of his ‘History of the World,’ in which he follows in the early chapters the Old Testament narrative with most confiding literalness, and earnestly insists throughout on God's beneficence. A similar sentiment finds repeated expression in his political essays. Nor in incidental references to the New Testament does he give any sign of incredulity (cf. Historie, bk. ii. chap. iv. sect. xi.), and nothing actually inconsistent with these views can be detected in two works in which he dealt with metaphysical speculation. The one ‘The Sceptic,’ first published in 1651, is a scholastic and inconclusive dissertation—Dr. Parr called it a ‘lusus ingenii’—in which it is argued that the endless varieties of physical formation, temperament, and capacity, discernible in living organisms, present insuperable obstacles to the universal acceptance among men of any one conception of truth. Doubt is therefore inevitable to man's reason; but no mention is made of religious belief, which, it seems clear from Ralegh's references to it elsewhere, he did not regard as dependent on man's reason. His ‘Treatise of the Soul’ (first published in the collected ‘Works,’ 1829) is a supersubtle and barren inquiry into the nature and function of the soul, mainly based on scriptural texts. The contemporary tone of religious orthodoxy generated reputations for infidelity on very slender provocation, and in Ralegh's case the evil report doubtless sprang from his known love of orally discussing religion with men of all opinions, and of thus encouraging freedom of speech. But his friend Sir John Harington affirmed that he personally kept within conventional bounds in such conferences. ‘In religion,’ Harington wrote in 1603, ‘he hath shown in private talk great depth and good reading, as I once experienced at his own house before many learned men’ (Nugæ Antiquæ, ii. 132).
Throughout his career Ralegh solaced his leisure by writing verse, much of which is lost. All that is positively known to survive consists of thirty short pieces, many of which were originally published anonymously, or under his initials in poetical anthologies, like the ‘Phœnix Nest,’ 1593; ‘England's Helicon,’ 1600; or Davison's ‘Poetical Rhapsody,’ 1608 (cf. England's Helicon and Davison's Poetical Rhapsody, both edited by Mr. A. H. Bullen). But the signature of ‘Sir W. R.’ or of ‘Ignoto,’ which he adopted occasionally, is not always conclusive testimony that the pieces to which those signatures are attached were from Ralegh's pen. Dr. Hannah has noted twenty-five poems which have been wrongly assigned to him on such grounds. Nor can reliance be placed on the pretension advanced in behalf of very many of his poems that they were penned ‘on the night before his execution.’
A fragment only remains of Ralegh's chief effort in verse, a poem called ‘Cynthia, the Lady of the Sea,’ which was probably written during his enforced withdrawals from court in 1589 and 1592–3. Gabriel Harvey described so much as was written before 1590 as ‘a fine and sweet invention.’ Puttenham doubtless referred to it in his ‘Arte of Poesie’ (1589), when he described Ralegh's ‘vein’ as ‘most lofty, insolent, and passionate.’ Edmund Spenser, who generously encouraged Ralegh's essays in poetry, wrote to him in 1590 of ‘your own excellent conceit of Cynthia,’ and thrice elsewhere referred to the work appreciatively, viz. in a sonnet to Ralegh prefixed to the first three books of the ‘Faerie Queene’ (1590), in the introduction of the third book, and in ‘Colin Clout's come home again,’ 1591. ‘The twenty-first and last Book of the Ocean to Cynthia,’ with a few verses of an unfinished twenty-second book, is alone extant; this remains among the Hatfield manuscripts, and has been printed by Dr. Hannah. But the latter erroneously styles it ‘Continuation of the lost poem “Cynthia,”’ and assigns it to the period of Ralegh's imprisonment in the Tower. The two short poems which were found by Dr. Hannah in the same manuscript, and are printed by him as introductory to the twenty-first book, do not appear to form any part of ‘Cynthia.’ ‘The twenty-first and last book’ portrays with much poetic fervour and exuberance the despair of Ralegh at his exile from the presence of ‘Cynthia,’ who clearly is intended for Queen Elizabeth. Ralegh refers to himself as ‘the Shepherd of the Ocean,’ an appellation that Spenser had conferred on him. The poem is in four-line stanzas, alternately rhymed. Among other attractive specimens of Ralegh's extant verse are a fine epitaph on Sir Philip Sidney (first printed anonymously in the ‘Phœnix Nest,’ 1593); two commendatory poems on the ‘Faerie Queene’ (in the 1590 edition of the first three books); ‘If all the world and love were young,’ the reply to Marlowe's ‘Come, live with me’ (in ‘England's Helicon,’ 1600, signed ‘Ignoto,’ but ascribed to Ralegh in Walton's Compleat Angler); ‘The Silent Lover,’ a lyric (signed ‘Sir W. R.;’ quoted by Lord Chesterfield in Letter 183; cf. Hannah, p. 20); ‘The Lie, or the Soul's Errand,’ beginning ‘Go Soul, the body's guest’ (written before 1593; printed in Davison's ‘Poetical Rhapsody,’ 1608 anon., and with feeble alterations and additional stanzas in Joshua Sylvester's ‘Posthumi,’ 1633 and 1641); ‘The Pilgrimage’ (probably written in 1603; cf. Notes and