John Donne Poem

Elegy on Mistress Boulstred (‘Death, be not proud’)

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Death, be not proud, thy hand gave not this blow;
Sin was her captive, whence thy power doth flow;
The executioner of wrath thou art,
But to destroy the just is not thy part.
Thy coming, terror, anguish, grief denounces;
Her happy state, courage, ease, joy pronounces.
From out the crystal palace of her breast,
The clearer soul was call’d to endless rest
—Not by the thundering voice, wherewith God threats,
But as with crowned saints in heaven He treats—
And, waited on by angels, home was brought,
To joy that it through many dangers sought.
The key of mercy gently did unlock
The doors ‘twixt heaven and it, when life did knock.
   Nor boast the fairest frame was made thy prey,
Because to mortal eyes it did decay.
A better witness than thou art, assures,
That though dissolved, it yet a space endures;
No dram thereof shall want or loss sustain,
When her best soul inhabits it again.
Go then to people cursed before they were;
Their souls in triumph to thy conquest bear.
Glory not thou thyself in these hot tears
Which our face, not for her, but our harm wears;
The mourning livery given by grace, not thee,
Which wills our souls in these streams washed should be;
And on our hearts, her memory’s best tomb,
In this her epitaph doth write thy doom.
Blind were those eyes, saw not how bright did shine
Through flesh’s misty veil those beams divine;
Deaf were the ears, not charm’d with that sweet sound
Which did i’ th’ spirit’s instructed voice abound;
Of flint the conscience, did not yield and melt,
At what in her last act it saw and felt.
   Weep not, nor grudge then to have lost her sight,
Taught thus, our after stay’s but a short night;
But by all souls not by corruption choked
Let in high raised notes that power be invoked,
Calm the rough seas by which she sails to rest
From sorrows here to a kingdom ever blest.
And teach this hymn of her with joy, and sing,
‘The grave no conquest gets, Death hath no sting.’

Elegy on Mistress Boulstred ('Death I recant, and say')


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