Verse > Anthologies > Herbert J.C. Grierson, ed. > Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th c.
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Herbert J.C. Grierson, ed. (1886–1960). Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th C.  1921.
 
Thomas Carew
 
127. An Elegie upon the death of the Deane of Pauls, Dr. Iohn Donne
 
CAN we not force from widdowed Poetry, 
Now thou art dead (Great DONNE) one Elegie 
To crowne thy Hearse? Why yet dare we not trust 
Though with unkneaded dowe-bak't prose thy dust, 
Such as the uncisor'd Churchman from the flower         5
Of fading Rhetorique, short liv'd as his houre, 
Dry as the sand that measures it, should lay 
Upon thy Ashes, on the funerall day? 
Have we no voice, no tune? Did'st thou dispense 
Through all our language, both the words and sense?  10
'Tis a sad truth; The Pulpit may her plaine, 
And sober Christian precepts still retaine, 
Doctrines it may, and wholesome Uses frame, 
Grave Homilies, and Lectures, But the flame 
Of thy brave Soule, that shot such heat and light,  15
As burnt our earth, and made our darknesse bright, 
Committed holy Rapes upon our Will, 
Did through the eye the melting heart distill; 
And the deepe knowledge of darke truths so teach, 
As sense might judge, what phansie could not reach;  20
Must be desir'd for ever. So the fire, 
That fills with spirit and heat the Delphique quire, 
Which kindled first by thy Promethean breath, 
Glow'd here a while, lies quench't now in thy death; 
The Muses garden with Pedantique weedes  25
O'rspred, was purg'd by thee; The lazie seeds 
Of servile imitation throwne away; 
And fresh invention planted, Thou didst pay 
The debts of our penurious bankrupt age; 
Licentious thefts, that make poëtique rage  30
A Mimique fury, when our soules must bee 
Possest, or with Anacreons Extasie, 
Or Pindars, not their owne; The subtle cheat 
Of slie Exchanges, and the jugling feat 
Of two-edg'd words, or whatsoever wrong  35
By ours was done the Greeke, or Latine tongue, 
Thou hast redeem'd, and open'd Us a Mine 
Of rich and pregnant phansie, drawne a line 
Of masculine expression, which had good 
Old Orpheus seene, Or all the ancient Brood  40
Our superstitious fooles admire, and hold 
Their lead more precious, then thy burnish't Gold, 
Thou hadst beene their Exchequer, and no more 
They each in others dust had rak'd for Ore. 
Thou shalt yield no precedence, but of time,  45
And the blinde fate of language, whose tun'd chime 
More charmes the outward sense; Yet thou maist claime 
From so great disadvantage greater fame, 
Since to the awe of thy imperious wit 
Our stubborne language bends, made only fit  50
With her tough-thick-rib'd hoopes to gird about 
Thy Giant phansie, which had prov'd too stout 
For their soft melting Phrases. As in time 
They had the start, so did they cull the prime 
Buds of invention many a hundred yeare,  55
And left the rifled fields, besides the feare 
To touch their Harvest, yet from those bare lands 
Of what is purely thine, thy only hands 
(And that thy smallest worke) have gleaned more 
Then all those times, and tongues could reape before;  60
But thou art gone, and thy strict lawes will be 
Too hard for Libertines in Poetrie. 
They will repeale the goodly exil'd traine 
Of gods and goddesses, which in thy just raigne 
Were banish'd nobler Poems, now, with these  65
The silenc'd tales o'th'Metamorphoses 
Shall stuffe their lines, and swell the windy Page, 
Till Verse refin'd by thee, in this last Age 
Turne ballad rime, Or those old Idolls bee 
Ador'd againe, with new apostasie;  70
Oh, pardon mee, that breake with untun'd verse 
The reverend silence that attends thy herse, 
Whose awfull solemne murmures were to thee 
More then these faint lines, A loud Elegie, 
That did proclaime in a dumbe eloquence  75
The death of all the Arts, whose influence 
Growne feeble, in these panting numbers lies 
Gasping short winded Accents, and so dies: 
So doth the swiftly turning wheele not stand 
In th'instant we withdraw the moving hand,  80
But some small time maintaine a faint weake course 
By vertue of the first impulsive force: 
And so whil'st I cast on thy funerall pile 
Thy crowne of Bayes, Oh, let it crack a while, 
And spit disdaine, till the devouring flashes  85
Suck all the moysture up, then turne to ashes. 
I will not draw the[e] envy to engrosse 
All thy perfections, or weepe all our losse; 
Those are too numerous for an Elegie, 
And this too great, to be express'd by mee.  90
Though every pen should share a distinct part, 
Yet art thou Theme enough to tyre all Art; 
Let others carve the rest, it shall suffice 
I on thy Tombe this Epitaph incise. 
  
    Here lies a King, that rul'd as hee thought fit  95
    The universall Monarchy of wit; 
    Here lie two Flamens, and both those the best, 
    Apollo's first, at last, the true Gods Priest. 
 
 
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