I've read this John Donne lyric hundreds of times over the years, often out loud. It captures the essence of life and love, at least as I see them, better than any other text:
SongThe last four lines are my favorite. If you do what you can to keep your partner alive, you are there with him or her even when your body is not. I love that sentiment.
Sweetest love, I do not go
For weariness of thee,
Nor in the hope the world can show
A fitter love for me;
But since that I
Must die at last, 'tis best,
To use my self in jest
Thus by feigned deaths to die.
Yesternight the sun went hence,
And yet is here today,
He hath no desire nor sense,
Nor half so short a way:
Then fear not me,
But believe that I shall make
Speedier journeys, since I take
More wings and spurs than he.
O how feeble is man's power,
That if good fortune fall,
Cannot add another hour,
Nor a lost hour recall!
But come bad chance,
And we join to it our strength,
And we teach it art and length,
Itself o'er us to advance.
When thou sigh'st, thou sigh'st not wind,
But sigh'st my soul away,
When thou weep'st, unkindly kind,
My life's blood doth decay.
It cannot be
That thou lov'st me, as thou say'st,
If in thine my life thou waste,
Thou art the best of me.
Let not thy divining heart
Forethink me any ill,
Destiny may take thy part,
And may thy fears fulfil;
But think that we
Are but turned aside to sleep;
They who one another keep
Alive, ne'er parted be.
The second poem, the one I read in class today, is by Marilyn Hacker. It overlaps with the theme of Donne's poem, which it provoked me to reread and type out for you:
VillanelleI love what Hacker does with the repetitions that the villanelle form requires, duplicating at the level of content the rituals of form. And all that missing language leaves me speechless.
Every day our bodies separate,
explode torn and dazed.
Not understanding what we celebrate
we grope through languages and hesitate
and touch each other, speechless and amazed;
and every day our bodies separate
us further from our planned, deliberate
ironic lives. I am afraid, disphased,
not understanding what we celebrate
when our fused limbs and lips communicate
the unlettered power we have raised.
Every day our bodies' separate
routines are harder to perpetuate.
In wordless darkness we learn wordless praise,
not understanding what we celebrate;
wake to ourselves, exhausted, in the late
morning as the wind tears off the haze,
not understanding how we celebrate
our bodies. Every day we celebrate.