A Valediction: of Weeping

          Let me powre forth
My teares before thy face, whil’st I stay here,
For thy face coines them, and thy stampe they beare,
And by this Mintage they are something worth,
          For thus they bee
          Pregnant of thee;
Fruits of much grief they are, emblemes of more,
When a teare falls, that thou falls which it bore,
So thou and I are nothing then, when on a divers shore.

          On a round ball
A workeman that hath copies by, can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia,
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All:
          So doth each teare,
          Which thee doth weare.
A globe, yea world by that impression grow,
Till thy teares mixt with mine doe overflow
This world, by waters sent from thee, my heaven dissolved so.

          O more than Moone,
Draw not up seas to drowne me in thy spheare,
Weepe me not dead, in thine armes, but forbeare
To teache the sea, what it may doe too soone;
          Let not the winde
          Example finde,
To doe me more harme, than it purposeth;
Since thou and I sigh one anothers breath,
Who e’r sighes most, is cruellest, and hastes the others death.

John Donne, 1633


  1. You couldn’t know this, but Donne is my very favorite of the Metaphysical Poets. Correction, one of my favorite poets of any period.

  2. Many years ago I listened to a Catholic acquaintance list with glee their acquisitions from Anglicanism. Newman, Manning, Knox, Hopkins, Chesterton… the list felt endless. “Ah, yes,” I said when he finally finished, “but we got Donne.”

  3. Steve, he’s quite the poet, isn’t he? I’m always amazed by his technical perfection, which he, like all good poets, makes look effortless. Perhaps, for him, it was.

    Margi, I’d add Christina Rossetti to the Anglican list. This only means, as we already know, that God is merciful, and didn’t deprive the Anglicans wholly of beauty. And the music. And the churches they stole. But best not start on that latter….

    What I do love about Donne and Herbert in particular (who are the only two I’m at all familiar with of the Metaphysical Poets) is that they need not necessarily be Anglican. The doctrinal issues don’t intrude. Thankfully!

    You might get a kick out of these: I “updated” the introductions to the Douai-Rheims Old Testament and New Testament. They contain some interesting interaction with contemporary Protestant polemic.

  4. There’s something about what was Anglicanism that lends itself to it somehow but, yes, you are absolutely right, it is no necessity. Christina Rossetti, of course, didn’t convert although she is my other favourite poet besides Donne and Hopkins. I’m not sure if her sister, Maria, who became a nun and whom Dante infamously described as looking “like something between an umbrella and a coal-scuttle” did or not. I just had to say something, however, to the Catholic chap (who was well-known for confusing waitresses by ordering a latte without the coffee) because there is something daunting about his list of conquests. It did me no good, however, as he loathed Donne. No sensuality, no caffeine, must have been a Jansenist 🙂

  5. Steve said what I would’ve [but far more elouently]. I am forever indebted to my English teacher of Yrs 11 and 12 [final years in Oz] who, seeing my distaste of the poet we were studying in class, asked if I’d be willing to stay after class and study someone called “John Donne”. The start of a love affair with his works…

  6. You were lucky, Ian! I had to find him all on my lonesome. Yes, there had been the obligatory poems in the English Literature classes in junior high and high school, but how are we supposed to come to appreciate those when we don’t get to keep the books? I wasn’t fortunate enough to have any teachers who instilled any great love of literature until a particularly interesting man in junior college led (taught is a bit much) a modern fiction class. After that, I felt as though I were catching up, reading things that I thought (though I’m likely mistaken) that all other people have read. Or at least all civilized people. I’m still catching up! Augh!

  7. Oh — believe you me Kevin: I am the least well-read person on earth. Still catching up, slowly, too. But I am thankful for Mr Brennan.

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