John Donne (1572-1631) is one of the great English poets. Commonly referred to as belonging to the Metaphysical school of poetry, a term that only was applied much later by writers and critics such as Samuel Johnson, much of Donne’s poetry is a rich mixture of sensuality and spirituality. Poe once defined poetry as the “rhythmical creating of beauty” and I think we can see that quality in this poem. After seeing the following poem referenced on Alte’s blog: http://traditionalchristianity.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/exploring-deep-desires/, I thought I might post it here. I don’t have much to say on this poem, except that is reveals how eroticism has always been a part of life, expressed by writers and artists of different cultures and temperaments, and, when done well, a fine object of any artistic endeavor. Donne describes well the beauties of undressing his mistress. Enjoy.
Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed
by John Donne
Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labor, I in labor lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th’ eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown, going off, such beauteous state reveals,
as when from flowry meads th’ hill’s shadow steals.
Off with that wiry coronet and show
The hairy diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread
In this love’s hallowed temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes, heaven’s angels used to be
Received by men; thou, Angel, bring’st with thee
A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these angels from an evil sprite:
Those set our hairs on end, but these our flesh upright.
License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,
My mine of precious stones, my empery,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta’s balls, cast in men’s views,
That when a fool’s eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them.
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus arrayed;
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see revealed. Then, since that I may know,
As liberally as to a midwife, show
Thyself: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence.
To teach thee, I am naked first; why than,
what needst thou have more covering than a man?