John Donne Poem

A Litany

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  Father of Heaven, and Him, by whom 
It, and us for it, and all else for us, 
  Thou madest, and govern’st ever, come 
And re-create me, now grown ruinous: 
              My heart is by dejection, clay, 
              And by self-murder, red. 
From this red earth, O Father, purge away 
All vicious tinctures, that new-fashioned 
I may rise up from death, before I’m dead.


  O Son of God, who, seeing two things, 
Sin and Death, crept in, which were never made, 
  By bearing one, tried’st with what stings 
The other could Thine heritage invade ; 
              O be Thou nail’d unto my heart, 
              And crucified again ; 
Part not from it, though it from Thee would part, 
But let it be by applying so Thy pain, 
Drown’d in Thy blood, and in Thy passion slain. 



  O Holy Ghost, whose temple I 
Am, but of mud walls , and condensèd dust, 
  And being sacrilegiously 
Half wasted with youth’s fires of pride and lust, 
              Must with new storms be weather-beat, 
              Double in my heart Thy flame, 
Which let devout sad tears intend, and let—
Though this glass lanthorn, flesh, do suffer maim—
Fire, sacrifice, priest, altar be the same. 



  O blessed glorious Trinity, 
Bones to philosophy, but milk to faith, 
  Which, as wise serpents, diversely 
Most slipperiness, yet most entanglings hath, 
              As you distinguish’d, undistinct, 
              By power, love, knowledge be, 
Give me a such self different instinct, 
Of these let all me elemented be, 
Of power, to love, to know you unnumbered three. 



  For that fair blessed mother-maid, 
Whose flesh redeem’d us, that she-cherubin, 
  Which unlock’d paradise, and made 
One claim for innocence, and disseizèd sin, 
              Whose womb was a strange heaven, for there 
              God clothed Himself, and grew, 
Our zealous thanks we pour.  As her deeds were 
Our helps, so are her prayers ; nor can she sue 
In vain, who hath such titles unto you. 



  And since this life our nonage is, 
And we in wardship to Thine angels be, 
  Native in heaven’s fair palaces 
Where we shall be but denizen’d by Thee ; 
              As th’ earth conceiving by the sun, 
              Yields fair diversity, 
Yet never knows what course that light doth run ; 
So let me study that mine actions be 
Worthy their sight, though blind in how they see. 



  And let Thy patriarchs’ desire, 
—Those great grandfathers of Thy Church, which saw 
  More in the cloud than we in fire, 
Whom nature clear’d more, than us grace and law, 
              And now in heaven still pray, that we 
              May use our new helps right— 
Be satisfied, and fructify in me ; 
Let not my mind be blinder by more light, 
Nor faith by reason added lose her sight. 



  Thy eagle-sighted prophets too, 
—Which were Thy Church’s organs, and did sound 
  That harmony which made of two 
One law, and did unite, but not confound ; 
              Those heavenly poets which did see 
              Thy will, and it express 
In rhythmic feet—in common pray for me, 
That I by them excuse not my excess 
In seeking secrets, or poeticness. 



  And thy illustrious zodiac 
Of twelve apostles, which engirt this All, 
  —From whom whosoever do not take 
Their light, to dark deep pits throw down and fall ;— 
              As through their prayers Thou’st let me know 
              That their books are divine, 
May they pray still, and be heard, that I go 
Th’ old broad way in applying ; O decline 
Me, when my comment would make Thy word mine. 



  And since Thou so desirously 
Didst long to die, that long before Thou couldst, 
  And long since Thou no more couldst die, 
Thou in thy scatter’d mystic body wouldst 
              In Abel die, and ever since 
              In Thine ; let their blood come 
To beg for us a discreet patience 
Of death, or of worse life ; for O, to some 
Not to be martyrs, is a martyrdom. 



  Therefore with Thee triumpheth there 
A virgin squadron of white confessors, 
  Whose bloods betroth’d not married were, 
Tender’d, not taken by those ravishers. 
              They know, and pray that we may know, 
              In every Christian 
Hourly tempestuous persecutions grow ; 
Temptations martyr us alive ; a man 
Is to himself a Diocletian. 



  The cold white snowy nunnery, 
Which, as Thy Mother, their high abbess, sent 
  Their bodies back again to Thee, 
As Thou hadst lent them, clean and innocent ; 
              Though they have not obtain’d of Thee, 
              That or Thy Church or I 
Should keep, as they, our first integrity, 
Divorce Thou sin in us, or bid it die, 
And call chaste widowhead virginity. 



  The sacred academy above 
Of Doctors, whose pains have unclasp’d, and taught 
  Both books of life to us—for love 
To know Thy scriptures tells us, we are wrote 
              In Thy other book—pray for us there, 
              That what they have misdone 
Or missaid, we to that may not adhere. 
Their zeal may be our sin.  Lord, let us run 
Mean ways, and call them stars, but not the sun. 


