Sunday, June 22, 2008

Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th'eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th'hills shadow steals.
Off with your wiry coronet and show
The hairy diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes: and then safely tread
In this love's hallowed temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes heaven's angels used to be
Received by men; thou, Angel, bring'st with thee
A heaven like Mahomet's Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these Angels from an evil sprite:
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,
My mine of precious stones, my empery,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be,
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are as Atlanta's balls, cast in men's views,
That when a fool's eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them:
Like pictures, or like books' gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus arrayed.
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see revealed. Then, since that I may know,
As liberally as to a midwife, show
Thyself: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence:
To teach thee, I am naked first; why than,
What need'st thou have more covering than a man?

by John Donne

Ok, I'm sorry to display my ignorance but when I first read this, I admit my first thought was, "Wow! Who knew John Donne had it in him!!" I had him pegged as being passionate, of course - but passionate only for God! So this was a nice surprise.
However, I'm a huge fan of the first line, but hate the last. My modern female mind construes it as overtly sexist.
And yes, I realize this is a cop-out post - the trouble is that every time I feel like posting in my blog, I'm too tired to actually write something original. Bah!

P.S. Check this out - Rebecca Ann Bach argues that Donne was actually gay. It seems a well written article, but I'm too tired to read it in full now, I'll have to look at it tomorrow.

(The photograph is of Julianne Moore and it's a favorite.)


Elliot said...

He was passionate for both God and women! And maybe men?

Lots of mystics are. Rumi, Leonard Cohen, etc.

Lloydville said...

. . . and Prince.

Anactoria said...

Ha! Definitely Prince!