Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The older I get, the more John Donne's poems seem to matter to me. They distill so many disparate desires and regrets. They are rueful, yes, but also forgiving, also hopeful, also honestly cruel. And then the accuracy of his diction, the intensity of his language, his energy: I open his collected poems at random and am overwhelmed.

The Triple Foole

John Donne

          I am two fooles, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
          In whining Poetry;
But where's that wiseman, that would not be I,
          If she would not deny?
Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea waters fretfull salt away,
          I thought, if I could draw my paines,
Through Rimes vexation, I should them allay.
Griefe brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For, he tames it, that fetters it in verse.
          But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
          Doth Set and sing my paine,
And, by delighting many, frees again
          Griefe, which verse did restraine.
To Love, and Griefe tribute of Verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when 'tis read,
          Both are increased by such songs:
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fooles, do so grow three;
Who are a little wise, the best fooles bee.

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