Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

The Life Experiences of Sir Walter Raleigh

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The life experiences of Sir Walter Raleigh influenced the style of his writing. The style of his writing is revealed in his poems “the lie”, “sir Walter Raleigh to the queen”, and “the nymph’s reply to the shepherd. Raleigh was born around 1552 in Hayes Barton, Devonshire. Raleigh was famed for being a courtier, a navigator, a poet, and a historian. After a failed expedition in South America, he was arrested in connection with the destruction of a Spanish settlement with his confrontation with the Spanish in Venezuela. He lost his son and was forced to return to England. Despite a royal command not to engage in battle with Spanish settlers, Raleigh’s fleet entered Spanish territory. He was also accused of conspiring against James I and barely avoided his death sentence following the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603 Raleigh was again accused of conspiring against King James and was sent to the London tower again for 13 years. Raleigh served in the Huguenot army in France in 1569. In 1584 he set up a colony on Roanoke Island, Virginia. In 1585 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I, for his many years as a court favorite.

He lived to 1618; his death was by execution for disobeying king James I. “The lie” is considered Raleigh’s best-known work, it was written in approximately 1595. Many consider “the lie” an atheistic poem for its many religious accusations. Though “the lie” has such accusations they are directed solely against earthly bound institutions and human undertakings. Raleigh’s poem “the lie” is based on the concept of disillusionment. This is the process that proceeds by inexorable degrees of stripping one layer of falsity after another until the last is gone. The last line in each stanza of the poem is actually a variant of the phrase “and give the world the lie”. Some suggest that Raleigh was not the author of “the lie” because of the poem’s puritanical viewpoints. Because the poem makes no distinctions and offers no policies. The poem is less concerned with organizing human behavior but more concerned with admitting and accepting the truth. The entire piece was written for the poet himself as a way to reevaluate himself with a coldly clinical and harsh eye. During Raleigh’s time, many great poets were about, such as Christopher Marlowe, who wrote the poem the passionate shepherd to his love. Many poets write poems in response to others. This poem is called a reply poem, or a poem that replies to another. Raleigh’s “the nymph’s reply to the shepherd” is one of such a poem  “The nymph’s reply to the shepherd” is an example of a pastoral poem or a poem about love and a carefree “country” existence. Sir Walter Raleigh to the queen” was written between 1581 and 1587. Many questions whether “Sir Walter Raleigh to the queen” is really a five stanza poem, but two poems combined (MacDonald). Queen Elizabeth, literate and unmarried, enjoyed playing the clever game of love using poetry as a way to tie the nobles to her (MacDonald). Sir Raleigh being a court favorite with numerous enemies had to constantly go between flattery and savvy gamesmanship (MacDonald).

“Sir Walter Raleigh to the queen” central theme is true love is painfully silent (MacDonald). Raleigh emphasized a traditional Elizabethan view of mankind as torn between passion and logic (MacDonald). Raleigh had secretly married to one of the queen’s maids of honor; he and his wife were imprisoned in the Tower of London for a time but then released. Though Sir Walter Raleigh’s ended in tragedy his works are still read to this day and have greatly influenced the world of poetry. From “the lie” to “Sir Walter Raleigh to the queen” all have reshaped the traditional love poem with a mix of witty rhythms and hidden love.

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The Life Experiences of Sir Walter Raleigh. (2018, Oct 14). Retrieved from

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