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But souls where nothing dwells but love, (All other thoughts being inmates) then shall prove, When bodies to their graves, souls from their graves remove.
And then we shall be thoro’ly blest;
But now, no more than all the rest.
Here upon earth we are kings, and none but we
Can be such kings, nor of such subjects be.
Who is so safe as we?—where none can do
Treason to us, except one of us two.
True and false fears let us refrain;
Let us love nobly, and live, and add again
Years and years unto years, till we attain
Unto threescore: this is the second of our reign.”
“I scarce believe
love to be so pure
As I had thought it was,
Because it doth endure
Vicissitude and season, as the
Methinks I lied all winter when I swore
My love was infinite, if Spring can make it more.
But if this med'cine, Love, which cures all sorrow
With more, not only be no quintessence,
But mixt of all stuffs,-vexing soul or sense,
And of the Sun his active vigour borrow,-
Love's not so fine and abstract as they use
which have no mistress but their muse;
But as all else being elemented too,
Love sometimes would contemplate, sometimes do.
And yet no greater, but more eminent,
Love by the spring is grown;
As in the firmament
Stars by the sun are not enlarg’d, but shown.
Gentle love-deeds, as blossoms on a bough,
From Love's awaken'd root do bud out now.
If, as in water stirr'd more circles be
Produc'd by one, Love such additions take,
Those, like so many spheres, but one heaven make,
For they are all concentrique unto thee.
And though each spring do add to love new heat,
(As princes do in times of action get
New taxes, and remit them not in peace)
No winter shall abate this spring's encrease."
The reader will not fail to observe the occasional obscurities which arise out of the extreme condensation of expression in the foregoing pieces, and in most of those which follow. These passages may always be unravelled by a little attention, and they seldom fail to repay the trouble bestowed upon them. But they must be regarded as unequivocal faults nevertheless.
The following is, doubtless, '"high-fantastical,” in the last degree; but it is fine notwithstanding, and an evidence of something more than mere ingenuity.
“Let me pour forth
My tears before thy face, whilst I stay here;
For thy face coins them, and thy stamp they bear;
And by this mintage they are something worth ;
For thus they be
Pregnant of thee,
Fruits of much grief they are, emblems of more:
When a tear falls, then thou fall'st which it bore:
So thou and I are nothing then, when on a diverse shore.
On a round ball
A workman (that hath copies by) can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, all:
So doth each tear,
Which thee doth wear,
A globe, yea world, by that impression grow;
Till thy tears, mixt with mine, do overflow
This world, by waters sent from thee-my heaven dissolved so.
O, more than moon,
Draw not up seas to drown me in thy sphere !
Weep me not dead in thine arms, but forbear
To teach the sea what it may do too soon.
Let not the wind
To do me more harm than it purposeth;
Since thou and I sigh one-another's breath,
Whoe'er sighs most is cruellest, and hastes the other's death."
The feelings which dictated such poetry as this, (for it is poetry, and nothing but real feelings could 'dictate it,) must have pierced deeper than the surface of both the heart and the
imagination. In fact, they wanted nothing but to have been excited under more favourable circumstances, to have made them well-springs of the richest poetry uttering itself in the rarest words.
For clearness of expression, melody of versification, and a certain wayward simplicity of thought peculiarly appropriate to such compositions as these, the most successful of our modern lyrists might envy the following trifle :
“ The Message.
“Send home my long stray'd eyes to me,
Which (oh) too long have dwelt on thee:
Yet since there they have learn'd such ill-
Such forced fashions,
And false passions,
That they be
Made by me
Fit for no good sight-keep them still !
harmless heart again,
Which no unworthy thought could stain:
But if it be taught by thine
To make jestings
And break both
Word and oath,-
Keep it,-for then 'tis none of mine !
Yet send me back both heart and eyes,
That I may know and see thy lies,
And may laugh and joy when thou
Art in anguish,
And dost languish
For some one
That will none,
Or provë as false às thou art now.”
Perhaps the two short pieces which follow, include all the
characteristics of Donne's style--beauties as well as faults.
« A Lecture.
“Stand still, and I will read to thee
A lecture, Love, in Love's philosophy.
These three hours that we have spent
Walking here, two shadows went
Along with us, which we ourselves produced.
But, now the sun is just above our head,
We do those shadows tread;
And to brave clearness all things are reduc'd.
So, whilst our infant loves did
Disguises did, and shadows, flow
From us, and from our cares: now 'tis not so.
That love hath not attain'd the highest degree
Which is still diligent lest others see.
Except our loves at this noon stay,
We shall new shadows make the other way.
As the first were made to blind
Others, these, which come behind,
Still work upon ourselves, and blind our eyes.
If our loves faint, and westwardly decline,
To me thou, falsly, thine,
And I to thee mine actions shall disguise.
The morning shadows wear away,
But these grow larger all the day:
But oh, love's day is short, if love decay.
Love is a growing, or full constant light;
And his short minute, after noon, is night."
“So, so,-break off this last lamenting kiss,
Which sucks two souls, and
Turn thou, ghost, that way, and let me turn this,
And let ourselves benight our happiest day.
We ask none leave to love;, nor will we owe
Any so cheap a death as saying, go!--
Go! and if that word have not quite killed thee,
Ease me with death, by bidding me go too.
Or, if it have, let my word work on me,
And a just office on a murderer do :
Except it be too late to kill me $0--,
Being double dead,-going, and bidding go!"
The following piece, entitled “The Funeral," is fantastical and far-fetched to be sure; but it is very fine nevertheless. The comparison of the nerves and the braid of hair, and anticipating similar effects from each, could never have entered the thoughts of any one but Donne; still less could any one have made it tell as he has done. The piece is
altogether an admirable and most interesting example of his style.
“ Whoever comes to shroud me, do not harm,
Nor question much,
That subtle wreath of hair which crowns my arm;
The mystery, the sign you must not touch,
my outward soul;
Viceroy to that which, unto heaven being gone,
Will leave this to controul
And keep these limbs, her provinces, from dissolution.
For, if the sinewy thread my brain lets fall
Through every part,
Can tie those parts, and make me one, of all,-
Those hairs, which upward grow, and strength and art
Have from a better brain,
Can better do it; except she meant that I
By this should know my pain;
As prisoners then are manacled when they're condemn’d to die.
Whate'er she meant by it, bury it with me;
For since I am
Love's martyr, it might breed idolatry
If into others' hands these reliques came.
As 'twas humility
To afford to it all that a soul can do,
So 'tis some bravery,
That, since you would have none of me, I bury some of
As a specimen of Donne’s infinite fullness of meaning, take a little poem, called "The Will;” almost every line of which would furnish matter for a whole treatise in modern times.
“Before I sigh my last gasp, let me breathe,
Great Love, some legacies : here I bequeath
Mine eyes to Argus, if mine eyes can see;
If they be blind, then Love, I give them thee;
My tongue to Fame; to ambassadors mine ears;
To women, or the sea, my tears ;
Thou, Love, hast taught me heretofore,
By making me serve her who had twenty more,
That I should give to none but such as had too much before.
My constancy I to the planets give;
My truth to them who at the court do live;