Sunday, February 13, 2011

Poetry: John Donne - The Good-Morrow

John Donne
January 21, 1572 - March 31, 1631

John Donne was an English poet, priest and a major representative of the Elizabethan era's metaphysical poets. He left behind a large body of works known for their sensual and realistic style. They include sonnets, religious poems, love poetry, epigrams, elegies, songs, satires, Latin translations and sermons.

Among his works are the much admired Divine Poems which include the Holy Sonnets. As a matter of fact I've featured the last lines of Holy Sonnets No. 14 at the very bottom of my blog for a while now as it is a favorite line. Here it is:
"Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me."
However, apart from the religious, as mentioned above Donne also left behind sensual, erotic works and yes... some love poetry that I enjoy as well. Among these other works are his Marriage Songs or Epithalamions. Of those, today I'll recommend reading the very appropriate An Epithalamion, Or Marriage Song on The Lady Elizabeth and Count Palatine Being Married on St. Valentine's Day.

From his elegies, Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed is one of his most erotic pieces. His use of metaphors and subject matter in this elegy have been analyzed often, as well as highly criticized throughout the centuries. I could and would do a post on this elegy but today is not that time. There is just so much to discuss: the use of imperatives, the mistress and the lover, the metaphors, allusions to religion and sex in the same piece during Elizabethan times, etc., but for now just read lines 25 - 32 for a taste of this elegy.

"License my roving hands, and let them go,
Behind, before, above, between, below.

O my America! my new-found-land,
my kingdom, safeliest when with one man man'd,
My mine of precious stone: my emperie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.

Having given you a taste of the religious and the erotic, it is time for some romance. Donne also wrote love poetry. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and since I've been reading different types of poetry or poetry-related essays lately, today I would like to leave you with a beautiful Elizabethan love poem by John Donne, The Good-Morrow. Enjoy!

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The Good-Morrow

I WONDER by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved ? were we not wean'd till then?
But suck'd on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers' den?
'Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown;
Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mix'd equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.

by John Donne

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3 comments:

  1. Wow! that was awesome. I had heard of him but never actually read one of his poems. :) thanks for sharing them.

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  2. That was amazing - thank you Hilcia! I do find it interesting that this poet wrote religious poems, love poetry and satires, among others. They all seem...so divergent :)

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  3. Alex, I'm so glad you enjoyed these snippets and the poem. He's someone whose work I love to both study and enjoy. :)

    Orannia, Donne was such a prolific and talented writer. It's amazing the amount of works he left behind for posterity.

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