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that question in Ezekiel: 'Do these bones live? or, can that soul organize that tongue, to speak so long time as the sand in that glass will move towards its centre, and measure out an hour of this dying man's unspent life? Doubtless it cannot.' And yet, after some faint pauses in his zealous prayer, his strong desires enabled his weak body to discharge his memory of his preconceived meditations, which were of dying; the text being, 'To God the Lord belong the issues from death,' many that then saw his tears, and heard his faint and hollow voice, professing they thought the text prophetically chosen, and that Dr. Donne had preached his own Funeral Sermon.
Being full of joy that God had enabled him to perform this desired duty, he hastened to his house; out of which he never moved, till, like St. Stephen, he was carried by devout men to his grave.'
The next day after his sermon, his strength being much wasted, and his spirits so spent as indisposed him to business or to talk, a friend that had often been a witness of his free and facetious discourse asked him, 'Why are you sad?' To whom he replied, with a countenance so full of cheerful gravity, as gave testimony of an inward tranquillity of mind, and of a soul willing to take a farewell of this world; and said,
'I am not sad; but most of the night past I have entertained myself with many thoughts of several friends that have left me here, and are gone to that place from which they shall not return; and that within a few days I also shall go hence, and be no more seen. And my preparation for this change is become my nightly meditation upon my bed, which my infirmities have now made restless to me. But at this present time, I was in a serious contemplation of the providence and goodness of God to me; to me, who am less than the least of his mercies and looking back upon my life past, I now plainly see it was his hand that prevented me from all temporal employment; and that it was his will I should never settle nor thrive till I entered into the ministry; in which I have now lived 1 Ezek. xxxvii. 3.
almost twenty years I hope to his glory, and by which, I most humbly thank him, I have been enabled to requite most of those friends which shewed me kindness when my fortune was very low, as God knows it was: and,—as it hath occasioned the expression of my gratitude-I thank God most of them have stood in need of my requital. I have lived to be useful and comfortable to my good father-in-law, Sir George More, whose patience God hath been pleased to exercise with many temporal crosses; I have maintained my own mother, whom it hath pleased God, after a plentiful fortune in her younger days, to bring to great decay in her very old age. I have quieted the consciences of many, that have groaned under the burthen of a wounded spirit, whose prayers I hope are available for me. I cannot plead innocency of life, especially of my youth; but I am to be judged by a merciful God, who is not willing to see what I have done amiss. And though of myself I have nothing to present to him but sins and misery; yet I know he looks not upon me now as I am of myself, but as I am in my Saviour, and hath given me, even at this present time, some testimonies by his Holy Spirit, that I am of the number of his elect: I am therefore full of inexpressible joy, and shall die in peace.'
I must here look so far back, as to tell the reader that at his first return out of Essex, to preach his last sermon, his old friend and physician, Dr. Fox-a man of great worth-came to him to consult his health; and that after a sight of him, and some queries concerning his distempers, he told him, That by cordials, and drinking milk twenty days together, there was a probability of his restoration to health'; but he passionately denied to drink it. Nevertheless, Dr. Fox, who loved him most entirely, wearied him with solicitations, till he yielded to take it for ten days; at the end of which time he told Dr. Fox, 'He had drunk it more to satisfy him, than to recover his health; and that he would not drink it ten days longer, upon the best moral assurance of having twenty years added to his life; for he loved it not; and was so far
from fearing Death, which to others is the King of Terrors, that he longed for the day of his dissolution.'
It is observed, that a desire of glory or commendation is rooted in the very nature of man; and that those of the severest and most mortified lives, though they may become so humble as to banish self-flattery, and such weeds as naturally grow there; yet they have not been able to kill this desire of glory, but that like our radical heat, it will both live and die with us; and many think it should do so; and we want not sacred examples to justify the desire of having our memory to outlive our lives; which I mention, because Dr. Donne, by the persuasion of Dr. Fox, easily yielded at this very time to have a monument made for him; but Dr. Fox undertook not to persuade him how, or what monument it should be; that was left to Dr. Donne himself.
