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against the expectation that he should "go journeys of picory" or "run from cape to cape and from place to place for the pillage of ordinary prizes."[1] This was written in reply to criticism occasioned by his failing to loot Guiana in 1595, yet, it is representative of Ralegh's beliefs and policy at all times. He was inspired by his vision of the "Empire"; his life and resources were dedicated to it: "poured out on enterprises whose ends, as he well knew, were far out of sight and beyond the finish of his life"[2] . Such was the power of his vision.

A man of such stature about the court was certain to arouse enmity and envy. His position was very high, but it depended only on the Queen's favour, and that had been known to change. Before the final disgrace of 1592 (final as far as the personal allusion in Summers Last Will and Testament is concerned), rivalries, scandal and attacks against him had already started to worry him, and the Queen's favour had already appeared clouded over once, in 1588-1589, when Ralegh retired for some time to his estates in Ireland, and rumour had it that he was out of favour. This visit to Ireland coincides with the beginning of the rise of Essex's star and was probably due to the Queen's preference for the younger favourite.

The rivalry between Ralegh and Essex had culminated in a challenge to a duel late in 1588, and gossip had it that "My Lord of Essex hath chased Mr. Ralegh from the court".3] According to Ralegh himself his "retreat from the court was upon good cause, to take order for my prise", although by denying the truth of the rumours of disfavour, he actually proves that such rumours were spreading.[4]

It is during his voluntary exile in Ireland in 1588-89 that Ralegh meets Spenser again, and their acquaintance develops into friendship. Spenser describes the meeting in Colin Clout (60-91, 163-174 passim), and it is on this occasion that Ocean's song was:

"O...all a lamentable lay
Of great unkindness, and of usage hard
Of Cynthia, the Ladie of the Sea." (164-6)

This phase in Ralegh's court career must be the one alluded to as "the Ocean of adversitie" by Summer, although in Summers Last Will and Testament no clear distinction is made between this adversity and Ralegh's obscurity previous to his rise at court. The name Ocean points to the year 1589. In fact, while there is early evidence for the nickname and symbol of "Water" for Ralegh, "Ocean" appears only in Spenser and in The Ocean to Cynthia. So we cannot refer the allusion to Ocean to an earlier date than 1589.

As for the date of The Ocean to Cynthia, the year is uncertain, 1589 and 1592 being both likely alternatives. Miss Latham leaves the question open, while Mr. Oakeshott favours strongly the late summer of 1592[5]. However, whatever the date for the extant version of The Ocean to Cynthia, Spenser's mention of Ocean certainly refers to Ralegh in 1589, and must refer to a version of this poem.

After the disgrace of 1592 Ralegh was not received by the Queen again until 1596, long after Summers Last Will and Testament. Besides, after this reconciliation Ralegh did not lose the Queen's favour again. Therefore the poem mentioned by Spenser, and alluded to by Nashe, must be one written, under the name of Ocean, to Cynthia, on the occasion of an estrangement of Ralegh from the Court previous to the disgrace of 1592.

"My boddy in the walls captived,
Feels not the wounds of spiteful envy" (XXIII, p.24)[6]
wrote Ralegh during his imprisonment of 1592. The position of favour he had achieved notwithstanding his obscure origins, and his love of the limelight, rendered him all the more vulnerable. His rich many-sided personality made him participate in several fields of activity, and he was exposed to criticism on account of all of them. His "low birth" owever, was one of the easiest targets for his enemies.

A good example of the darts of "spiteful envy" is in the letter which the Earl of Essex wrote to Sir Edward Dyer, in July 1587; it relates the Earl's outburst against "that knave Ralegh"[7]; Essex writes:


"She [the Queen] taking hold of one word, (Disdain), said there was no cause why I should disdain him...as near as I could I did describe unto her what he had been and what he was: and then I did let her see whether I had cause to disdain his competition of love: I spake what of grief and choler as much against him as I could".[8]
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1. Op. cit., p381 (the letter dedicatory).

2. E. THOMPSON, Sir Walter Ralegh, London, Macmillan, 1935, p.103

3. Quoted in W. OAKESHOTT, op. cit., p. 36

4. Ibidem, p. 37

5. See Miss Latham's introduction to Ralegh's Poems, cit. pp. XXXV-XLV, and W. Oakeshott, The Queen and the Poet, cit. pp. 133-8. The allusion to Ralegh as Ocean in Summers Last Will and Testament has not been mentioned by any of the critics.

6. All the quotations are from Ralegh's Poems edited by A. Latham, 1951; the indications of number and page are in brackets after each quotation.

7. Quoted in OAKESHOTT, op. cit., p. 28

8. Quoted in M. C. BRADBROOK, op. cit., p. 35


The copyright of this thesis belongs to the author Maria-Luisa Minio-Paluellounder the terms of the United Kingdom Copyright Acts. Due acknowledgement must always be made of the use of any material contained in, or derived from, this thesis.