1633 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Donne

Henry King, "To the Memorie of my ever desired Friend Dr. Donne" Donne, Poems (1633) 373-75.



To have liv'd eminent, in a degree
Beyond our lofty'st flights, that is, like Thee,
Or t' have had too much merit, is not safe;
For, such excesses finde no Epitaph.
At common graves we have Poetique eyes
Can melt themselves in easie Elegies,
Each quill can drop his tributary verse,
And pin it, like the Hatchments, to the Hearse:
But at Thine, Poeme, or Inscription
(Rich soule of wit, and language) we have none.
Indeed a silence does that tombe befit,
Where is no Herald left to blazon it.
Widow'd invention justly doth forbeare
To come abroad, knowing Thou art not here,
Late her great Patron; Whose Prerogative
Maintain'd, and cloth'd her so, as none alive
Must now presume, to keepe her at thy rate,
Though he the Indies for her dowre estate.
Or else that awfull fire, which once did burne
In thy cleare Braine, now falne into thy Urne
Lives there, to fright rude Empiricks from thence,
Which might prophane thee by their Ignorance.
Who ever writes of Thee, and in a stile
Unworthy such a Theme, does but revile
Thy precious Dust, and wake a learned Spirit
Which may revenge his Rapes upon thy Merit.
For, all a low pitch't phansie can devise,
Will prove, at best, but Hallow'd Injuries.

Thou, like the dying Swanne, didst lately sing
Thy Mournfull Dirge, in audience of the King;
When pale lookes, and faint accents of thy breath,
Presented so, to life, that peece of death,
That it was fear'd, and prophesi'd by all,
Thou thither cam'st to preach thy Funerall.
O! had'st Thou in an Elegiack Knell
Rung out unto the world thine owne farewell,
And in thy High Victorious Numbers beate
The solemne measure of thy griev'd Retreat;
Thou might'st the Poets service now have mist
As well, as then thou did'st prevent the Priest;
And never to the world beholding bee
So much, as for an Epitaph for thee.

I doe not like the office. Nor is 't fit
Thou, who did'st lend our Age such summes of wit,
Should'st now re-borrow from her bankrupt Mine,
That Ore to Bury Thee, which once was Thine.
Rather still leave us in thy debt; And know
(Exalted Soule) more glory 'tis to owe
Unto thy Hearse, what we can never pay,
Then, with embased Coine these Rites defray.

Commit we then Thee to Thy selfe: Nor blame
Our drooping loves, which thus to thy owne Fame
Leave Thee Executor. Since, but thine owne,
No pen could doe Thee Justice, nor Bayes Crowne
Thy vast desert; Save that, wee nothing can
Depute, to be thy Ashes Guardian.

So Jewellers no Art, or Metall trust
To forme the Diamond, but the Diamonds dust.