Izaak Walton (1593-1683 / England)
An Elegie Upon Dr. Donne
Our _Donne_ is dead; England should mourne, may say
We had a man where language chose to stay
And shew her gracefull power. I would not praise
That and his vast wit (which in these vaine dayes
Make many proud) but, as they serv'd to unlock
That Cabinet, his minde: where such a stock
Of knowledge was repos'd, as all lament
(Or should) this generall cause of discontent.
And I rejoyce I am not so severe,
But (as I write a line) to weepe a teare
For his decease; Such sad extremities
May make such men as I write Elegies.
And wonder not; for, when a generall losse
Falls on a nation, and they slight the crosse,
God hath rais'd Prophets to awaken them
From stupifaction; witnesse my milde pen,
Not us'd to upbraid the world, though now it must
Freely and boldly, for, the cause is just.
Dull age, Oh I would spare thee, but th'art worse,
Thou art not onely dull, but hast a curse
Of black ingratitude; if not, couldst thou
Part with _miraculous Donne_, and make no vow
For thee, and thine, successively to pay
A sad remembrance to his dying day?
Did his youth scatter _Poetry_, wherein
Was all Philosophy? was every sinne,
Character'd in his _Satyrs_? Made so foule
That some have fear'd their shapes, and kept their soule
Safer by reading verse? Did he give _dayes_
Past marble monuments, to those, whose praise
He would perpetuate? Did he (I feare
The dull will doubt these at his twentieth year?
But, more matur'd; Did his full soule conceive,
And in harmonious-holy-numbers weave
A _Crown of sacred sonnets_, fit to adorne
A dying Martyrs brow: or, to be worne
On that blest head of _Mary Magdalen_,
After she wip'd Christs feet, but not till then?
Did hee (fit for such penitents as shee
And he to use) leave us a _Litany_,
Which all devout men love, and sure, it shall,
As times grow better, grow more classicall?
Did he write _Hymnes_, for piety, for wit,
Equall to those, great grave _Prudentius_ writ?
Spake he all _Languages_? knew he all Lawes?
The grounds and use of _Physick_; but because
'Twas mercenary, wav'd it? Went to see
That blessed place of _Christs nativity_?
Did he returne and preach him? preach him so
As since S. _Paul_ none did, none could? Those know,
(Such as were blest to heare him) this is truth.
Did he confirm thy aged? convert thy youth?
Did he these wonders? And is this deare losse
Mourn'd by so few? (few for so great a crosse.)
But sure the silent are ambitious all
To be Close Mourners at his Funerall;
If not; In common pitty they forbare
By repetitions to renew our care;
Or, knowing, griefe conceiv'd, conceal'd, consumes
Man irreparably, (as poyson'd fumes
Doe waste the braine) make silence a safe way,
To'inlarge the Soule from these walls, mud and clay,
(Materials of this body) to remaine
With _Donne_ in heaven, where no promiscuous pain
Lessens the joy we have, for, with _him_, all
Are satisfy'd with _joyes essentiall_.
Dwell on this joy my thoughts; oh, doe not call
Griefe back, by thinking of his Funerall;
Forget hee lov'd mee; Waste not my sad yeares;
(Which hast to _Davids_ seventy,) fill'd with feares
And sorrow for his death; Forget his parts,
Which finde a living grave in good mens hearts;
And, (for, my first is dayly payd for sinne)
Forget to pay my second sigh for him:
Forget his powerfull preaching; and forget
I am his _Convert_. Oh my frailty! let
My flesh be no more heard, it will obtrude
This lethargy: so should my gratitude,
My flowes of gratitude should so be broke;
Which can no more be, than _Donnes_ vertues spoke
By any but himselfe; for which cause, I
Write no _Encomium_, but this _Elegie_,
Which, as a free-will-offring, I here give
Fame, and the world, and parting with it grieve
I want abilities, fit to set forth
A monument, great, as Donnes matchlesse worth.
Comments about this poem (An Elegie Upon Dr. Donne by Izaak Walton )
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