A monument being resolved upon, Dr. Donne sent for a carver to make for him in wood the figure of an urn, giving him directions for the compass and height of it; and to bring with it a board, of the just height of his body. These being got, then without delay a choice painter was got to be in readiness to draw his picture, which was taken as followeth.-Several charcoal fires being first made in his large study, he brought with him into that place his winding-sheet in his hand, and having put off all his clothes, had this sheet put on him, and so tied with knots at his head and feet, and his hands so placed as dead bodies are usually fitted, to be shrowded and put into their coffin, or grave. Upon this urn he thus stood, with his eyes shut, and with so much of the sheet turned aside as might shew his lean, pale, and death-like face, which was purposely turned towards the East, from whence he expected the second coming of his and our Saviour Jesus.' In this posture he was drawn at his just height; and when the picture was fully finished, he caused it to be set by his bed-side, where it continued and became his hourly object till his death, and was then given to his dearest friend and executor Dr. Henry King, then chief Residentiary of St. Paul's, who caused him to
be thus carved in one entire piece of white marble, as it now stands in that Church; and by Dr. Donne's own appointment, these words were to be affixed to it as an epitaph :
Sac. theol. profess. post varia studia, quibus ab annis tenerrimis fideliter, nec infeliciter incubuit; instinctu et impulsu Sp. Sancti, monitu et hortatu Regis Jacobi, ordines sacros amplexus, anno sui Jesu, MDCXIV. et suae aetatis XLII. decanatu hujus ecclesiae indutus, xXVII. Novembris, MDCXXI. exutus morte ultimo die Martii, MDCXXXI. hic licet in occiduo cinere, aspicit eum cujus nomen est oriens.
And now having brought him through the many labyrinths and perplexities of a various life, even to the gates of death and the grave; my desire is, he may rest, till I have told my Reader that I have seen many pictures of him, in several habits, and at several ages, and in several postures and I now mention this, because I have seen one picture of him, drawn by a curious hand, at his age of eighteen, with his sword, and what other adornments might then suit with the present fashions of youth and the giddy gaieties of that age; and his motto then was
How much shall I be changed,
And if that young, and his now dying picture were at this time set together, every beholder might say, Lord! how much is Dr. Donne already changed, before he is changed! And the view of them might give my reader occasion to ask himself with some amazement, 'Lord! how much may I also, that am now in health be changed before I am changed; before this vile, this changeable body shall put off mortality!' and therefore to prepare for it. But this is not writ so much for my reader's memento, as to tell him, that Dr. Donne would often in his private discourses, and often publicly in his Sermons, mention the many changes both of his body and mind;
especially of his mind from a vertiginous giddiness; and would as often say, 'His great and most blessed change was from a temporal to a spiritual employment'; in which he was so happy, that he accounted the former part of his life to be lost; and the beginning of it to be, from his first entering into Sacred Orders, and serving his most merciful God at his altar.
Upon Monday, after the drawing this picture, he took his last leave of his beloved study; and, being sensible of his hourly decay, retired himself to his bed-chamber; and that week sent at several times for many of his most considerable friends, with whom he took a solemn and deliberate farewell, commending to their considerations some sentences useful for the regulation of their lives; and then dismissed them, as good Jacob did his sons, with a spiritual benediction. The Sunday following, he appointed his servants, that if there were any business yet undone, that concerned him or themselves, it should be prepared against Saturday next; for after that day he would not mix his thoughts with any thing that concerned this world; nor ever did; but, as Job, so he waited for the appointed day of his dissolution.'
And now he was so happy as to have nothing to do but to die, to do which, he stood in need of no longer time; for he had studied it long, and to so happy a perfection, that in a former sickness he called God to witness, He was that minute ready to deliver his soul into his hands, if that minute God would determine his dissolution.' In that sickness be begged of God the constancy to be preserved in that estate for ever; and his patient expectation to have his immortal soul disrobed from her garment of mortality, makes me confident he now had a modest assurance that his prayers were then heard, and his petition granted. He lay fifteen days earnestly expecting his hourly change; and in the last hour of his last day, as his body melted away, and vapoured into spirit, his soul having, I verily believe, some revelation of the beatifical vision, he said, 'I were miser
1In his Book of Devotions written then.