10-29-1618

Sir Walter Raleigh

SIR WALTER RALEIGH, died (b: 1552); famed English writer, poet, courtier and explorer. He was responsible for establishing the second English colony in the “New World” (after Newfoundland was established by Sir Humphrey Gilbert nearly one year previously, August 5 1583), on June 4, 1584, at Roanoke Island in present-day North Carolina. When the third attempt at settlement failed, the ultimate fate of the colonists was never authoritatively ascertained, and it became known as “The Lost Colony”.

The question for us here is this: Were Sir Walter Raleigh and Christopher Marlowe lovers?

Don’t laugh. Anything is possible, especially when so little is known about both. For many years, this provocative possibility has been suggested, even though it is based entirely on speculation. Marlowe wrote a poem titled, “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” which begins with the charming invitation “Come live with me and be my love.”

A twin poem, “The Nymph’s Reply to The Shepherd,” appeared shortly thereafter, and there is little doubt that it was written by Raleigh out of love for Marlowe. The response, of course, is typically coy (Well, no, what do you think I am? But of course you know I mean yes when I say no, and you aren’t really thinking of taking my virginity with that big thing, are you, you beast? But if you don’t I’ll die, etc.).

It’s probably one of the best “No-but-I-really-mean-Yes” poems in the language, at least until it was answered by Marvell in To His Coy Mistress:  Look, if you don’t screw now, when are you going to do it? In the grave? So shut up and put out! — Hooray for Marvell.