Monday, October 27, 2008

Immensity Cloistered in Thy Dear Womb

Now to post a few poets whose sonnets do not fit the pattern that I described a couple days ago. While there may be longing in these sonnets, and undoubtedly there is, it is not primary. These sonnets are not of romantic love of a man for a woman or a woman for a man. Here we find the adoration of a mortal on his face before his creator. This is adoration in its highest sense.

John Donne is more known for his Holy Sonnets, "Death be not proud. . .," but I have chosen some others to present here. While the Holy Sonnets can be considered a set of sonnets, LA CORONA is truly a sonnet sequence. It absolutely must be read in order, so I am posting the whole series here.

The order is important because Donne moves through the life of Christ, from the time that the angel appeared to Mary to tell her of the child that she would have, through Jesus' birth, and on until his ascension into heaven. The story should be told in order. To enforce this order he ingeniously used the last line of each sonnet as the first line of the next. This proves very interesting as one progresses through the series because a phrase used at the end of a sentence often does not have the same sense when used at the beginning of a sentence. He makes it work masterfully, and even loops it back to the beginning by having the last line of the last sonnet be the same as the first line of the first sonnet. For poetic sense that was superfluous. But it was clever. And John Donne wouldn't be John Donne if he didn't prize his cleverness!

In these I am forced to admit that the sonnet is the perfect vehicle for more than the tears of a hopeless lover.


Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise,Weav'd in my low devout melancholy,
Thou which of good, hast, yea art treasury,
All changing unchanged Ancient of days,
But do not, with a vile crown of frail bays,
Reward my muse's white sincerity,
But what thy thorny crown gained, that give me,
A crown of Glory, which doth flower always;
The ends crown our works, but thou crown'st our ends,
For at our end begins our endlesse rest,
The first last end, now zealously possest,
With a strong sober thirst, my soul attends.
'Tis time that heart and voice be lifted high,
Salvation to all that will is nigh.


Salvation to all that will is nigh,That All, which always is All everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Loe, faithful Virgin, yields himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though he there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet he'will wear
Taken from thence, flesh, which death's force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in his mind, who is thy Son, and Brother,
Whom thou conceiv'st, conceiv'd; yea thou art now
Thy maker's maker, and thy Father's mother,
Thou hast light in dark; and shutst in little room,
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.


Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves his welbelov'd imprisonment,
There he hath made himself to his intent
Weak enough, now into our world to come;
But Oh, for thee, for him, hath th'Inne no roome?
Yet lay him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars, and wisemen will travel to prevent
Th'effect of Herod's jealous general doom;
Seest thou, my Soul, with thy faith's eyes, how he
Which fills all place, yet none holds him, doth lie?
Was not his pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss him, and with him into Egypt goe,
With his kind mother, who partakes thy woe.


With his kind mother, who partakes thy woe,
Joseph turn back; see where your child doth sit,
Blowing, yea blowing out those sparks of wit,
Which himself on the Doctors did bestow;
The Word but lately could not speake, and loe
It suddenly speaks wonders, whence comes it,
That all which was, and all which should be writ,
A shallow seeming child, should deeply know?
His Godhead was not soul to his manhood,
Nor had time mellow'd him to this ripenesse,
But as for one which hath a long task, 'tis good,
With the Sunne to begin his businesse,
He in His age's morning thus began
By miracles exceeding power of man.


By miracles exceeding power of man,
He faith in some, envy in some begat,
For, what weake spirits admire, ambitious hate:
In both affections many to him ran,
But Oh! the worst are most, they will and can,
Alas, and do, unto the immaculate,
Whose creature Fate is, now prescribe a Fate,
Measuring selfe-life's infinity to a span,
Nay to an inch. Loe, where condemned he
Bears his own cross, with pain, yet by and by
When it bears him, he must bear more and die;
Now thou art lifted up, draw me to thee,
And at thy death giving such liberal dole,
Moist, with one drop of thy blood, my dry soule.


Moist, with one drop of thy blood, my dry soule
Shall (though she now be in extreme degree
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly) be
Freed by that drop, from being starved, hard, or foul,
And life, by this death abled, shall control
Death, whom thy death slew; nor shall to me
Fear of first or last death, bring misery,
If in thy little book my name thou enroll,
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrified,
But made that there, of which, and for which 'twas;
Nor can by other means be glorified.
May then sins sleep, and deaths soon from me pass,
That waked from both, I again risen may
Salute the last, and everlasting day.


Salute the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sunne, and Sonne,
Ye whose just tears, or tribulation
Have purely washed, or burnt your drossy clay;
Behold the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the dark clouds, which he treads upon,
Nor doth he by ascending, show alone,
But first he, and he first enters the way.
O strong Ram which hast battered heaven for me,
Mild lamb, which with thy blood, hast marked the path;
Bright Torch, which shin'st, that I the way may see,
Oh, with thy own blood quench thy own just wrath.
And if the holy Spirit, my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.



Devika said...

A great series Doug!:-)

i am new to theology and Holy Sonnets and also John Donne...
but i think these sets are striking...

"the sonnet is the perfect vehicle for more than the tears of a hopeless lover" -- I am interested here...

i need to keep a track of the posts do this daily?

Doug P. Baker said...

Thanks, Devika,

It's nice to see you again.

No, not quite every day. Maybe four or five posts a week. For the past week I've been stuck on sonnets, but my tastes in poetry cover a very wide range, though I admit I am less than ecstatic about the direction most English language poetry has gone in the last hundred years or so.

I'm especially fond of choosing my favorites from a poet's lesser known works.

If you want to get the posts right away you can click on the "subsribe" button toward the bottom of all the stuff on the left side of the page.

I was interested to read your list of writers who have influenced you. You have an eclectic mix on the list. Delighted to see Maxim Gorky there, as well as Pablo Neruda. I think our tastes overlap to a pretty great extent.