Friday, March 30, 2007

The Ecstasy

Tomorrow is the feast day of John Donne. It is also my mother's birthday... she would have been 87 years old. Here I share Donne in a more... shall we say... amorous key. I memorized this poem for a class in college, I think to impress the professor. I think I shall try to re-memorize it for Beloved.

Thanks to Grandmère Mimi for the reminder.

The Ecstasy

Where, like a pillow on a bed
A pregnant bank swelled up to rest
The violet's reclining head,
Sat we two, one another's best.

Our hands were firmly cemented
With a fast balm, which thence did spring;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
Our eyes upon one double string;

So to'intergraft our hands, as yet
Was all the means to make us one,
And pictures in our eyes to get
Was all our propagation.

As 'twixt two equal armies fate
Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls (which to advance their state
Were gone out) hung 'twixt her and me.

And whilst our souls negotiate there,
We like sepulchral statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
And we said nothing, all the day.

If any, so by love refined
That he soul's language understood,
And by good love were grown all mind,
Within convenient distance stood,

He (though he knew not which soul spake,
Because both meant, both spake the same)
Might thence a new concoction take
And part far purer than he came.

This ecstasy doth unperplex,
We said, and tell us what we love;
We see by this it was not sex,
We see we saw not what did move;

But as all several souls contain
Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love these mixed souls doth mix again
And makes both one, each this and that.

A single violet transplant,
The strength, the colour, and the size,
(All which before was poor and scant)
Redoubles still, and multiplies.

When love with one another so
Interinanimates two souls,
That abler soul, which thence doth flow,
Defects of loneliness controls.

We then, who are this new soul, know
Of what we are composed and made,
For, th' atomies of which we grow
Are souls, whom no change can invade.

But O alas, so long, so far,
Our bodies why do we forbear?
They're ours, though they're not we; we are
The intelligences, they the spheres.

We owe them thanks, because they thus
Did us, to us at first convey,
Yielded their forces, sense to us,
Nor are dross to us, but allay.

On man heaven's influence works not so,
But that it first imprints the air;
So soul into the soul may flow,
Though it to body first repair.

As our blood labors to beget
Spirits, as like souls as it can,
Because such fingers need to knit
That subtle knot which makes us man,

So must pure lovers' souls descend
To' affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
Else a great prince in prison lies.

To'our bodies turn we then, that so
Weak men on love revealed may look;
Love's mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book.

And if some lover, such as we,
Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still mark us, he shall see
Small change, when we're to bodies gone.


Lisa Fox said...

Say "This is not about sex" all you want, but I think this is about the sexiest, most wonderful poem in the English language. Thanks for putting it here.

I just discovered your blog yesterday, and am so glad I did. Your writing is so passionate and "gets it" just right about women's relationships.

I wish you joy and peace in this journey.

don't eat alone said...


Thanks for your comment on my blog. And thanks for your offerings here. I'm doing two things: praying for you as you find a way to be fully yourself in all aspects of your life and I'm adding you to my blog roll.


Cecilia said...

Lisa, I agree- it is a wonderfully sexy poem. Donne lives out the truth that agape, eros and philia can and do all intersect in one faithful life.

Milton, thank you, friend, for visiting and commenting. I am grateful for all your prayers and good wishes.

Pax, C.

Catherine said...

John Donne--only one of the reasons I obtained a Masters in Renaissance Literature and Art History! Such fine stuff this is and the intimacy alone makes the sex pale in comparison. Beloved should love this when you recite it to her!

Liz said...

I am so impressed you memorized this poem.