1613
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Epithalamion, or Mariage Song on the Lady Elizabeth, and Count Palatine being married on St. Valentines Day.

Poems, by J. D. with Elegies on the Authors Death.

Rev. John Donne


Written 1613 and published 1633. "While quite himself in his treatment of the theme of this kind of poem, Donne comes in it nearer to Spenser than in any other kind" Grierson (1912) 2:91-92.

Edmund Gosse: "The Epithalamia of Donne form that section of his work in which, alone, he seems to follow in due succession after Spenser. These marriage-songs are elegant and glowing, though not without the harshness which Donne could not for any length of time forego. That composed for the wedding of Frederick Count Palatine and the Lady Elizabeth, in 1613, is perhaps the most popular of all Donne's writings" The Jacobean Poets (1894) 55.

Virginia Tufte: "One of the most ingenious epithalamia after Spenser and the one which best demonstrates Donne's major contribution to the mode, the restoration of humor" Poetry of Marriage (1970) 222.

George Saintsbury: "Ben Jonson, as he had a knack of doing, proposed that problem in the Drummond conversation by the two exceedingly Jonsonian statements, that 'Donne was the first poet of the world for some things,' and that 'Donne, for not keeping of accent, deserved hanging.' The first, with due emphasis on its proviso, is pretty near the truth; as for the second, it makes a very interesting pendant to that other, that Spenser 'in affecting the ancients writ no language.' The drawback of both these, as contrasted with the first, is that in them, as not in it, a very large proviso is not expressed — a proviso so large that to put it accurately and adequately in words would take several sentences" History of English Prosody (1906-10) 2:159.



I.
Haile Bishop Valentine, whose day this is,
All the Aire is thy Diocis,
And all the chirping Choristers
And other birds are thy Parishioners,
Thou marryest every yeare
The Lirique Larke, and the grave whispering Dove,
The Sparrow that neglects his life for love,
The household Bird, with the red stomacher,
Thou mak'st the black bird speed as soone,
As doth the Goldfinch, or the Halcyon;
The husband cocke lookes out, and straight is sped,
And meets his wife, which brings her feather-bed.
This day more cheerfully then ever shine.
This day, which might enflame thy self, Old Valentine.

II.
Till now, Thou warmd'st with multiplying loves
Two larkes, two sparrowes, or two Doves,
All that is nothing unto this,
For thou this day couplest two Phoenixes,
Thou mak'st a Taper see
What the sunne never saw, and what the Arke
(Which was of foules, and beasts, the cage, and park,)
Did not containe, one bed containes, through Thee,
Two Phoenixes, whose joyned breasts
Are unto one another mutuall nests,
Where motion kindles such fires, as shall give
Yong Phoenixes, and yet the old shall live.
Whose love and courage never shall decline,
But make the whole year through, thy day, O Valentine.

III.
Up then faire Phoenix Bride, frustrate the Sunne,
Thy selfe from thine affection
Takest warmth enough, and from thine eye
All lesser birds will take their Jollitie.
Up, up, faire Bride, and call,
Thy starres, from out their severall boxes, take
Thy Rubies, Pearles, and Diamonds forth, and make
Thy selfe a constellation, of them All,
And by their blazing, signifie,
That a Great Princess falls, but doth nor die;
Bee thou a new starre, that to us portends
Ends of much wonder; And be Thou those ends,
Since thou dost this day in new glory shine,
May all men date Records, from this thy Valentine.

IIII.
Come forth, come forth, and as one glorious flame
Meeting Another, growes the same,
So meet thy Fredericke, and so
To an unseparable union goe,
Since separation
Falls not on such things as are infinite,
Nor things which are but one, can disunite.
You'are twice inseparable, great, and one;
Goe then to where the Bishop staies,
To make you one, his way, which divers waies
Must be effected; and when all is past,
And that you'are one, by hearts and hands made fast,
You two have one way left, your selves to'entwine,
Besides this Bishops knot, O Bishop Valentine.

V.
But oh, what ailes the Sunne, that here he staies,
Longer to day, then other daies?
Staies he new light from these to get?
And finding here such store, is loth to set?
And why doe you two walke,
So slowly pac'd in this procession?
Is all your care but to be look'd upon,
And be to others spectacle, and talke?
The feast, with gluttonous delaies,
Is eaten, and too long their meat they praise,
The masquers come too late, and'I thinke, will stay,
Like Fairies, till the Cock crow them away.
Alas, did not Antiquity assigne
A night, as well as day, to thee, O Valentine?

VI.
They did, and night is come; and yet wee see
Formalities retarding thee.
What meane these Ladies, which (as though
They were to take a clock in peeces,) goe
So nicely about the Bride;
A Bride, before a good night could be said,
Should vanish from her cloathes, into her bed,
As Soules from bodies steale, and are not spy'd.
But now she is laid; What though shee bee?
Yet there are more delayes, For, where is he?
He comes, and passes through Spheare after Spheare.
First her sheetes, then her Armes, then any where,
Let not this day, then, but this night be thine,
Thy day was but the eve to this, O Valentine.

VII.
Here lyes a shee Sunne, and a hee Moone here,
She gives the best light to his Spheare,
Or each is both, and all, and so
They unto one another nothing owe,
And yet they doe, but are
So just and rich in that coyne which they pay,
That neither would, nor needs forbeare nor stay,
Neither desires to be spar'd, nor to spare,
They quickly pay their debt, and then
Take no acquittance, but pay again;
They pay, they give, they lend, and so let fall,
No such occasion to be liberall.
More truth, more courage in these two do shine,
Then all thy turtles have, and sparrows, Valentine.

VIII.
And by this act of these two Phenixes
Nature againe restored is,
For since these two are two no more,
Ther's but one Phenix still, as was before.
Rest now at last, and wee
As Satyres watch the Sunnes uprise, will stay
Waiting, when your eyes opened, let out day.
Onely desir'd, because your face wee see;
Others neare you shall whispering speake,
And wagers lay, at which side day will breake,
And win by'observing, then, whose hand it is
That opens first a curtaine, hers or his;
This will be tryed to morrow after nine,
Till which houre, wee thy day enlarge, O Valentine.

[pp. 118-22]