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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 he 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, that 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 miserable if I might not die;" and after those words, closed many periods of his faint breath by saying often, “ Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” His speech, which had long been his ready and faithful servant, left him not till the last minute of his life, and then forsook him, not to serve another master—for who speaks like him,—but died before him; for that it was then become useless to him, that now conversed with God on Earth, as Angels are said to do in Heaven, only by thoughts and looks. Being speechless, and seeing Heaven by that illumination by which he saw it, he did, as St. Stephen,
66 look stedfastly into it, till he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God his Father;" and being satisfied with this blessed sight, as his soul ascended, and his last breath departed from him, he closed his own eyes, and then disposed his hands and body into such a posture, as required not the least alteration by those that came to shroud him.
Thus variable, thus virtuous was the life: thus excellent, thus exemplary was the death of this memorable man.
He was buried in that place of St. Paul's Church, which he had appointed for that use some years before his death; and by which he passed daily to pay his public devotions to Almighty Godwho was then served twice a day by a public form of prayer
and praises in that place :—but he was not buried privately, though
* In his Book of Devotions written then.
he desired it; for, beside an unnumbered number of others, many persons of Nobility, and of eminence for Learning, who did love and honour him in his life, did shew it at his death, by a volun. tary and sad attendance of his body to the grave, where nothing was so remarkable as a public sorrow.
To which place of his burial some mournful friend repaired, and, as Alexander the Great did to the grave of the famous Achilles, so they strewed his with an abundance of curious and costly flowers; which course, they,—who were never yet known, -continued morning and evening for many days, not ceasing, till the stones, that were taken up in that Church, to give his body admission into the cold earth—now his bed of rest,—were again by the Mason's art so levelled and firmed as they had been formerly, and his place of burial undistinguishable to common view.
The next day after his burial, some unknown friend, some one of the many lovers and admirers of his Virtue and Learning, writ this Epitaph with a coal on the wall over his grave :-
Reader ! I am to let thee know,
Nor was this all the honour done to his reverend ashes; for, as there be some persons that will not receive a reward for that for which God accounts himself a debtor; persons that dare trust God with their charity, and without a witness ; so there was by some grateful unknown friend, that thought Dr. Donne's memory ought to be perpetuated, an hundred marks sent to his faithful friends* and Executors, towards the making of his Monument. It was not for many years known by whom; but, after the death of Dr. Fox, it was known that it was he that sent it; and he lived to see as lively a representation of his dead friend, as marble can express : a statue indeed so like Dr. Donne, that—as his friend Sir Henry Wotton hath expressed himself,—“ It seems to breathe faintly, and posterity shall look upon it as a kind of artificial mir. acle.”
* Dr. King and Dr. Mountford.
Dr. Thomas Mountfort, a Residentiary of St. Paul's, died Feb. 27, 1632. It appears from Strype's Life of Whitgift, that this person was suspended for having clandestinely married Edward, Earl of Hertford, and Frances Pranel, widow of Henry Pranel, Esq. without bans or license. Upon his submission and earnest desire to be absolved, he obtained absolution from Archbishop Whitgift himself.
He was of stature moderately tall; of a straight and equally. proportioned body, to which all his words and actions gave an un. expressible addition of comeliness.
The melancholy and pleasant humour were in him so contem pered, that each gave advantage to the other, and made his company one of the delights of mankind.
His fancy was unimitably high, equalled only by his great wit; both being made useful by a commanding judgment.
His aspect was cheerful, and such as gave a silent testimony of a clear knowing soul, and of a conscience at peace with itself.
His melting eye shewed that he had a soft heart, full of noble compassion; of too brave a soul to offer injuries, and too much a Christian not to pardon them in others.
He did much contemplate—especially after he entered into his sacred calling—the Mercies of Almighty God, the Immortality of the soul, and the Joys of Heaven : and would often say in a kind of sacred ecstacy,
“ Blessed be God that he is God, only and divinely like himself.”
He was by nature highly passionate, but more apt to reluct at the excesses of it. A great lover of the offices of humanity, and of so merciful a spirit, that he never beheld the miseries of mankind without pity and relief.
He was earnest and unwearied in the search of knowledge, with which his vigorous soul is now satisfied, and employed in a continual praise of that God that first breathed it into his active body : that body, which once was a Temple of the Holy Ghost, and is now become a small quantity of Christian dust :But I shall see it re-animated.
I. W. Feb. 15, 1639
DOCTOR CORBET,* LATE BISHOP OF OXFORD,
ON HIS FRIEND DR. DONNE.
He that would write an Epitaph for thee,
* Dr. Richard Corbet, an eminent Divine and Poet, born at Ewell in Sur. rey, and educated at Westminster, whence he removed to Christ Church Col. lege, Oxford, in 1597–98. Upon entering into Holy Orders, he was made Chaplain in Ordinary 10 King James I.; and in July 1630, he was consecrated Bishop of Oxford. In April 1632, he was translated to the See of Norwich, and he died July 28th, 1635. He was, according to Aubrey, a very convivial man, and in his younger years, one of the most celebrated wits of the Uni. versity, and his volume of Poems is both a rare and meritorious production.
TO THE MEMORY OF
MY EVER-DESIRED FRIEND DOCTOR DONNE.
AN EL EGY
BY H. KING, LATE BISHOP OF CHICHESTER.
To have liv'd eminent, in a degree
At common graves we have poetic eyes