Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
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John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
 
Epithalamions, or Marriage Songs
Eclogue: at the Marriage of the Earl of Somerset
 
1613, December 26.
Allophanes finding Idios in the country in Christmas time, reprehends his absence from court, at the marriage of the Earl of Somerset; Idios gives an account of his purpose therein, and of his actions there. 1

  ALLOPHANES.
UNSEASONABLE man, statue of ice,
What could to country’s solitude entice
Thee, in this year’s cold and decrepit time?
Nature’s instinct draws to the warmer clime
Even smaller 2 birds, who by that courage dare        5
In numerous fleets sail through their sea, the air.
What delicacy can in fields appear,
Whilst Flora herself doth a frieze jerkin wear?
Whilst winds do all the trees and hedges strip
Of leaves, to furnish rods enough to whip        10
Thy madness from thee, and all springs by frost
Have 3 taken cold, and their sweet murmurs lost?
If thou thy faults or fortunes wouldst lament
With just solemnity, do it in Lent.
At court the spring already advanced is,        15
The sun stays longer up; and yet not his
The glory is; far other, other fires.
First, zeal to prince and state, then love’s desires
Burn in one breast, and like heaven’s two great lights,
The first doth govern days, the other, nights.        20
And then that early light which did appear
Before the sun and moon created were,
The prince’s favour, is diffused o’er all,
From which all fortunes, names, and natures fall.
Then from those wombs of stars, the bride’s bright eyes,        25
At every glance, a constellation flies,
And sows the court with stars, and doth prevent
In light and power, the all-eyed firmament.
First her eyes kindle 4 other ladies’ eyes,
Then from their beams their jewels’ lustres rise,        30
And from their jewels torches do take fire,
And all is warmth, and light, and good desire.
Most other courts, alas! are like to hell,
Where in dark places, 5 fire without light doth dwell;
Or but like stoves; for lust and envy get        35
Continual, but artificial heat.
Here zeal and love grown one all clouds digest,
And make our court an everlasting east.
And canst thou be from thence?

  IDIOS.                No, I am there;
As heaven—to men disposed—is everywhere,        40
So are those courts, whose princes animate
Not only all their house but all their state.
Let no man think, because he’s full, he hath all.
Kings—as their pattern, God—are liberal
Not only in fullness, but capacity,        45
Enlarging narrow men to feel and see,
And comprehend the blessings they bestow.
So, reclused hermits oftentimes do know
More of heaven’s glory than a worldling can.
As man is of the world, the heart of man        50
Is an epitome of God’s great book
Of creatures, and man need no farther look;
So is the country of courts, where sweet peace doth,
As their own common soul, give life to both;
And am I then from court? 6

  ALLOPHANES.            Dreamer, thou art:
        55
Think’st thou, fantastic, that thou hast a part
In the Indian fleet, because thou hast
A little spice or amber in thy taste?
Because thou art not frozen, art thou warm?
Seest thou all good, because thou seest no harm?        60
The earth doth in her inner bowels hold
Stuff well-disposed, and which would fain be gold;
But never shall, except it chance to lie
So upward, that heaven gild it with his eye.
As, for divine things, faith comes from above,        65
So, for best civil use, all tinctures move
From higher powers; from God religion springs,
Wisdom and honour from the use of kings:
Then unbeguile thyself, and know with me,
That angels, though on earth employ’d they be,        70
Are still in heaven, so he is still at home
That doth abroad to honest actions come.
Chide thyself then, O fool, which yesterday
Mightst have read more than all thy books bewray;
Hast thou a history, which doth present        75
A court, where all affections do assent
Unto the king’s, and that that king’s are just;
And where it is no levity to trust;
Where there is no ambition, but to obey;
Where men need whisper nothing, and yet may;        80
Where the king’s favours are so placed, that all
Find that the king therein is liberal
To them, in him, because his favours bend
To virtue, to the which they all pretend?
Thou hast no such; yet here was this, and more.        85
An earnest lover, wise then, and before,
Our little Cupid hath sued livery,
And is no more in his minority;
He is admitted now into that breast
Where the king’s counsels and his secrets rest.        90
What hast thou lost, O ignorant man?

  IDIOS.                I knew
All this, and only therefore I withdrew.
To know and feel all this, and not to have
Words to express it, makes a man a grave
Of his own thoughts; I would not therefore stay        95
At a great feast, having no grace to say.
And yet I ’scaped not here; for being come,
Full of the common joy, I utter’d some.
Read then this nuptial song, which was not made
Either the court or men’s hearts to invade;        100
But since I’m dead and buried, I could frame
No epitaph, which might advance my fame
So much as this poor song, which testifies
I did unto that day some sacrifice.
 
I.
THE TIME OF THE MARRIAGE
Thou art reprieved, old year, thou shalt not die;
        105
    Though thou upon thy death-bed lie,
    And should’st within five days expire,
Yet thou art rescued by 7 a mightier fire,
    Than thy old soul, the sun,
When he doth in his largest circle run.        110
The passage of the west or east would thaw,
And open wide their easy liquid jaw
To all our ships, could a Promethean art
Either unto the northern pole impart
The fire of these inflaming eyes, or of this loving heart.        115
 
II.
EQUALITY OF PERSONS
But undiscerning Muse, which heart, which eyes,
    In this new couple, dost thou prize,
    When his eye as inflaming is
As hers, and her heart loves as well as his?
    Be tried by beauty, and then        120
The bridegroom is a maid, and not a man;
If by that manly courage they be tried,
Which scorns unjust opinion; then the bride
Becomes a man. Should chance or envy’s art
Divide these two, whom nature scarce did part,        125
Since both have the inflaming eye, and both the loving heart?
 
III.
RAISING OF THE BRIDEGROOM
Though it be some divorce to think of you
      Single, so much one are you two,
      Let me here contemplate thee,
First, cheerful bridegroom, and first let me see,        130
      How thou prevent’st the sun,
And his red foaming horses dost outrun;
How, having laid down in thy Sovereign’s breast
All businesses, from thence to reinvest
Them when these triumphs cease, thou forward art        135
To show to her, who doth the like impart,
The fire of thy inflaming eyes, and of thy loving heart.
 
IV.
RAISING OF THE BRIDE
But now to thee, fair bride, it is some wrong,
      To think thou wert in bed so long.
      Since soon thou liest down first, ’tis fit        140
Thou in first rising shouldst allow for it.
      Powder thy radiant hair,
Which if without such ashes thou wouldst wear,
Thou which, to all which come to look upon,
Wert meant for Phœbus, wouldst be Phaëton.        145
For our ease, give thine eyes th’ unusual part
Of joy, a tear; so quench’d, thou mayst impart,
To us that come, thy inflaming eyes; to him, thy loving heart.
 
V.
HER APPARELLING
Thus thou descend’st to our infirmity,
      Who can the sun in water 8 see.        150
      So dost thou, when in silk and gold
Thou cloud’st thyself; since we which do behold
      Are dust and worms, ’tis just,
Our objects be the fruits of worms and dust.
Let every jewel be a glorious star,        155
Yet stars are not so pure as their spheres are;
And though thou stoop, to appear to us, in part,
Still in that picture thou entirely art,
Which thy inflaming eyes have made within his loving heart.
 
VI.
GOING TO THE CHAPEL
Now from your easts you issue forth, and we,
        160
      As men, which through a cypress see
      The rising sun, do think it two;
So, as you go to church, do think of you;
      But that veil being gone,
By the church rites you are from thenceforth one.        165
The church triumphant made this match before,
And now the militant doth strive no more.
Then, reverend priest, who God’s Recorder art,
Do, from his dictates, to these two impart
All blessings which are seen, or thought, by angel’s eye or heart.        170
 
VII.
THE BENEDICTION
Blest pair of swans, O may you interbring
      Daily new joys, and never sing;
      Live, till all grounds of wishes fail,
Till honour, yea, till wisdom grow so stale,
      That new great heights to try,        175
It must serve your ambition, to die;
Raise heirs, and may here, to the world’s end, live
Heirs from this king, to take thanks, you, to give.
Nature and grace do all, and nothing art;
May never age or error overthwart        180
With any west these radiant eyes, with any north this heart.
 
VIII.
FEASTS AND REVELS
But you are over-blest. Plenty this day
      Injures; it causeth time to stay;
      The tables groan, as though this feast
Would, as the flood, destroy all fowl and beast.        185
      And were the doctrine new
That the earth moved, this day would make it true;
For every part to dance and revel goes,
They tread the air, and fall not where they rose.
Though six hours since the sun to bed did part,        190
The masks and banquets will not yet impart
A sunset to these weary eyes, a centre to this heart.
 
IX.
THE BRIDE’S GOING TO BED
What mean’st thou, bride, this company to keep?
      To sit up, till thou fain wouldst sleep?
      Thou mayst not, when thou’rt laid, do so;        195
Thyself must to him a new banquet grow;
      And you must entertain
And do all this day’s dances o’er again.
Know that if sun and moon together do
Rise in one point, they do not set so too.        200
Therefore thou mayst, fair bride, to bed depart;
Thou art not gone, being gone; where’er thou art,
Thou leavest in him thy watchful eyes, in him thy loving heart.
 
X.
THE BRIDEGROOM’S COMING
As he that sees a star fall, runs apace,
      And finds a jelly in the place,        205
      So doth the bridegroom haste as much,
Being told this star is fallen, and finds her such.
      And as friends may look strange,
By a new fashion, or apparel’s change,
Their souls, though long acquainted they had been,        210
These clothes, their bodies, never yet had seen.
Therefore at first she modestly might start,
But must forthwith surrender every part,
As freely as each to each before gave either eye or heart.
 
XI.
THE GOOD-NIGHT
Now, as in Tullia’s tomb, one lamp burnt clear,
        215
      Unchanged for fifteen hundred year,
      May these love-lamps we here enshrine,
In warmth, light, lasting, equal the divine.
      Fire ever doth aspire,
And makes all like itself, turns all to fire,        220
But ends in ashes; which these cannot do,
For none of these is fuel, but fire too.
This is joy’s bonfire, then, where love’s strong arts
Make of so noble individual parts
One fire of four inflaming eyes, and of two loving hearts.        225
 
  IDIOS.  As I have brought this song, that I may do
A perfect sacrifice, I’ll burn it too.
 
  ALLOPHANES.  No, sir. This paper I have justly got,
For, in burnt incense, the perfume is not
His only that presents it, but of all;        230
Whatever celebrates this festival
Is common, since the joy thereof is so.
Nor may yourself be priest; but let me go
Back to the court, and I will lay it upon
Such altars, as prize your devotion.        235
 
Note 1. So 1635; 1633, absence thence [back]
Note 2. l. 5. So 1635; 1633, Even small [back]
Note 3. l. 12. 1635, Having [back]
Note 4. l. 29. So 1635; 1633, kindles [back]
Note 5. l. 34. 1635, dark plots [back]
Note 6. l. 55. So 1635; 1633, I am not then from court [back]
Note 7. l. 108. 1635, from [back]
Note 8. l. 150. Addl. MS. 18,647, in winter [back]
 
 
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