Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
Elegy on Mistress Elizabeth Drury
By John Donne (1572–1631)
 
(See full text.)

SHE, of whose soul, if we may say, ’twas gold,
Her body was the Electrum, and did hold
Many degrees of that; we understood
Her by her sight; her pure and eloquent blood
Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought,        5
That one might almost say, her body thought.
She, she thus richly, largely housed, is gone,
And chides us slow-paced snails who crawl upon
Our prison’s prison, Earth, nor think us well
Longer than whilst we bear our little shell.
*        *        *        *        *
        10
What hope have we to know ourselves, when we
Know not the least things which for our use be?
What Cæsar did, yea, and what Cicero said,
Why grass is green, or why our blood is red,
Are mysteries which none have reached unto;        15
In this low form, poor soul, what wilt thou do?
O when wilt thou shake off this pedantry
Of being caught by sense and fantasy?
Thou look’st through spectacles; small things seem great
Below; but up into the watch-tower get,        20
And see all things despoiled of fallacies;
Thou shalt not peep through lattices of eyes,
Nor hear through labyrinths of ears, nor learn
By circuit or collections to discern;
In heaven then straight know’st all concerning it,        25
And what concerns it not, shall straight forget.
There thou but in no other school mayst be
Perchance as learned and as full as she;
She, who all libraries had thoroughly read
At home in her own thoughts, and practisèd        30
So much good as would make as many more.
*        *        *        *        *
Up, up, my drowsy soul! where thy new ear
Shall in the angels’ songs no discord hear;
Where thou shalt see the blessed Mother-maid
Joy in not being that which men have said;        35
Where she’s exalted more for being good,
Than for her interest of Motherhood:
Up to those Patriarchs, who did longer sit
Expecting Christ, than they’ve enjoyed him yet:
Up to those Prophets, who now gladly see        40
Their prophecies grown to be history:
Up to the Apostles, who did bravely run
All the sun’s course, with more light than the sun:
Up to those Martyrs, who did calmly bleed
Oil to the Apostles’ lamps, dew to their seed:        45
Up to those Virgins, who thought that almost
They made joint-tenants with the Holy Ghost,
If they to any should his Temple give:
Up, up, for in that squadron there doth live
She who hath carried thither new degrees,        50
(As to their number,) to their dignities.
*        *        *        *        *
She whom we celebrate is gone before:
She who had here so much essential joy,
As no chance could distract, much less destroy;
Who with God’s presence was acquainted so,        55
(Hearing and speaking to him,) as to know
His face in any natural stone or tree
Better than when in images they be:
Who kept by diligent devotion
God’s image in such reparation        60
Within her heart, that what decay was grown
Was her first Parent’s fault, and not her own:
Who, being solicited to any act,
Still heard God pleading his safe pre-contract:
Who, by a faithful confidence was here        65
Betrothed to God, and now is married there:
Whose twilights were more clear than our mid-day;
Who dreamed devoutlier than most use to pray:
Who being here filled with grace, yet strove to be
Both where more grace and more capacity        70
At once is given. She to Heaven is gone,
Who made this world in some proportion
A Heaven, and here became unto us all
Joy, (as our joys admit,) essential.
 
 
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