Sir Walter Ralegh Questions and Answers

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How might one explain, line by line, the meaning of Sir Walter Ralegh's poem "To His Son"?

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Raleigh wrote this sonnet while a prisoner in the Tower of London—he had become aware that his son was leading a less-than-ideal life. Line by line, we might "translate" the poem as such:

There are three things that do well

And flourish, while they grow further and further apart;

But there must come a point where they all come together again.

When they meet, they make each other worse.

The three things are the wood, the weed (cloth, clothing), and the wag (the young rake).

Don't forget that wood is the key component of the gallows tree (leads to hangings)

The weed (cloth) makes up the bag placed over the head of the condemned;

The wag (young rake) is you, the young man misbehaving in society.

Listen: while these three bad things haven't come together yet,

The tree grows strongly, the material for the cloth grows, and the rake runs wild;

But when they get together, the wood begins to rot,

The cloth frays, and the child is choked.

So: remember all of this, and let's pray

That we don't lose you when...

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