1 April 2024 Susannah

Queen Elizabeth I & Ah, Silly Pug, Wert thou so Sore Afraid?

Sir Walter Raleigh & Elizabeth I of England

Did you know that Queen Elizabeth I was also a poet? This poem, Ah, Silly Pug, Wert thou so sore afraid? was inspired by one of her great favourites, Sir Walter Raleigh, who was himself a superb poet. The Queen could be fickle and when she appointed her new favourite, the handsome young Earl of Essex to a high position at court, Sir Walter petitioned her, afraid he was falling from royal favour. This poem was her response, addressed to ‘my Wat’ which is what she called Sir Walter (it is thought that the name was at that time pronounced ‘water’ rather than ‘walter’. In the poem, she encourages him and bids him “put away” his fears. ‘Pug’ was one of her affectionate nicknames for this favoured courtier.

Ah, Silly Pug, wert thou so Sore Afraid by Queen Elizabeth I

Ah, silly Pug, wert thou so sore afraid?
Mourn not, my Wat, nor be thou so dismayed.
It passeth fickle Fortune’s power and skill
To force my heart to think thee any ill.
No Fortune base, thou sayest, shall alter thee?
And may so blind a witch so conquer me?
No, no, my Pug, though Fortune were not blind,
Assure thyself she could not rule my mind.
Fortune, I know, sometimes doth conquer kings,
And rules and reigns on earth and earthly things,
But never think Fortune can bear the sway
If virtue watch, and will her not obey.
Ne chose I thee by fickle Fortune’s rede,
Ne she shall force me alter with such speed
But if to try this mistress’ jest with thee.
Pull up thy heart, suppress thy brackish tears,
Torment thee not, but put away thy fears.
Dead to all joys and living unto woe,
Slain quite by her that ne’er gave wise men blow,
Revive again and live without all dread,
The less afraid, the better thou shalt speed.

As Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I inspired many poems, such as Spencer’s The Faerie Queen. She was an accomplished linguist (she spoke Latin, Greek, French and Italian) and translator, she wrote speeches in Latin, and she studied rhetoric.

Here is a reading of this interesting poem:

Were you aware that Queen Elizabeth I wrote poetry? Have you read any other of her poems? I’d love to know what you think, let me know by leaving a comment.

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Featured image- Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6369962; & Portrait of Elizabeth I of England, the Armada Portrait, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28313
Body image: The Bullletin 1889, https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-488923924/view?partId=nla.obj-488931296#page/n19/mode/1up

Comment (1)

  1. Margaret Debenham

    I have heard a reading of “When I Was Fair and Young” which is attributed to Queen Elizabeth. I like the poem, and it always makes me wonder whether it expressed a true sadness that she felt – each verse ends with the speaker saying “Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more”. In the earlier verses she is fending off admirers, but at the end Cupid punishes her for rejection of love, and she is left to repent those words. It is quite touching.

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