Monday, December 24, 2012

John Donne*

John Donne (1572—1631) has now been established as one of the English language’s greatest poets; this was not always the case. In his own day, he was better known as a preacher — serving as dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. During his lifetime his verse circulated in manuscript form among those who valued it. Immediately after his death it was published in several editions, but soon fell out of fashion to be all but forgotten for centuries. During these years some poets, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Browning, were solitary voices in praise of John Donne. It wasn’t until the 1920s that admirers including William Butler Yeats and T.S. Eliot succeeded in drawing the attention of the literary world to Donne's poetry.

The following poem is the third from “La Corona” from Donne’s Holy Sonnets.

Nativity

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves his well-beloved imprisonment,
There he hath made himself to his intent
Weak enough, now into our world to come;
But Oh, for thee, for him, hath th'Inn no room?
Yet lay him in this stall, and from the orient,
Stars, and wisemen will travel to prevent
Th'effect of Herod's jealous general doom;
See’st thou, my soul, with thy faith's eyes, how he
Which fills all place, yet none holds him, doth lie?
Was not his pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss him, and with him into Egypt go,
With his kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about John Donne.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca