Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
The Ecstasy
By John Donne (1572–1631)
WHERE, like a pillow on a bed,
  A pregnant bank swelled up to rest
The violet’s declining head,
  Sate we on one another’s breast.
Our hands were firmly cemented        5
  By a fast balm which thence did spring,
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
  Our eyes upon one double string,
So to ingraft our hands as yet
  Was all the means to make us one,        10
And pictures in our eyes to get
  Was all our propagation.
As ’twixt two equal armies Fate
  Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls (which to advance our state        15
  Were gone out) hung ’twixt her and me.
And whilst our souls negotiate there,
  We like sepulchral statues lay:
All day the same our postures were,
  And we said nothing all the day.        20
If any, so by love refined,
  That he soul’s language understood,
And by good love were grown all mind,
  Within convenient distance stood,
He, (though he knew not which soul spoke,        25
  Because both meant, both spoke the same,)
Might thence a new concoction take,
  And part far purer than he came.
This ecstasy doth unperplex,
  We said, and tell us what we love;        30
We see by this it was not sex,
  We see, we saw not what did move:
But as all several souls contain
  Mixture of things they know not what,
Love these mixed souls doth mix again,        35
  And makes both one, each this and that.
A single violet transplant,
  The strength, the color, and the size
(All which before was poor and scant,)
  Redoubles still and multiplies.        40
When love with one another so
  Interanimates two souls,
That abler soul which thence doth flow
  Defects of loveliness controls.
We then, who are this new soul, know        45
Of what we are composed and made:
  For the atoms of which we grow
Are soul, whom no change can invade.
  But, O alas! so long, so far
Our bodies why do we forbear?        50
  They are ours, though not we. We are
The Intelligences, they the spheres:
  We owe them thanks, because they thus
Did us to us at first convey,
  Yielded their sense’s force to us,        55
Nor are dross to us, but allay.
  On man Heaven’s influence works not so,
But that it first imprints the Air;
  For soul into the soul may flow,
Though it to body first repair.        60
  As our blood labors to beget
Spirits as like souls as it can,
  Because such fingers need to knit
That subtile knot which makes us man:
  So must pure lovers’ souls descend        65
To affections and to faculties,
  Which sense may reach and apprehend;
  Else a great Prince in prison lies.
To our bodies turn we then, and so
  Weak men on love revealed may look;        70
Love’s mysteries in souls do grow,
  But yet the body is the book,
And if some lover such as we
  Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still mark us, he shall see        75
  Small change when we’re to bodies grown.

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