Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Jacobean Poetry
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Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of King James the First.  1847.
 
Elegy
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        5
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;        10
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        15
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.        20
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        25
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.        30
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        35
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.        40
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.        45
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?        50
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:        55
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.        60
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,        65
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.        70
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.
 
 
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