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John Donne was born in London, in 1573. He entered Hertford College at the early age of eleven, and became a youthful prodigy of learning. Donne, who had been bred a Catholic, early in life, on sincere conviction, renounced that faith, and became a Protestant minister; he obtained the favour of King James the First, and died Dean of St. Paul's, in 1631.
Without being in the strictest sense of the word a sacred poet, Donne is one of those writers who have shown their reverence of religion with the warmth and sincerity of genuine feeling. He is frequently rugged and obscure, yet he displays a depth of sentiment and an originality of thought, which contain the germs of true poetry.
Thou 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,
Despair behind, and death before, doth cast
Such terror, and my feeble flesh doth waste
By thy leave I can look, I rise again;
That not one hour myself I can sustain;
This is my play's last scene; here heavens appoint
My pilgrimage's last mile; and my race
Idly yet quickly run, hath this last pace; My span's last inch, my minute's latest point; And gluttonous death will instantly unjoint
My body and my soul, and I shall sleep a space;
But my ever-waking part shall see that face Whose fear already shakes my every joint: Then as my soul, to heaven, her first seat, takes flight,
And earth-born body, in the earth shall dwell, So fall my sins, that all may have their right,
To where they're bred, and would press me to hell. Impute me righteous, thus purged of evil, For thus I leave the world, the flesh, the devil.
At the round earth's imagined corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, your numberless infinities
All whom war, death, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law, chance, hath slain, and you whose eyes Shall behold God, and never taste death's woe: But let them sleep, Lord, and me moum'a space;
For if above all these my sins abound, 'Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace
When we are there; here, on this lowly ground,
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so ;
For those whom thou thinkest thou dost overthrow, Die not, poor Death ; nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy picture be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow:
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And better, than thy stroke; why swellest thou then?
VENGEANCE will sit above our faults; but till
She there do sit
We suffer it.
Unhappy he whom youth makes not beware
Of doing ill:
The greater still.
Yet we, that should the ill we now begin
As soon repent, (Strange thing!) perceive not; our faults are not seen, But past us; neither felt, but only in
But we know ourselves least; mere outward shows
Our minds so store,
Himself, knows more.
HYMN TO CHRIST.
AT THE AUTHOR'S LAST GOING INTO GERMANY.
In what torn ship soever I embark,
They never will despise.
I sacrifice this island unto Thee
Of true love, I may know.
Not Thou nor thy religion, dost control
Alas! Thou lovest not me.
Seal, then, this bill of my divorce to all
An everlasting night.
HYMN TO GOD, MY GOD.
SINCE I am coming to that holy room
Where with the choir of saints for evermore
I tune the instrument here at the door,
Whilst my physicians by their love are grown
Cosmographers and I their map, who lie
That this is my south-west discovery,
I joy that in these straits I see my west;
For though those currents yield return to none,
In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,
We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ's cross and Adam's tree, stood in one place,
As the first Adam's sweat surrounds my face,
So in his purple wrapped receive me, Lord
By these his thorns give me his holy crown,
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own;