John Donne made me cry!

It’s all Michael Collins’ fault! It’s his fault, and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it like the ludicrous sticky tack I found in my kitchen drawer that doesn’t work at all due to age, humidity, and its existence as ludicrous sticky tack. Which of course is to say that not only is that not my story, but that I couldn’t stick to it if I triedl. What I’m about to relate to you is only partially the doing of the delightful Michael Collins, and is really more due to my inability to resist love poetry that’s more than a few centuries old (that, and I am a giant nerd, in case anyone didn’t get that before now).

So, this evening I was left with little planned as a friend had to reschedule plans we’d made for another time. This was unfortunate, I thought, but it also left my night wide open to anything else that might come along. I’m a big fan of “anything else that might come along”, and so as I made supper I pondered the few things that I might most enjoy doing for the next few hours. While eating supper, I was chatting to another friend of mine who was in the thick of researching a paper on sonnets, and I noticed another one of Michael’s tweets about John Donne (he’s been reading a lot of Donne, evidently, and loving it), and at that point I decided to set about finding myself some sonnets, and perhaps some specifically written by Mr. Donne! “But wait!” I thought, “where would I best find these things?!”

I’ll give you two guesses.

Those of you who take notice of my Twitter feed at the bottom of the page needn’t bother guessing, of course, as it’s a dead giveaway.

Ah, you looked! Yes, that’s right — on my wide open Tuesday evening, I ended up tucked away on the fourth floor of the QEII, sitting on the floor between two mammoth book stacks, hanging out not only with Donne, but with Shakespeare, Spenser, and all other manner of dead English poets. My plan had been to find a relatively recent, comprehensive collection of Donne, but I got sucked into reading about his apparently distinct wit instead. After spending the better part of an hour perusing the myriad of books available, I ended up planting my behind right in front of a collection that not only looked to be relatively recent, but was also in paperback form, which I found oddly fortuitous (note: reading dead English poets will, inevitably, bring out words you’d forgotten were in your vocabulary — like fortuitous).

In my glee, I started to take in some of what that particular collection had to offer. I was stunned — why hadn’t I read more Donne before? This guy was absolutely amazing in so many ways! Yeesh. I felt at once angry at myself for not having sought him out before now (well, more than the little I had read), and at my educators for not having adequately communicated to me that he wrote so beautifully. I also felt, of course, an overwhelming sense of “hurrah! I’ve found this truly awe-inspiring poetry and lyric at last!”, and so the anger subsided pretty quickly.

I read through as much of the collection as I could without wanting to stick the book in my bag and take it home with me (because, of course, I forgot my library card in all the excitement), and I loved a lot of it. Some of it was a bit on the arduous side, but that’s to be expected from any serious writer, really. I did find one piece that actually brought tears to my eyes. To me, it’s the perfect expression of lovers parting ways, and it resonated so deeply and for so many reasons that my heart whispered, “Don’t you even think you’re getting away with not crying”.

The Expiration

SO, so, break off this last lamenting kiss,
Which sucks two souls, and vapours both away ;
Turn, thou ghost, that way, and let me turn this,
And let ourselves benight our happiest day.
We ask none leave to love ; nor will we owe
Any so cheap a death as saying, “Go.”

Go ; and if that word have not quite killed thee,
Ease me with death, by bidding me go too.
Or, if it have, let my word work on me,
And a just office on a murderer do.
Except it be too late, to kill me so,
Being double dead, going, and bidding, “Go.”

Trust that I will post again on Mr. Donne — he’s got my heart by the strings after that one, and there’s so much material that I could easily spend the next year posting on nothing but him. Next time, though: some sexy stuff, of which there is a treasure trove.


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One thought on “John Donne made me cry!

  1. I’m so glad you found your way to Donne! He is pretty awesome — and yes, sometimes difficult, too, but like you say, that comes with the territory. I find I like it best when I read it slowly, carefully, a couple of times over. I hadn’t read him until this summer, either. It’s amazing, one can get a degree and read widely and still have a lifetime’s worth of things to discover. Actually I hadn’t read the poem you posted above (I only have what’s in my Norton), and it really is just beautiful, so you’ve lead me to a discovery just as I helped lead you to one.

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