Home  »  Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse  »  Four Sonnets: I. “Thou hast made me, and shall Thy work decay?”

Henry Charles Beeching, ed. (1859–1919). Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse. 1903.

By John Donne (1573–1631)

Four Sonnets: I. “Thou hast made me, and shall Thy work decay?”

THOU 1 hast made me, and shall Thy work decay?
  Repair me now, for now mine end doth haste;
  I run to Death, and Death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday.
I dare not move my dim eyes any way,        5
  Despair behind and Death before doth cast
  Such terror, and my feeble flesh doth waste
By sin in it, which it towards Hell doth weigh.
Only Thou art above, and when towards Thee
  By Thy leave I can look, I rise again;        10
But our old subtle foe so tempteth me,
  That not one hour myself I can sustain.
Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art,
And Thou like adamant 2 draw mine iron heart.
Note 1. Donne’s memory is preserved to this generation more by Walton’s Life than by his own writings, though these will never lack a few devoted admirers. Among the fragments preserved by Drummond of Ben Jonson’s talk are one or two judgments about Donne which are worth quoting:—“He esteemeth John Donne the first poet in the world in some things … that Donne for not keeping of accent deserved hanging … that Donne himself, for not being understood, would perish.” There is a characteristic flavour about everything Donne wrote, but there are very few pieces on which one would care to stake his reputation; commonly either the thought bolts round the corner after some conceit, or the verse grows halting. Perhaps his most perfect religious piece is the “Hymn to God the Father” here quoted. The reader, however, who studies Donne attentively will not lose or regret his labour; the thought is worth digging for, and the expression, if recondite, often singularly telling and beautiful. [back]
Note 2. Magnet. [back]