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Walter Alexander Raleigh (1861-1922)

My Last Will


              1When I am safely laid away,
              2Out of work and out of play,
              3Sheltered by the kindly ground
              4From the world of sight and sound,
              5One or two of those I leave
              6Will remember me and grieve,
              7Thinking how I made them gay
              8By the things I used to say;
              9-- But the crown of their distress
            10Will be my untidiness.

            11What a nuisance then will be
            12All that shall remain of me!
            13Shelves of books I never read,
            14Piles of bills, undocketed,
            15Shaving-brushes, razors, strops,
            16Bottles that have lost their tops,
            17Boxes full of odds and ends,
            18Letters from departed friends,
            19Faded ties and broken braces
            20Tucked away in secret places,
            21Baggy trousers, ragged coats,
            22Stacks of ancient lecture-notes,
            23And that ghostliest of shows,
            24Boots and shoes in horrid rows.
            25Though they are of cheerful mind,
            26My lovers, whom I leave behind,
            27When they find these in my stead,
            28Will be sorry I am dead.

            29They will grieve; but you, my dear,
            30Who have never tasted fear,
            31Brave companion of my youth,
            32Free as air and true as truth,
            33Do not let these weary things
            34Rob you of your junketings.

            35Burn the papers; sell the books;
            36Clear out all the pestered nooks;
            37Make a mighty funeral pyre
            38For the corpse of old desire,
            39Till there shall remain of it
            40Naught but ashes in a pit:
            41And when you have done away
            42All that is of yesterday,
            43If you feel a thrill of pain,
            44Master it, and start again.

            45This, at least, you have never done
            46Since you first beheld the sun:
            47If you came upon your own
            48Blind to light and deaf to tone,
            49Basking in the great release
            50Of unconsciousness and peace,
            51You would never, while you live,
            52Shatter what you cannot give;
            53-- Faithful to the watch you keep,
            54You would never break their sleep.

            55Clouds will sail and winds will blow
            56As they did an age ago
            57O'er us who lived in little towns
            58Underneath the Berkshire downs.
            59When at heart you shall be sad,
            60Pondering the joys we had,
            61Listen and keep very still.
            62If the lowing from the hill
            63Or the tolling of a bell
            64Do not serve to break the spell,
            65Listen; you may be allowed
            66To hear my laughter from a cloud.

            67Take the good that life can give
            68For the time you have to live.
            69Friends of yours and friends of mine
            70Surely will not let you pine.
            71Sons and daughters will not spare
            72More than friendly love and care.
            73If the Fates are kind to you,
            74Some will stay to see you through;
            75And the time will not be long
            76Till the silence ends the song.

            77Sleep is God's own gift; and man,
            78Snatching all the joys he can,
            79Would not dare to give his voice
            80To reverse his Maker's choice.
            81Brief delight, eternal quiet,
            82How change these for endless riot
            83Broken by a single rest?
            84Well you know that sleep is best.

            85We that have been heart to heart
            86Fall asleep, and drift apart.
            87Will that overwhelming tide
            88Reunite us, or divide?
            89Whence we come and whither go
            90None can tell us, but I know
            91Passion's self is often marred
            92By a kind of self-regard,
            93And the torture of the cry
            94"You are you, and I am I."
            95While we live, the waking sense
            96Feeds upon our difference,
            97In our passion and our pride
            98Not united, but allied.

            99We are severed by the sun,
          100And by darkness are made one.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Laughter from a Cloud, foreword by Hilary Raleigh (London: Constable, 1923): 230-33. British Library 012273.bbb.7
First publication date: 1923
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2001
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/13

Form: couplets


Other poems by Walter Alexander Raleigh