An Elegy upon the Death of the Dean of Paul's, Dr. John Donne Poem Text

An Elegy upon the Death of the Dean of Paul's, Dr. John Donne Poem Text

An Elegy upon the Death of the Dean of Paul's, Dr. John Donne

Can we not force from widow'd poetry,

Now thou art dead (great Donne) one elegy

To crown thy hearse? Why yet dare we not trust,

Though with unkneaded dough-bak'd prose, thy dust,

Such as th' unscissor'd churchman from the flower

Of fading rhetoric, short-liv'd as his hour,

Dry as the sand that measures it, should lay

Upon thy ashes, on the funeral day?

Have we no voice, no tune? Didst thou dispense

Through all our language, both the words and sense?

'Tis a sad truth. The pulpit may her plain

And sober Christian precepts still retain,

Doctrines it may, and wholesome uses, frame,

Grave homilies and lectures, but the flame

Of thy brave soul (that shot such heat and light

As burnt our earth and made our darkness bright,

Committed holy rapes upon our will,

Did through the eye the melting heart distil,

And the deep knowledge of dark truths so teach

As sense might judge what fancy could not reach)

Must be desir'd forever. So the fire

That fills with spirit and heat the Delphic quire,

Which, kindled first by thy Promethean breath,

Glow'd here a while, lies quench'd now in thy death.

The Muses' garden, with pedantic weeds

O'erspread, was purg'd by thee; the lazy seeds

Of servile imitation thrown away,

And fresh invention planted; thou didst pay

The debts of our penurious bankrupt age;

Licentious thefts, that make poetic rage

A mimic fury, when our souls must be

Possess'd, or with Anacreon's ecstasy,

Or Pindar's, not their own; the subtle cheat

Of sly exchanges, and the juggling feat

Of two-edg'd words, or whatsoever wrong

By ours was done the Greek or Latin tongue,

Thou hast redeem'd, and open'd us a mine

Of rich and pregnant fancy; drawn a line

Of masculine expression, which had good

Old Orpheus seen, or all the ancient brood

Our superstitious fools admire, and hold

Their lead more precious than thy burnish'd gold,

Thou hadst been their exchequer, and no more

They each in other's dust had rak'd for ore.

Thou shalt yield no precedence, but of time,

And the blind fate of language, whose tun'd chime

More charms the outward sense; yet thou mayst claim

From so great disadvantage greater fame,

Since to the awe of thy imperious wit

Our stubborn language bends, made only fit

With her tough thick-ribb'd hoops to gird about

Thy giant fancy, which had prov'd too stout

For their soft melting phrases. As in time

They had the start, so did they cull the prime

Buds of invention many a hundred year,

And left the rifled fields, besides the fear

To touch their harvest; yet from those bare lands

Of what is purely thine, thy only hands,

(And that thy smallest work) have gleaned more

Than all those times and tongues could reap before.

But thou art gone, and thy strict laws will be

Too hard for libertines in poetry;

They will repeal the goodly exil'd train

Of gods and goddesses, which in thy just reign

Were banish'd nobler poems; now with these,

The silenc'd tales o' th' Metamorphoses

Shall stuff their lines, and swell the windy page,

Till verse, refin'd by thee, in this last age

Turn ballad rhyme, or those old idols be

Ador'd again, with new apostasy.

Oh, pardon me, that break with untun'd verse

The reverend silence that attends thy hearse,

Whose awful solemn murmurs were to thee,

More than these faint lines, a loud elegy,

That did proclaim in a dumb eloquence

The death of all the arts; whose influence,

Grown feeble, in these panting numbers lies,

Gasping short-winded accents, and so dies.

So doth the swiftly turning wheel not stand

In th' instant we withdraw the moving hand,

But some small time maintain a faint weak course,

By virtue of the first impulsive force;

And so, whilst I cast on thy funeral pile

Thy crown of bays, oh, let it crack awhile,

And spit disdain, till the devouring flashes

Suck all the moisture up, then turn to ashes.

I will not draw the envy to engross

All thy perfections, or weep all our loss;

Those are too numerous for an elegy,

And this too great to be express'd by me.

Though every pen should share a distinct part,

Yet art thou theme enough to tire all art;

Let others carve the rest, it shall suffice

I on thy tomb this epitaph incise:

Here lies a king, that rul'd as he thought fit

The universal monarchy of wit;

Here lie two flamens, and both those, the best,

Apollo's first, at last, the true God's priest.

- Thomas Carew

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