“The Doubt of Future Foes” by Queen Elizabeth I The doubt of futurefoes exiles my present joy, And wit me warns to shun such snares as threatenmine annoy. For falsehood now doth flow, and subject faith doth ebb, Which wouldnot be, if reason ruled or wisdom weaved the web.
But clouds of toys untried docloak aspiring minds, Which turn to rain of late repent, by course of changedwinds. The top of hope supposed, the root of ruth will be, And fruitless alltheir graffed guiles, as shortly ye shall see. The dazzled eyes with pride,which great ambition blinds, Shall be unsealed by worthy wights whose foresightfalsehood finds.
The daughter of debate, that eke discord doth sow Shall reap nogain where former rule hath taught still peace to grow. No foreign banishedwight shall anchor in this port, Our realm it brooks no strangers force, letthem elsewhere resort. Our rusty sword with rest, shall first his edge employ Topoll their tops that seek such change and gape for joy. Written in 1568 by oneof Englands most outstanding rulers, “The Doubt of Future Foes”captures a time of distress for Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth Jenkins, one of thegreat Queens biographers, stated that “Elizabeth was not poetical, butshe shared that extraordinary gift of expression that was general among theEnglish of the time, and once or twice she wrote some remarkable verse” (Jenkens,Elizabeth the Great, 1958).
In this particular “remarkable verse,”Elizabeth composed sixteen lines describing the troubled state of England andprophesied the fate of her enemies. Elizabeth uses alliteration in severallines, such as “wisdom weaved the web” and “foresight falsehoodfinds,” which reflects her well-educated and cultured background. However,the poem appears to be mainly a product of Elizabeths struggles withadversaries and a threat to those who had the “aspiring minds” toattempt to remove her from the throne. The poem is written in octosyllabics:rhyming couplets with twelve syllables in the first line and fourteen syllablesin the second line. This meter drums out a steady, forceful rhythm that furtherdrills in the highly moralistic message of “loyalty or else.
” Thefirst two lines state that Elizabeths fear (“doubt”) about herenemies prevents her from being happy, and that if she were smart, she wouldignore the traps those enemies had set in place to harm her with. Her cousin,Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, had been giving her cousin grief aboutElizabeths unfulfilled promise when Mary was imprisoned to help her regainher throne (and succeeded in labeling Elizabeth as a hypocrite), but Maryrefused to acknowledge the fact that Elizabeth had saved her life countlesstimes. Her cousin also had her eyes on the British crown and appealed toElizabeths sympathy to begin to win it. However, advised by Sir William Cecilthat her cousin had “an appetite to the Crown,” she handled Marysdemands, such as for Elizabeths own royal garments, with caution andlimitation. At this point in history, Elizabeth was also angered that thenorthern Catholics had spurned her exceptionally tolerant religious policy. TheCatholics had always wanted Elizabeth ousted from the throne because she hadcommitted the travesty of being Protestant, and they looked at anythingcontroversial that she did as a way to get her out. Line three describestreachery and devotion as a wave that recedes and swells; at the present time,allegiance is short of hand and treason is a constant threat.
However, Elizabethstates in line four that if people had intelligence and common sense, they wouldbe loyal to her. She feels this way not only because of her religious beliefs,but also because of the simple fact that she is Queen. Her subjects may berebellious now, when they feel they may have a chance at overthrowing her, butultimately she is still in power and has a golden finger to direct their fate.She alludes to the impending tools and tricks that her adversaries will useagainst her as clouds that will fall as rain when her enemies change their mindsand beg pardon. She also portrays their false fronts as a shoot grafted into thegrowing plant of the kingdom of England, with hope as the leaves(“top”) and sorrow (“ruth”) as the roots, but which willyield no profits (“fruit”) as long as they are disloyal. She thenstates that their vain eyes, full of impatient anticipation, will be opened by anoble person (a “worthy wight”) who foresees their treachery.Elizabeth refers to her cousin Mary as “the daughter of debate”because she had caused so much scandal and controversy.
She predicts that nomatter what conflict Mary began, she would never have success because theReformation of England has trained her, as Queen, to maintain peace. No foreignor exiled person such as Mary would sit at the throne of England, because thekingdom does not allow strangers ruling it. Let them go somewhere else,Elizabeth declares, because that will not be tolerated in my country. The poemends with a resonating threat that foreshadows the fate of Mary. Theexecutioners sword which has not been used in so long will strike off theheads of those that wish to change monarchs, and these implementations of deathwill bring joy and prosperity back to the Kingdom. Elizabeths predictionbecame reality when Mary was charged with being accessory to an attempted murderof Elizabeth and was beheaded in 1587, and William Byrd wrote a song that echoedElizabeths foretelling nearly twenty years before: “The noble famousqueen/Who lost her head of late/Doth show that kings as well as clowns/Are boundto Fortunes fate,/And that no earthly Prince/Can so secure his crown/ButFortune with her whirling wheel/Hath power to pull them down” (Jenkins,316). It was said among those who knew her that Elizabeth never wept again asshe did when Mary was executed.
However, as a strong ruler, she did what wasnecessary for the well-being of her country, and she rid England of itsopponents. She would have no more fear of future foes.BibliographyElizabeth, I. “The Doubt of Future Foes.
” 1568. Jenkins, Elizabeth.Elizabeth the Great. 1958.English Essays