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Who Wrote "The Passionate Man's Pilgrimage?"

PHILIP EDWARDS
English Literary Renaissance
Vol. 4, No. 1, Studies in Renaissance Poetry (Winter 1974), pp. 83-97
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43446789
Page Count: 15
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Who Wrote "The Passionate Man's Pilgrimage?"
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Abstract

Although "The Passionate Man's Pilgrimage" ("Give me my scallop shell of quiet") is a poem which anthologists and others continue to refer to as Sir Walter Ralegh's, the attribution is no longer tenable. Doubts expressed over 150 years have been upheld by recent re-examinations of the early manuscripts. The association of the poem with Ralegh has hindered a proper examination of its qualities. Two fundamental questions are (1) whether the poem reflects a real experience of waiting for execution or whether it is a spiritual exercise, and (2) whether the lack of sophistication (in prosody, for example) is intended or artless. The poem, which includes a remarkable shift of the traditional use of the pilgrimage motif, falls into four separate sections, each a distinct meditation on the entry into blessedness. Though its imagery is ambiguous, its allusion to extreme unction argues that it is a Catholic poem. It belongs to a tradition of English recusant meditations on a martyr's death. The possibility that the poem deliberately creates the persona of a naive spiritual martyr is tempting but must be rejected. The unknown Catholic author is not necessarily a recognized poet.

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