Poems by John Donne


STAY O sweet and do not rise! 
The light that shines comes from thine eyes; 
The day breaks not: it is my heart  
Because that you and I must part. 
Stay! or else my joys will die 5 
And perish in their infancy. 


GO and catch a falling star, 
Get with child a mandrake root, 
Tell me where all past years are, 
Or who cleft the Devil's foot; 
Teach me to hear mermaids singing, 5 
Or to keep off envy's stinging, 
And find 
What wind 
Serves to advance an honest mind. 

If thou be'st born to strange sights, 10 
Things invisible to see, 
Ride ten thousand days and nights 
Till Age snow white hairs on thee; 
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me 
All strange wonders that befell thee, 15 
And swear 
No where 
Lives a woman true and fair. 

If thou find'st one, let me know; 
Such a pilgrimage were sweet. 20 
Yet do not; I would not go, 
Though at next door we might meet. 
Though she were true when you met her, 
And last till you write your letter, 
Yet she 25 
Will be 
False, ere I come, to two or three. 

That Time and Absence proves 
Rather helps than hurts to loves

ABSENCE hear thou my protestation 
Against thy strength  
Distance and length: 
Do what thou canst for alteration  
For hearts of truest mettle 5 
Absence doth join and Time doth settle. 

Who loves a mistress of such quality  
His mind hath found 
Affection's ground 
Beyond time place and all mortality. 10 
To hearts that cannot vary 
Absence is present Time doth tarry. 

My senses want their outward motion 
Which now within 
Reason doth win 15 
Redoubled by her secret notion: 
Like rich men that take pleasure 
In hiding more than handling treasure. 

By Absence this good means I gain  
That I can catch her 20 
Where none can watch her  
In some close corner of my brain: 
There I embrace and kiss her  
And so enjoy her and none miss her. 

The Ecstasy

WHERE like a pillow on a bed  
A pregnant bank swell'd up to rest 
The violet's reclining head  
Sat we two one another's best. 

Our hands were firmly cèmented 5 
By a fast balm which thence did spring; 
Our eye-beams twisted and did thread 
Our eyes upon one double string. 

So to engraft 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 their 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 

The Dream

DEAR love for nothing less than thee 
Would I have broke this happy dream; 
It was a theme 
For reason much too strong for fantasy. 
Therefore thou waked'st me wisely; yet 5 
My dream thou brok'st not but continued'st it. 
Thou art so true that thoughts of thee suffice 
To make dreams truths and fables histories; 
Enter these arms for since thou thought'st it best 
Not to dream all my dream let 's act the rest. 10 

As lightning or a taper's light  
Thine eyes and not thy noise waked me; 
Yet I thought thee— 
For thou lov'st truth—an angel at first sight; 
But when I saw thou saw'st my heart 15 
And knew'st my thoughts beyond an angel's art  
When thou knew'st what I dreamt when thou knew'st when 
Excess of joy would wake me and cam'st then  
I must confess it could not choose but be 
Profane to think thee anything but thee. 20 

Coming and staying show'd thee thee  
But rising makes me doubt that now 
Thou art not thou. 
That Love is weak where Fear 's as strong as he; 
'Tis not all spirit pure and brave 25 
If mixture it of Fear Shame Honour have. 
Perchance as torches which must ready be  
Men light and put out so thou deal'st with me. 
Thou cam'st to kindle go'st to come: then I 
Will dream that hope again but else would die. 30 

The Funeral

WHOEVER comes to shroud me do not harm 
Nor question much 
That subtle wreath of hair about mine arm; 
The mystery the sign you must not touch  
For 'tis my outward soul 5 
Viceroy to that which unto heav'n being gone  
Will leave this to control 
And keep these limbs her provinces from dissolution. 

For if the sinewy thread my brain lets fall 
Through every part 10 
Can tie those parts and make me one of all; 
Those hairs which upward grew and strength and art 
Have from a better brain  
Can better do 't: except she meant that I 
By this should know my pain 15 
As prisoners then are manacled when they're condemn'd to die. 

Whate'er she meant by 't bury it with me  
For since I am 
Love's martyr it might breed idolatry 
If into other hands these reliques came. 20 
As 'twas humility 
T' afford to it all that a soul can do  
So 'tis some bravery 
That since you would have none of me I bury some of you.

A Hymn to God the Father

WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun  
Which was my sin though it were done before? 
Wilt Thou forgive that sin through which I run  
And do run still though still I do deplore? 
When Thou hast done Thou hast not done; 5 
For I have more. 

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won 
Others to sin and made my sins their door? 
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun 
A year or two but wallow'd in a score? 10 
When Thou hast done Thou hast not done; 
For I have more. 

I have a sin of fear that when I've spun 
My last thread I shall perish on the shore; 
But swear by Thyself that at my death Thy Son 15 
Shall shine as He shines now and heretofore: 
And having done that Thou hast done; 
I fear no more. 


DEATH be not proud though some have callèd thee 
Mighty and dreadful for thou art not so: 
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow 
Die not poor Death; nor yet canst thou kill me. 
From Rest and Sleep which but thy picture be 5 
Much pleasure then from thee much more must flow; 
And soonest our best men with thee do go— 
Rest of their bones and souls' delivery! 
Thou'rt slave to fate chance kings and desperate men  
And dost with poison war and sickness dwell; 10 
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well 
And better than thy stroke. Why swell'st thou then? 
One short sleep past we wake eternally  
And Death shall be no more: Death thou shalt die!

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