To the Master, Ben Jonson of England

Although perhaps everyone has heard the name Shakespeare, Not so many have heard of Jonson or of Donne–or of King, for that matter–It is a wonderful moment for most everyone when they do discover them. So I post a link to the above tribute to him, and an example below of one of his best known short poems. Such a lovely sentiment–both this original and the tribute.

To Celia

Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine.
Or leave a kiss but in the cup
And I’ll not look for wine.

The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much hon’ring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not withered be;

But thou thereon did’st only breathe,
And sent’st it back to me,
Since when it grows and smells, I swear
Not of itself, but thee.

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John Donne: A Valediction Forbidding Mourning.

Italiano: Immagine del poeta John Donne Donne,...

Italiano: Immagine del poeta John Donne Donne, John (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was recently reminded of this poem by a commenter.  It made me think, as I have also recently been reminded of Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gently…”   That Donne might also be a champion of life extension scientists, due to the subject of death being so often present in his poetry.  I realise that he was speaking of God and Heaven when writing of the triumph over death, but even so, these works can be read in this other way as well.

AS virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“Now his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears;
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, ’cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

via John Donne: A Valediction Forbidding Mourning.