John Donne Poem

A Hymn to the Saints, and to Marquis Hamilton

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To Sir Robert Carr
I presume you rather try what you can do in me, than what I can do in verse; you know my uttermost when it was best, and even then I did best when I had least truth for my subjects. In this present case there is so much truth as it defeats all poetry. Call therefore this paper by what name you will, and, if it be not worthy of him, nor of you, nor of me, smother it, and be that the sacrifice. If you had commanded me to have waited on his body to Scotland and preached there, I would have embraced the obligation with more alacrity; but I thank you that you would command me that which I was loth to do, for even that hath given a tincture of merit to the obedience of
Your poor friend and
servant in Christ Jesus,
J. D.

Whether that soul which now comes up to you
Fill any former rank, or make a new;
Whether it take a name named there before,
Or be a name itself and order more
Than was in heaven till now—for may not he
Be so, if every several angel be
A kind alone? whatever order grow
Greater by him in heaven, we do not so.
One of your orders grows by his access,
But, by his loss, grow all our orders less;
The name of father, master, friend, the name
Of subject and of prince, in one is lame;
Fair mirth is damp’d, and conversation black,
The Household widow’d, and the Garter slack;
The Chapel wants an ear, Council a tongue;
Story, a theme; and Music lacks a song.
Blest order that hath him, the loss of him
Gangrened all orders here; all lost a limb.
Never made body such haste to confess
What a soul was; all former comeliness
Fled, in a minute, when the soul was gone;
And, having lost that beauty, would have none.
So fell our monasteries, in an instant grown
Not to less houses, but to heaps of stone;
So sent his body that fair form it wore
Unto the sphere of forms, and doth—before
His soul shall fill up his sepulchral stone—
Anticipate a resurrection.
For, as in his fame now his soul is here,
So, in the form thereof, his body’s there;
And if, fair soul, not with first Innocents
Thy station be, but with the Penitents,
—And who shall dare to ask then, when I am
Dyed scarlet in the blood of that pure Lamb,
Whether that colour, which is scarlet then,
Were black or white before in eyes of men?—
When thou rememb’rest what sins thou didst find
Amongst those many friends now left behind,
And seest such sinners, as they are, with thee
Got thither by repentance, let it be
Thy wish to wish all there, to wish them clean,
Wish him a David, her a Magdalen.

On Himself
Elegy on the L. C.


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