1808 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Donne

Anonymous, "Dr. Donne" The Monthly Magazine 25 (May 1808) 331-32.



Dr. Donne attained such an early proficiency in scholastic knowledge, that he is said to have to entered at Hart-hall, Oxford, at nine years old. The death of his father put him in possession of a fortune of 3000 after which he visited many parts of Europe. At length, by King James's desire, he took orders, and was appointed preacher at Lincoln's Inn, and afterwards advanced to the deanery of St. Paul's. He was eminent as a poet, but still more as a preacher; and tho' the productions of his early years were chiefly of a facetious and satirical cast, yet those of the latter period of his life were more suitable to the sacred character which he had assumed. Take the following hymn, written in sickness, as a specimen:—

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, tho' it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin through which I run,
And do run still, tho' still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I've spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And having done that, thou hast done;
I ask no more.

He was buried in St. Paul's Church, and a monument was there erected to his memory by the liberality of some unknown friend, who privately transmitted a sufficient sum for that purpose to his executors. It was unfortunately destroyed by the dreadful conflagration of 1666.