Sunday, August 21, 2011

Feeling Very Metaphysical

I have always loved the poetry of John Donne.  For some reason the last couple of days I keep thinking about his imagery of the compass.  For him the compass represented his love for his wife and how though he was often parted from her, they would always be connected like two legs of a compass with one head.  I know it is terribly sexist, but her leg was the stationary one and his leg of the compass was always in motion.  The image remains for me one of the most beautiful things one spouse can say to another (accept maybe John Cash in I Walk the Line).  Read for yourself and see what you think.

by John Donne
AS virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
"Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."

                                      So let us melt, and make no noise,                                       
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;   10
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove   15
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.   20

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so   25
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,   30
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,   35
And makes me end where I begun.

Donne, John. Poems of John Donne. vol I.
E. K. Chambers, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 51-52

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