Edward Farr, ed. Select Poetry of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. 1845.


II. John Donne

DEATH, I recant, and say, unsaid by mee,

Whatere hath slip’d that might diminish thee.

Spiritual treason, atheisme, ’tis to say

That any can thy summons disobey.

Th’ earth’s face is but thy table: there are set

Plants, cattell, men, dishes for Death to eate.

In a rude hunger now hee millions drawes

Into his bloody, or plaguy, or starv’d jawes.

Now hee will seeme to spare, and doth more wast,

Eating the best first, well preserved to last;

Now wantonly he spoiles and eates us not,

But breakes off friends, and lets us peecemeale rot.

Nor will this earth serve him: he sinkes the deepe,

Where harmlesse fish monastique silence keepe.

Who (were Death dead) by roes of living sand

Might spunge that element, and make it land.

He rounds the aire, and breakes the hymnique notes

In birds, heaven’s choristers, organique throats;

Which, if they did not dye, might seeme to bee

A tenth ranke in the heavenly hierarchie.

O strong and long-lived death, how cam’st thou in?

And how without creation didst begin?

Thou hast, and shalt see dead, before thou dyest,

All the foure monarchies, and antichrist.

How could I thinke thee nothing, that see now

In all this All, nothing else is but thou?

Our births and life, vices and vertues, bee

Wastefull consumptions, and degrees of thee.

For we, to live, our bellows wear, and breath,

Nor are wee mortall, dying, dead, but death.

And thou, thou beest, O mighty bird of prey,

So much reclaim’d by God, that thou must lay

All that thou kill’st at his feet, yet doth hee

Reserve but few, and leaves the most to thee;

And of those few, now thou hast overthrowne

One whom thy blow makes, not ours, nor thine own.

She was more stories high: hopelesse to come

To her soule, thou hast offer’d at her lower roome.

Her soule and body was a king and court;

But thou hast both of captaine mist and fort.

As houses fall not, though the king remove,

Bodies of saints rest for their soules above.

Death gets ’twixt soules and bodies such a place

As sin insinuates ’twixt just men and grace:

Both worke a separation, no divorce.

Her soule is gone to usher up her corse,

Which shall be almost another soule; for there

Bodies are purer than best soules are here.

Because in her her virtues did outgoe

Her yeares, wouldst thou, O emulous death, do so?

And kill her young, to thy losse? Must the cost

Of beauty and wit, apt to doe harme, be lost?

What, though thou found’st her proofe ’gainst sinnes of youth?

Oh every age a diverse sinne pursueth.

Thou shouldst have stay’d, and taken better hold:

Shortly ambitious; covetous, when old,

She might have prov’d; and such devotion

Might once have strayed to superstition.

If all her vertues must have growne, yet might

Abundant vertue have bred a proud delight.

Had she perséver’d just, there would have bin

Some that would sinne, misthinking she did sinne;

Such as would call her friendship love, and faine

To sociablenesse a name profane.

Or sinne by tempting, or, not daring that,

By wishing, though they never told her what.

Thus might’st thou have slain more soules, hadst thou not crost

Thyselfe, and, to triumph, thine army lost.

Yet, though these wayes be lost, thou hast left one,

Which is immoderate griefe that she is gone.

But we may ’scape that sinne, yet weepe as much;

Our teares are due because we are not such.

Some teares that knot of friends her death must cost,

Because the chaine is broke, but no linke lost.