Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Jacobean Poetry
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Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of King James the First.  1847.
 
Holy Sonnets
II. John Donne
 
I.
WHAT 1 if this present were the world’s last night?
Marke in my heart, O soule, where thou dost dwell,
The picture of Christ crucified, and tell
Whether his countenance can thee affright:
Teares in his eyes quench the amazing light;        5
Blood fills his frownes which from his pierc’d head fell;
And can that tongue adjudge thee unto hell
Which pray’d forgiuenesse for his foes’ fierce spight?
No, no; but as in my idolatrie,
I said to all my profane mistresses,        10
Beauty, of pitty, foulnesse onely is,
A signe of rigour; so I say to thee,
To wicked spirits are horrid shapes assign’d—
His beauteous forme assumes a piteous minde.
 
II.
O my black soul! now thou art summoned
        15
By sicknesse, death’s herald and champion,
Thou art like a pilgrim, which abroad hath done
Treason, and durst not turne to whence hee is fled;
Or like a thiefe, which, till death’s doome be read,
Wisheth himselfe deliuered from prison;        20
But, damn’d and hal’d to execution,
Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned:
Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lacke;
But who shall give thee that grace to beginne?
O make thyselfe with holy mourning blacke,        25
And red with blushing, as thou art with sinne;
Oh wash thee in Christ’s blood, which hath this might,
That being red, it dyes red soules to white.
 
III.
At the round earth’s imagin’d corners blow
Your trumpets, angells; and arise, arise        30
From death, you numberlesse infinities
Of soules, and to your scatter’d bodies goe,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall ouerthrow;
All whom warre, death, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despaire, law, chance, hath slaine; and you whose eyes        35
Shall behold God, and never tast death’s woe.
But let them sleepe, Lord, and mee mourne a space;
For, if above all these my sinnes abound,
’Tis late to aske abundance of thy grace,
When wee are there: here, on this lowly ground,        40
Teach mee how to repent; for that’s as good
As if thou hadst seal’d my pardon with thy blood.
 
IV.
As due, by many titles, I resigne
Myselfe to thee, O God: first, I was made
By thee, and for thee; and when I was decay’d,        45
Thy blood bought that the which before was thine.
I am thy sonne, made with thyselfe to shine;
Thy servant, whose paines thou hast still repaid;
Thy sheepe, thine image; and, till I betray’d
Myselfe, a temple of thy Spirit divine.        50
Why doth the devil then usurpe on mee?
Why doth he steale, nay, ravish that’s thy right?
Except thou rise, and for thy own worke fight,
Oh, I shall soone despaire, when I doe see
That thou lov’st mankind well, yet wilt not chuse me;        55
And Satan hates mee, yet is loth to lose mee.
 
V.
This is my playe’s last scene; here heavens appoint
My pilgrimage’s last mile; and my race
Idly, yet quickly runne, hath this last pace,
My span’s last inch, my minute’s latest point,        60
And gluttonous death will instantly unjoynt
My body and my soule, and I shall sleepe a space;
But my ever-waking part shall see that face,
Whose feare already shakes my every joynt:
Then, as my soule to heaven, her first seate, takes flight,        65
And earth-borne body in the earth shall dwell;
So fall my sinnes, that all may have their right,
To where they are bred, and would presse mee,—to hell.
Impute me righteous; thus purged of evill;
For thus I leave the world, the flesh, the devill.        70
 
VI.
Spit in my face, you Jewes, and pierce my side;
Buffet and scoffe, scourge and crucifie mee;
For I have sinn’d, and sinn’d, and onely hee
Who could do no iniquitie hath dyed.
But by my death can not be satisfied        75
My sinnes, which passe the Jewes’ impiety.
They kill’d once an inglorious man; but I
Crucifie him daily, being now glorified.
O let mee then his strange love still admire:
Kings pardon, but he bore our punishment:        80
And Jacob came cloth’d in vile harsh attire
But to supplant, and with gainfull intent:
God cloth’d himselfe in vile man’s flesh, that so
He might be weake enough to suffer woe.
 
VII.
Death, be not proud; thou some have called thee
        85
Mighty and dreadfull, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poore Death, nor yet canst thou kill mee:
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more, must flow,        90
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe—
Rest of their bones, and soules’ deliverie.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And doth with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell;
And poppie, or charmes, can make us sleepe as well,        95
And better than thy stroake. Why swell’st thou then?
Our short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die.
 
Note 1. II. John Donne.—This celebrated poet and preacher of the reign of King James was the first and the most vigorous of that poetical school, which critics have held up to ridicule under the character of “metaphysical.” His collected poems were first published after his death, which took place in 1631, under the title of “Poems, Letters, and Elegies.” Ben Jonson predicted that Donne would perish as a poet, for want of being understood. His great offence appears to be harshness of versification; but admitting that he is frequently rugged and sometimes obscure, this once favourite writer may nevertheless be pronounced to be a true and often a delightful poet. [back]
 
 
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