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Thou like the dying swan didst lately sing,
Thy mournful dirge in audience of the King ;
When pale looks and faint accents of thy breath,
Presented so to life that piece of death,
That it was fear'd and prophesy'd by all
Thou thither cam’st to preach thy funeral.
Oh! had'st thou in an elegiac knell
Rung out unto the world thine own farewell
And in thy high victorious numbers beat
The solemn measures of thy griev'd retreat,
Thou might'st the Poet's service now have miss'd
As well as then thou didst prevent the Priest ;
And never to the world beholden be,
So much as for an epitaph for thee.
I do not like the office; nor is't fit
Thou, who didst lend our age such sums of wit,
Should'st now re-borrow from her bankrupt mine
That ore to bury thee which first was thine :
Rather still leave us in thy debt; and know,
Exalted soul, more glory 'tis to owe
Thy memory what we can never pay,
Than with embased coin those rites defray.
Commit we then Thee to Thyself, nor blame
Our drooping loves, that thus to thine own fame
Leave Thee executor, since but thine own
No pen could do thee justice, nor bays crown
Thy vast deserts; save that we nothing can
Depute, to be thy ashes' guardian.
So Jewellers no art or metal trust,
To form the diamond, but the diamond's dust.
AN ELEGY ON DR. DONNE,
Our Donne is dead! and we may sighing say,
We had that man, where language chose to stay,
And shew her utmost power. I would not praise
That, and his great wit, which in our vain days
Make others proud; but as these serv’d to unlock
That cabinet his mind, where such a stock
Of knowledge was repos’d, that I lament
Our just and general cause of discontent.
And I rejoice I am not so severe,
But as I write a line, to weep a tear
For his decease; such sad extremities
Can make such men as I write elegies.
And wonder not; for when so great a loss
Falls on a nation, and they slight the cross,
God hath rais'd Prophets to awaken them
From their dull lethargy; witness my pen,
Not us'd to upbraid the world, though now it must
Freely and boldly, for the cause is just.
Dull age! Oh, I would spare thee, but thou’rt worse : Thou art not only dull, but hast a curse Of black ingratitude: if not, couldst thou Part with this matchless man, and make no vow For thee and thine successively to pay Some sad remembrance to his dying day?
Did his youth scatter Poetry, wherein Lay Love's Philosophy ? was every sin Pictur'd in his sharp Satires, made so foul, That some have fear’d sin's shapes, and kept their soul Safer by reading verse; Did he give days, Past marble monuments, to those whose praise
He would perpetuate? Did he-I fear
Envy will doubt—these at his twentieth year?
But, more matur'd, did his rich soul conceive
And in harmonious holy numbers weave
A Crown of Sacred Sonnets,* fit t'adorn
A dying martyr's brow, or lo be worn
On that blest head of Mary Magdalen,
After she wip'd Christ's feet, but not till then ;
Did he-fit for such penitents as she
And he to use-leave us a Litany,t
Which all devout men love, and doubtless shall,
As times grow better, grow more classical ?
Did he write Hymns, for piety and wit,
Equal to those great grave Prudentius writ ?
Spake he all Languages? Knew he all Laws?
The grounds and use of Physic; but, because
'Twas mercenary, wav'd it ? went to see
That happy place of Christ's nativity ?
Did he return and preach him? preach him so,
As since St. Paul none ever did ? they know-
Those happy souls that heard him-know this truth.
Did he confirm thy ag'd? convert thy youth ?
*“La Corona,” a poem, written by Dr. Donne, and consisting of seven holy sonnets, the first line of each sonnet beginning with the last line of the preceding one, the poem beginning and ending with the same line-namely
· Deigne at my hands this crown of prayer and praise."
The subjects are- - Annunciation-Nativitie—Temple-crucifying-Resurrection -Ascension.
† A poem so called, written by Dr. Donne, who, in a letter to his friend, Sir Henry Goodyere, gives this account of it. Since my imprisonment in my bed I have made a meditation in verse, which I call a Litany. The word, you know, imports no other than supplication ; but all churches have one form of supplication by that name. Amongst ancient annals, I mean some 800 years, I have met two Litanies in Latin verse, which gave me not the reason of my meditations; for in good faith I thought not upon them, but they give me a defence, if any man to a Layman and a Private impute it as a fault to take such divine and publique names to his own little thoughts.” (Letters, foc. p. 32.)
Did he these wonders ? and is his dear loss
Mourn’d by so few? few for so great a cross.
But sure the silent are ambitious all
To be close mourners of his funeral.
If not, in common pity they forbear
By repetitions to renew our care:
Or knowing grief conceiv'd and hid, consumes
Man's life insensibly,--as poison's fumes
Corrupt the brain,—take silence for the way
T'enlarge the soul from these walls, mud and clay,
Materials of this body—to remain
With him in heaven, where no promiscuous pain
Lessens those joys we have ; for with him all
Are satisfied with joys essential.
Dwell on these joys, my thoughts! Oh! do not call Grief back, by thinking on his funeral. Forget he loved me: waste not my
Which haste to David's seventy, fill’d with fears
And sorrows for his death : forget his parts,
They find a living grave in good men's hearts:
And, for my first is daily paid for sin,
Forget to pay my second sigh for him :
Forget his powerful preaching; and forget
I am his convert. Oh my frailty ! let
My flesh be no more heard; it will obtrude
This lethargy: so should my gratitude,
My vows of gratitude should so be broke
Which can no more be, than his virtues, spoke
By any but himself: for which cause, I
Write no encomiums, but this elegy ;
Which, as a free-will offering, I here give
Fame and the world; and parting with it, grieve
I want abilities fit to set forth
A monument, as matchless as his worth.
IZ. WA. April 7, 1631.