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John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
 
Epicedes and Obsequies upon the Death of Sundry Personages
Death
 
LANGUAGE, thou art too narrow and too weak
To ease us now; great sorrows 1 cannot speak.
If we could sigh out accents, and weep words,
Grief wears, and lessens, that tears breath affords.
Sad hearts, the less they seem, the more they are        5
—So guiltiest men stand mutest at the bar—
Not that they know not, feel not their estate,
But extreme sense hath made them desperate.
Sorrow, to whom we owe all that we be,
Tyrant, in the fifth and greatest monarchy,        10
Was ’t that she did possess all hearts before,
Thou hast kill’d her, to make thy empire more?
Knew’st thou some would, that knew her not, lament,
As in a deluge perish th’ innocent?
Was ’t not enough to have that palace won,        15
But thou must raze it too, that was undone?
Hadst thou stay’d there, and look’d out at her eyes,
All had adored thee, that now from thee flies;
For they let out more light than they took in,
They told not when, but did the day begin.        20
She was too sapphirine and clear for thee; 2
Clay, flint, and jet now thy fit dwellings be.
Alas! she was too pure, but not too weak;
Whoe’er saw crystal ordnance but would break?
And if we be thy conquest, by her fall        25
Thou hast lost thy end; in her we perish all; 3
Or if we live, we live but to rebel,
That know her better now, who knew 4 her well.
If we should vapour out, and pine, and die,
Since she first went, that were not misery.        30
She changed our world with hers; now she is gone,
Mirth and prosperity is oppression;
For of all moral virtues she was all,
That 5 ethics speak of virtues cardinal.
Her soul was paradise; the cherubin        35
Set to keep it was grace, that kept out sin.
She had no more than let in death, for we
All reap consumption from one fruitful tree.
God took her hence, lest some of us should love
Her, like that plant, Him and His laws above;        40
And when we tears, He mercy shed in this,
To raise our minds to heaven, where now she is;
Who if her virtues would have let her stay
We had had a saint, have now a holiday.
Her heart was that strange bush, where sacred fire,        45
Religion, did not consume, but inspire
Such piety, so chaste use of God’s day,
That what we turn to feast, she turn’d to pray;
And did prefigure here, in devout taste,
The rest of her high Sabbath, 6 which shall last.        50
Angels did hand her up, who next God dwell,
For she was of that order whence most fell;
Her body’s 7 left with us, lest some had said,
She could not die, except they saw her dead;
For from less virtue, and less beauteousness,        55
The Gentiles framed them gods and goddesses.
The ravenous earth, that now woos her to be
Earth too, will be a Lemnia, and the tree
That wraps that crystal in a wooden tomb
Shall be took up spruce, fill’d with diamond.        60
And we her sad glad friends all bear a part
Of grief, for all would break a Stoic’s heart.
 
Note 1. l. 2. So 1635; 1633, sorrow [back]
Note 2. l. 21. So 1635; 1633, to thee [back]
Note 3. l. 26. So 1635; 1633, for in her perish all [back]
Note 4. l. 28. So 1635; 1633, They know … that knew [back]
Note 5. l. 34. So 1635; 1633, The [back]
Note 6. l. 50. So 1635; 1633, Sabaoth [back]
Note 7. l. 53. So 1635; 1633, body [back]
 
 
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