Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Poetry - John Donne

More John Donne this week. Last week's post has had more hits than most of my posts so I thought I'd see if the same thing happens this week. Maybe I should give up writing book reviews & ramblings & just post a poem every week? But then, I don't write the blog for the statistics, especially as Blogger's stats are notoriously dodgy. I'm just curious about why some posts attract so many hits. Maybe there are a lot of students studying Donne at the moment & they find my blog when they google his name? Who knows?
This is another of the Songs & Sonnets, Love's Growth.

I scarce believe my love to be so pure
   As I had thought it was,
   Because it doth endure
Vicissitude, and season, as the grass;
Methinks I lied all winter, when I swore
My love was infinite, if spring make’ it more.

But if medicine, love, which cures all sorrow
With more, not only be no quintessence,
But mixed of all stuffs paining soul or sense,
And of the sun his working vigor borrow,
Love’s not so pure, and abstract, as they use
To say, which have no mistress but their muse,
But as all else, being elemented too,
Love sometimes would contemplate, sometimes do.

And yet no greater, but more eminent,
   Love by the spring is grown;
   As, in the firmament,
Stars by the sun are not enlarged, but shown,
Gentle love deeds, as blossoms on a bough,
From love’s awakened root do bud out now.

If, as water stirred more circles be
Produced by one, love such additions take,
Those, like so many spheres, but one heaven make,
For they are all concentric unto thee;
And though each spring do add to love new heat,
As princes do in time of action get
New taxes, and remit them not in peace,
No winter shall abate the spring’s increase.


  1. I love Donne, and it's good to see him getting a mention. Had a superb English teacher for A-level who introduced me to him, and I've loved his poetry ever since. My much-loved volume of the complete poetry (with the dashing young man that you've got the picture of here on the cover) has travelled virtually everywhere with me. I always go and see hello to him, looking dashing in his shroud if I'm near St. Paul's Cathedral.

    1. I find his life as fascinating as the poetry. How could the same man have written the Songs & Sonnets in his youth & the religious poems in his later life? I have the Complete Poems too (same edition) & a couple of editions of the Selected Poetry as well. So many favourites there. I forst came across Donne at school too; we studied the Sunne Rising.

    2. Me too! I think part of his appeal to me was that he'd had such an interesting life. I've always loved his love poetry too. After reading the clinical Marvel, it was great to read someone whose love and passion for his partner shone through his poetry. I was smitten :-)

  2. Thank you for the idea to buy The Diary of a Provincial Lady, I did and look forward to reading it. As for blog stats, I can not figure out why some of my posts are more popular than others. A few I wrote on retirement were more read than other of my posts about books, flowers, etc. Tis a mystery.

    1. Hope you enjoy the PL, she;s one of my favourite literary characters. Blogger stats have always been odd so I find it puzzling but don't worry too much about it.

  3. this is a bit embarrassing... i've gone over the poem several times and still can't figure out exactly what he's saying about love... i've had the same problem with Donne before: something missing, there, in the old brain pan...

    1. Donne is always convoluted, too clever for his own good sometimes. I often wonder if his lovers could work out what he was trying to say! In this one I think he's saying that his love continues growing even when he thinks he's reached the limit of his love. He uses the metaphor of the seasons & compares them to nature (stars in the firmament, plants budding & growing). I'm sure there are other interpretations as well.

  4. There's a wonderful chapter in a newly-published book 'The Splash of Words' by Mark Oakley, a Canon at St Paul's Cathedral (John Donne was Dean of St Paul's for ten years) which is encouraging me to try again with Donne's poetry - your Sunday choice is perfectly timed - and try to grapple with its often bewilderingly labyrinthine meaning. I know this will be infinitely rewarding - but it might have to be in small steps ...

    1. There's always more to find in Donne, the metaphysical poets are never easy to decipher but always fun to read.