  And whilst this universal quire, 
That Church in triumph, this in warfare here, 
  Warm’d with one all-partaking fire 
Of love, that none be lost, which cost Thee dear, 
              Prays ceaselessly, and Thou hearken too 
              —Since to be gracious 
Our task is treble, to pray, bear, and do—
Hear this prayer, Lord ; O Lord, deliver us 
From trusting in those prayers, though pour’d out 


  From being anxious, or secure, 
Dead clods of sadness, or light squibs of mirth, 
  From thinking that great courts immure 
All, or no happiness, or that this earth 
              Is only for our prison framed, 
              Or that Thou’rt covetous 
To them whom Thou lovest, or that they are maim’d 
From reaching this world’s sweet who seek Thee 
With all their might, good Lord, deliver us. 


  From needing danger, to be good, 
From owing Thee yesterday’s tears to-day, 
  From trusting so much to Thy blood 
That in that hope we wound our soul away, 
              From bribing Thee with alms, to excuse 
              Some sin more burdenous, 
From light affecting, in religion, news, 
From thinking us all soul, neglecting thus 
Our mutual duties, Lord, deliver us. 


  From tempting Satan to tempt us, 
By our connivance, or slack company, 
  From measuring ill by vicious 
Neglecting to choke sin’s spawn, vanity, 
              From indiscreet humility, 
              Which might be scandalous 
And cast reproach on Christianity, 
From being spies, or to spies pervious, 
From thirst or scorn of fame, deliver us. 


  Deliver us through Thy descent 
Into the Virgin, whose womb was a place 
  Of middle kind ; and Thou being sent 
To ungracious us, stay’dst at her full of grace ; 
              And through Thy poor birth, where first Thou 
              Glorified’st poverty ; 
And yet soon after riches didst allow, 
By accepting kings’ gifts in th’ Epiphany ; 
Deliver us, and make us to both ways free. 


  And through that bitter agony, 
Which is still th’ agony of pious wits, 
  Disputing what distorted Thee, 
And interrupted evenness with fits ; 
              And through Thy free confession, 
              Though thereby they were then 
Made blind, so that Thou mightst from them have gone ; 
Good Lord, deliver us, and teach us when 
We may not, and we may, blind unjust men. 


  Through Thy submitting all, to blows 
Thy face, Thy robes to spoil, Thy fame to scorn, 
  All ways, which rage, or justice knows, 
And by which Thou couldst show that Thou wast born ; 
              And through Thy gallant humbleness 
              Which Thou in death didst show, 
Dying before Thy soul they could express ; 
Deliver us from death, by dying so 
To this world, ere this world do bid us go. 


  When senses, which Thy soldiers are, 
We arm against Thee, and they fight for sin ; 
  When want, sent but to tame, doth war, 
And work despair a breach to enter in ; 
              When plenty, God’s image, and seal, 
              Makes us idolatrous, 
And love it, not him, whom it should reveal ; 
When we are moved to seem religious 
Only to vent wit ; Lord, deliver us. 


  In churches, when th’ infirmity 
Of him which speaks, diminishes the word ; 
  When magistrates do misapply 
To us, as we judge, lay or ghostly sword ; 
              When plague, which is Thine angel, reigns, 
              Or wars, Thy champions, sway ; 
When heresy, Thy second deluge, gains ; 
In th’ hour of death, th’ eve of last Judgment day ; 
Deliver us from the sinister way. 


  Hear us, O hear us, Lord; to Thee 
A sinner is more music, when he prays, 
  Than spheres’ or angels’ praises be, 
In panegyric alleluias ; 
              Hear us, for till Thou hear us, Lord, 
              We know not what to say ; 
Thine ear to our sighs, tears, thoughts, gives voice and word ; 
O Thou, who Satan heard’st in Job’s sick day, 
Hear Thyself now, for Thou in us dost pray. 


  That we may change to evenness 
This intermitting aguish piety ; 
  That snatching cramps of wickedness 
And apoplexies of fast sin may die ; 
              That music of Thy promises, 
              Not threats in thunder may 
Awaken us to our just offices ; 
What in Thy book Thou dost, or creatures say, 
That we may hear, Lord, hear us when we pray. 


  That our ears’ sickness we may cure, 
And rectify those labyrinths aright, 
  That we by heark’ning not procure 
Our praise, nor others’ dispraise so invite ; 
              That we get not a slipp’riness 
              And senselessly decline, 
From hearing bold wits jest at kings’ excess, 
To admit the like of majesty divine ; 
That we may lock our ears, Lord, open Thine. 


  That living law, the magistrate, 
Which to give us, and make us physic, doth 
  Our vices often aggravate ; 
That preachers taxing sin, before her growth ; 
              That Satan, and envenom’d men— 
              Which will, if we starve, dine— 
When they do most accuse us, may see then 
Us to amendment hear them, Thee decline ; 
That we may open our ears, Lord, lock Thine. 


  That learning, Thine ambassador, 
From Thine allegiance we never tempt ; 
  That beauty, paradise’s flower 
For physic made, from poison be exempt ; 
              That wit—born apt high good to do— 
              By dwelling lazily 
On nature’s nothing be not nothing too ; 
That our affections kill us not, nor die ; 
Hear us, weak echoes, O, Thou Ear and Eye. 


  Son of God, hear us, and since Thou 
By taking our blood, owest it us again, 
  Gain to Thyself, or us allow ; 
And let not both us and Thyself be slain ; 
              O Lamb of God, which took’st our sin, 
              Which could not stick to Thee, 
O let it not return to us again ; 
But patient and physician being free, 
As sin is nothing, let it nowhere be.

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