AN ELEGY UPON THE DEATH OF DR. DONNE,|
DEAN OF PAUL'S.
CAN we not force from widow'd poetry,
Now thou art dead, great Donne, one elegy,
To crown thy hearse ? Why yet did we not trust,
Though with unkneaded dough-baked prose, thy dust,
Such as the unscissor'd lecturer, from the flower
Of fading rhetoric, short-lived as his hour,
Dry as the sand that measures it, might lay
Upon the ashes on the funeral day ?
Have we nor tune nor voice ? Didst thou dispense
Through all our language both the words and sense ?
'Tis a sad truth. The pulpit may her plain
And sober Christian precepts still retain ;
Doctrines it may, and wholesome uses, frame,
Grave homilies and lectures ; but the flame
Of thy brave soul, that shot such heat and light,
As burn'd our earth, and made our darkness bright,
Committed holy rapes upon the will,
Did through the eye the melting heart distil,
And the deep knowledge of dark truths so teach,
As sense might judge what fancy could not reach,
Must be desired for ever. So the fire,
That fills with spirit and heat the Delphic choir,
Which, kindled first by thy Promethean breath,
Glow'd here awhile, lies quench'd now in thy death.
The Muses' garden, with pedantic weeds
O'erspread, was purg'd by thee ; the lazy seeds
Of servile imitation thrown away,
And fresh invention planted ; thou didst pay
The debts of our penurious bankrupt age ;
Licentious thefts, that make poetic rage
A mimic fury, when our souls must be
Possess'd, or with Anacreon's ecstacy,
Or Pindar's, not their own ; the subtle cheat
Of sly exchanges, and the juggling feat
Of two-edged words, or whatsoever wrong
By ours was done the Greek or Latin tongue,
Thou hast redeem'd, and open'd us a mine
Of rich and pregnant fancy ; drawn a line
Of masculine expression, which, had good
Old Orpheus seen, or all the ancient brood
Our superstitious fools admire, and hold
Their lead more precious than thy burnish'd gold,
Thou hadst been their exchequer, and no more
They each in other's dung had search'd for ore.
Thou shalt yield no precedence, but of time,
And the blind fate of language, whose tuned chime
More charms the outward sense : yet thou mayst claim
From so great disadvantage greater fame,
Since to the awe of thy imperious wit
Our troublesome language bends, made only fit
With her tough thick-ribb'd hoops to gird about
Thy giant fancy, which had proved too stout
For their soft melting phrases. As in time
They had the start, so did they cull the prime
Buds of invention many a hundred year,
And left the rifled fields, besides the fear
To touch their harvest ; yet from those bare lands,
Of what was only thine, thy only hands
(And that their smallest work,) have gleaned more
Than all those times and tongues could reap before.
But thou art gone, and thy strict laws will be
Too hard for libertines in poetry ;
They will recall the goodly exiled train
Of gods and goddesses, which in thy just reign
Was banish'd nobler poems ; now with these,
The silenced tales i' th' Metamorphoses,
Shall stuff their lines, and swell the windy page,
Till verse, refined by thee in this last age,
Turn ballad-rhyme, or those old idols be
Adored again with new apostacy.
O pardon me, that break with untuned verse
The reverend silence that attends thy hearse,
Whose solemn awful murmurs were to thee,
More than these rude lines, a loud elegy,
That did proclaim in a dumb eloquence
The death of all the arts : whose influence,
Grown feeble, in these panting numbers lies,
Gasping short-winded accents, and so dies.
So doth the swiftly-turning wheel not stand
In th' instant we withdraw the moving hand,
But some short time retain a faint weak course,
By virtue of the first impulsive force :
And so, whilst I cast on thy funeral pile
Thy crown of bays, oh let it crack awhile,
And spit disdain, till the devouring flashes
Suck all the moisture up, then turn to ashes.
I will not draw the envy to engross
All thy perfections, or weep all the loss ;
Those are too numerous for one elegy,
And this too great to be express'd by me.
Let others carve the rest ; it shall suffice
I on thy grave this epitaph incise:
Here lies a king that ruled, as he thought fit,
The universal monarchy of wit ;
Here lies two flamens, and both those the best :
Apollo's first, at last the true God's priest.
Vincent, Arthur, ed. The Poems of Thomas Carew.
London: George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., nd. 100-103.
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Created by Anniina Jokinen on March 27, 2001.