What is the central complaint that underlines Ralegh’s poem “The Lie”?
Ralegh’s poem The Lie, at its’ very core is about the hypocrisy of all aspects of society and the false pretences these groups live under and portray outwardly. Under the pretence of good, each feature or organisation introduced is really enacting the opposite of what it teaches hence highlighting the corrupt nature of everything in Ralegh’s society. The poem encourages the reader to “tell” the people of their hipocrisy rather than to accept what they are teaching and then to “give the lie” when they argue back meaning to tell them that they are lying. Clearly, this demonstrates that Ralegh is sick of pretending that the society is honest in any way and wants to uncover the corrupt, decaying nature or individuals and groups.
One example of Ralegh highlighting the hypocritical nature of society is shone in his line about the church, “Say to the church, it shows/ what’s good and doth no good.” In this line he is stating that even the Church, which is outwardly the pinnacle of morality, has become corrupt and does not practice what it preaches , so to speak. Even small aspects of life that everyone thinks they know are “given the lie” by Ralegh as he dismisses honesty in zeal, love, wisdom, fortune and friendship. The fact that some of the most basic aspects of life and seemingly the most pure are contradictory to their actions truly highlights the corruption and how untrusting Ralegh is of others.
The stanza that is the most powerful in pointing out hypocrisy and contradiction tome is stanza six which states “Tell zeal it wants devotion;/ Tell love it is but lust;/ Tell time it is but motion; Tell flesh it is but dust.” This stanza truly dismisses any idea that honesty and purity still exist and it tells us that enthusiasm is false, time is not important, we as humans are just dust and that love does not exist- a thought that to me, is almost painful to read. The fact that Ralegh goes to this extent, to say that love, the emotion that makes one human, is not even true anymore truly expresses his core complaint about the hipocrisy and falsehood portrayed by all. At the end of this stanza he states, “And wish them not reply/ For thou must give the lie.” To me, this is also the most powerful dismissal of truth because Ralegh is really hoping that they do not try to argue as he does not want to have to dismiss them as lies. This really underpins the main complaint of the poem; that even the truest of truths have become hypocritical and that every truth has a falsehood behind it.