1613 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Epithalamion made at Lincolnes Inne.

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

Rev. John Donne


John Donne writes in what might best be described as an Inns-of-Court mode.

Virginia Tufte: "No certain evidence exists as to when it was written, or for whom, or even whether it was written for a wedding. As a student, Donne was at Lincoln's Inn from 1592 to 1596; as a reader, he was there from 1616 to 1622.... Parts of the work are indeed puzzling, particularly if the reader assumes that it is or ought to be in the style of Spenser's Epithalamion and ignores other elements of the tradition. It becomes a little less puzzling when one remembers the fescennine quality long present in epithalamia, the penchant of epithalamists for using the genre as a rhetorical plaything" Poetry of Marriage (1970) 219.

Robert Southey: "Nothing could have made Donne a poet, unless as great a change had been worked in the internal structure of his ears, as was wrought in elongating those of Midas" Specimens of Later English Poets (1807) xxiv.

Thomas Campbell: "Donne was the 'best good-natured man, with the worst-natured Muse.' A romantic and uxorious lover, he addresses the object of his real tenderness with ideas that outrage decorum. He begins his own epithalamium with a most indelicate invocation to his bride. His ruggedness and whim are almost proverbially known. Yet there is a beauty of thought which at intervals rises from his chaotic imagination, like the form of Venus smiling on the waters" Specimens of the British Poets (1819, 1841) lxvi.

Edmund Gosse: "In him the Jacobean spirit, as opposed to the Elizabethan, is paramount. His were the first poems which protested, in their form alike and their tendency, against the pastoral sweetness of the Spenserians. Something new in English literature begins in Donne, something which proceeded, under his potent influence, to colour poetry for nearly a hundred years. The exact mode in which that influence was immediately distributed is unknown to us, or very dimly perceived. To know more about it is one of the great desiderata of literary history. The imitation of Donne's style begins so early, and becomes so general, that several critics have taken for granted that there must have been editions of his writings which have disappeared" The Jacobean Poets (1894) 47.



The Sun-beames in the East are spred,
Leave, leave, faire Bride, your solitary bed,
No more shall you returne to it alone,
It nourseth sadnesse, and your bodies print,
Like to a grave, the yielding downe doth dint;
You and your other you meet there anon;
Put forth, put forth that warme balme-breathing thigh,
Which when next time you in these sheets wil smother
There it must meet another,
Which never was, but must be, oft, more nigh;
Come glad from thence, goe gladder then you came,
To day put on perfection, and a womans name.

Daughters of London, you which bee
Our Golden Mines, and furnish'd Treasurie,
You which are Angels, yet still bring with you
Thousands of Angels on your mariage daies,
Help with your presence, and devise to praise
These rites, which also unto you grow due;
Conceitedly dresse her, and be assign'd,
By you, fit place for every flower and jewell,
Make her for love fit fewell
As gay as Flora, and as rich as Inde;
So may shee faire and rich, in nothing lame,
To day put on perfection, and a womans name.

And you frolique Patricians
Some of these Senators wealths deep oceans,
Ye painted courtiers, barrels of others wits,
Yee country men, who but your beasts love none,
Yee of those fellowships whereof hee's one,
Of study and play made strange Hermaphrodits,
Here shine; This Bridegroom to the Temple bring
Loe, in yon path which store of straw'd flowers graceth,
The sober virgin paceth;
Except my sight faile, 'tis no other thing;
Weep not nor blush, here is no griefe nor shame,
To day put on perfection, and a womans name.

Thy two-leav'd gates faire Temple unfold,
And these two in thy sacred bosome hold,
Till, mystically joyn'd, but one they bee;
Then may thy leane and hunger-starved wombe
Long time expect their bodies and their tombe,
Long after their owne parents fatten thee;
All elder claimes, and all cold barrennesse,
All yeelding to new loves bee far for ever,
Which might these two dissever,
Alwaies, all th' other may each one possesse;
For, the best Bride, best worthy of praise and fame,
To day puts on perfection, and a womans name.

Winter dayes bring much delight,
Not for themselves, but for they soon bring night;
Other sweets wait thee then these diverse meats,
Other disports then dancing jollities,
Other love tricks then glancing with the eyes;
But that the Sun still in our halfe Spheare sweates;
Hee flies in winter, but he now stands still,
Yet shadowes turne; No one point he hath attain'd,
His steeds will bee restrain'd,
But gallop lively downe the Westerne hill;
Thou shalt, when he hath come the worlds half frame,
To night but on perfection, and a womans name.

The amorous evening starre is rose,
Why then should not our amorous starre inclose
Her selfe in her wish'd bed? Release your strings
Musicians, and dancers take some truce
With these your pleasing labours, for great use
As much wearinesse as perfection brings;
You, and not only you, but all toyl'd beasts
Rest duly; at night all their toyles are dispensed;
But in their beds commenced
Are other labours, and more dainty feasts;
She goes a maid, who, least she turne the same,
To night puts on perfection, and a womans name.

Thy virgins girdle now untie,
And in thy nuptiall bed [loves alter] lye
A pleasing sacrifice; now dispossesse
Thee of these chaines and robes which were put on
T' adorne the day, not thee; for thou, alone,
Like vertue'and truth, art best in nakednesse;
This bed is onely to virginitie
A grave, but, to a better state, a cradle;
Till now thou wast but able
To be what now thou art; then that by thee
No more be said, I may bee, but, I am,
To night put on perfection, and a womans name.

Even like a faithfull man content,
That this life for a better should be spent;
So, shee a mothers rich stile doth preferre,
And at the Bridegroomes wish'd approach doth lye,
Like an appointed lambe, when tenderly
The priest comes on his knees t' embowell her;
Now sleep or watch with more joy; and O light
Of heaven, to morrow rise thou hot, and early;
This Sun will love so dearely
Her rest, that long, long we shall want her sight;
Wonders are wrought, for shee which had no maime,
To night puts on perfection, and a womans name.

[pp. 135-38]