tell Skill, it is pretension!
  • Tell Charity of coldness!
  • Tell Law, it is contention!
  • And as they do reply,
  • So give them still the lie!
  • Tell Fortune of her blindness!
  • Tell Nature of decay!
  • Tell Friendship of unkindness!
  • Tell Justice of delay!
  • And if they will reply,
  • Then give them all the lie!
  • Tell Arts they have no soundness,
  • But vary by esteeming!

— page 27 —

  • Tell Schools they want profoundness,
  • And stand too much on seeming!
  • If Arts and Schools reply
  • Give Arts and Schools the lie!
  • Tell Faith, it's fled the City!
  • Tell how the Country erreth!
  • Tell, Manhood shakes off pity!
  • Tell, Virtue least preferreth!
  • And if they do reply,
  • Spare not to give the lie!
  • So when thou hast, as I
  • Commanded thee, done blabbing,
  • Although to give the lie
  • Deserves no less than stabbing,
  • Stab at thee he that will!
  • No stab the soul can kill.