VISTAS: An awareness of a range of time, events, or subjects. A broad Mental View.

The Passionate Man's Pilgrimage

Sir Walter Ralegh

Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope's true gage,
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.
Blood must be my body's balmer,
No other balm will there be given,
Whilst my soul like a white palmer
Travels to the land of heaven,
Over the silver mountains,
Where spring the nectar foundations;
And there I'll kiss
the bowl of bliss,
And drink my eternal fill
On every milken hill.
My soul will be a-dry before,
But after it will ne'er thirst more.

And by the happy blissful way
More peaceful pilgrims I shall see,
That have shook off their gowns of clay
And go apparelled fresh like me.
I'll bring them first
To slake their first,
And then to taste those nectar suckets,
At the clear wells
Where sweetness dwells,
Drawn up by saints in crystal buckets.

And when our bottles and all we
Are filled with immortality,
Then the holy paths we'll travel,
Strewed with rubies thick as gravel,
Ceilings of diamonds, sapphire floors,
High walls of coral and pearl bowers.

From thence to heaven's bribeless hall
Where no corrupted voices brawl,
No conscience molten into gold,
Nor forged accusers bought and sold,
No cause deferred, nor vain-spent journey,
For there Christ is the King's Attorney,
Who pleads for all without degrees,
And he hath angels, but no fees.

When the grand twelve million jury
Of our sins with sinful fury
'Gainst our souls black verdicts give,
Christ pleads his death, and then we live.
Be thou my speaker, taintless pleader,
Unblotted lawyer, true proceeder;
Thou movest salvation even for alms,
Not with a bribed lawyer's palms.

And this is my eternal plea
To him that made heaven, earth and sea:
Seeing my flesh must die so soon,
And want a head to dine next noon,
Just at the stroke when my veins start and spread,
Set on my soul and everlasting head.
Then am I ready, like a palmer fit,
To tread those blest paths which before I writ.

Pilgimages have fascinated English writers since the Middle Ages: Chaucer, of course, Spenser, Bunyan, T. S. Eliot (whose Four Quarters consists of ghostly visits that have been called "totemic pilgrimages"), down to Philip Larkin, whose "Church Going" represents a secular - but nonetheless passionate - pilgrimage. Ralegh's poem, which, in 1604, seemed to presage his beheading in 1618, combines a nearly Spenserian allegory of equipment and symbols with a sharp courtier's satire of earthly politics. Ralegh's authorship of this poem has recently been seriously questioned.