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Best Famous John Donne Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous John Donne poems. This is a select list of the best famous John Donne poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous John Donne poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of John Donne poems.

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by John Donne | |

Death Be Not Proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; 
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow, 
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell; And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


by John Donne | |

The Flea

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
Me it sucked first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Thou know'st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame nor loss of maidenhead,
  Yet this enjoys before it woo,
  And pampered swells with one blood made of two,
  And this, alas, is more than we would do.
Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare, Where we almost, yea more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this Our marriage bed and marriage temple is; Though parents grudge, and you, we are met, And cloistered in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me, Let not to that, self-murder added be, And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
Curel and sudden, hast thou since Purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence? Wherein could this flea guilty be, Except in that drop which it sucked from thee? Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou Find'st not thy self nor me the weaker now; 'Tis true; then learn how false, fears be; Just so much honor, when thou yield'st to me, Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.


by John Donne | |

The Dream

DEAR love for nothing less than thee 
Would I have broke this happy dream; 
It was a theme 
For reason much too strong for fantasy.
Therefore thou waked'st me wisely; yet 5 My dream thou brok'st not but continued'st it.
Thou art so true that thoughts of thee suffice To make dreams truths and fables histories; Enter these arms for since thou thought'st it best Not to dream all my dream let 's act the rest.
10 As lightning or a taper's light Thine eyes and not thy noise waked me; Yet I thought thee¡ª For thou lov'st truth¡ªan angel at first sight; But when I saw thou saw'st my heart 15 And knew'st my thoughts beyond an angel's art When thou knew'st what I dreamt when thou knew'st when Excess of joy would wake me and cam'st then I must confess it could not choose but be Profane to think thee anything but thee.
20 Coming and staying show'd thee thee But rising makes me doubt that now Thou art not thou.
That Love is weak where Fear 's as strong as he; 'Tis not all spirit pure and brave 25 If mixture it of Fear Shame Honour have.
Perchance as torches which must ready be Men light and put out so thou deal'st with me.
Thou cam'st to kindle go'st to come: then I Will dream that hope again but else would die.
30


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by John Donne | |

The Ecstasy

WHERE like a pillow on a bed  
A pregnant bank swell'd up to rest 
The violet's reclining head  
Sat we two one another's best.
Our hands were firmly c¨¨mented 5 By a fast balm which thence did spring; Our eye-beams twisted and did thread Our eyes upon one double string.
So to engraft our hands as yet Was all the means to make us one; 10 And pictures in our eyes to get Was all our propagation.
As 'twixt two equal armies Fate Suspends uncertain victory Our souls¡ªwhich to advance their state 15 Were gone out¡ªhung 'twixt her and me.
And whilst our souls negotiate there We like sepulchral statues lay; All day the same our postures were And we said nothing all the day.
20


by John Donne | |

Death

DEATH be not proud though some have call¨¨d thee 
Mighty and dreadful for thou art not so: 
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow 
Die not poor Death; nor yet canst thou kill me.
From Rest and Sleep which but thy picture be 5 Much pleasure then from thee much more must flow; And soonest our best men with thee do go¡ª Rest of their bones and souls' delivery! Thou'rt slave to fate chance kings and desperate men And dost with poison war and sickness dwell; 10 And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke.
Why swell'st thou then? One short sleep past we wake eternally And Death shall be no more: Death thou shalt die!


by John Donne | |

A Hymn to God the Father

WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun  
Which was my sin though it were done before? 
Wilt Thou forgive that sin through which I run  
And do run still though still I do deplore? 
When Thou hast done Thou hast not done; 5 
For I have more.
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won Others to sin and made my sins their door? Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun A year or two but wallow'd in a score? 10 When Thou hast done Thou hast not done; For I have more.
I have a sin of fear that when I've spun My last thread I shall perish on the shore; But swear by Thyself that at my death Thy Son 15 Shall shine as He shines now and heretofore: And having done that Thou hast done; I fear no more.


by John Donne | |

Daybreak

STAY O sweet and do not rise! 
The light that shines comes from thine eyes; 
The day breaks not: it is my heart  
Because that you and I must part.
Stay! or else my joys will die 5 And perish in their infancy.


by John Donne | |

The Funeral

WHOEVER comes to shroud me do not harm 
Nor question much 
That subtle wreath of hair about mine arm; 
The mystery the sign you must not touch  
For 'tis my outward soul 5 
Viceroy to that which unto heav'n being gone  
Will leave this to control 
And keep these limbs her provinces from dissolution.
For if the sinewy thread my brain lets fall Through every part 10 Can tie those parts and make me one of all; Those hairs which upward grew and strength and art Have from a better brain Can better do 't: except she meant that I By this should know my pain 15 As prisoners then are manacled when they're condemn'd to die.
Whate'er she meant by 't bury it with me For since I am Love's martyr it might breed idolatry If into other hands these reliques came.
20 As 'twas humility T' afford to it all that a soul can do So 'tis some bravery That since you would have none of me I bury some of you.


by John Donne | |

That Time and Absence proves Rather helps than hurts to loves

ABSENCE hear thou my protestation 
Against thy strength  
Distance and length: 
Do what thou canst for alteration  
For hearts of truest mettle 5 
Absence doth join and Time doth settle.
Who loves a mistress of such quality His mind hath found Affection's ground Beyond time place and all mortality.
10 To hearts that cannot vary Absence is present Time doth tarry.
My senses want their outward motion Which now within Reason doth win 15 Redoubled by her secret notion: Like rich men that take pleasure In hiding more than handling treasure.
By Absence this good means I gain That I can catch her 20 Where none can watch her In some close corner of my brain: There I embrace and kiss her And so enjoy her and none miss her.


by John Donne | |

Song

GO and catch a falling star, 
Get with child a mandrake root, 
Tell me where all past years are, 
Or who cleft the Devil's foot; 
Teach me to hear mermaids singing, 5 
Or to keep off envy's stinging, 
And find 
What wind 
Serves to advance an honest mind.
If thou be'st born to strange sights, 10 Things invisible to see, Ride ten thousand days and nights Till Age snow white hairs on thee; Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me All strange wonders that befell thee, 15 And swear No where Lives a woman true and fair.
If thou find'st one, let me know; Such a pilgrimage were sweet.
20 Yet do not; I would not go, Though at next door we might meet.
Though she were true when you met her, And last till you write your letter, Yet she 25 Will be False, ere I come, to two or three.


by | |

To John Donne

 Donne, the delight of Phoebus and each Muse
Who, to thy one, all other brains refuse;
Whose every work of thy most early wit
Came forth example, and remains so yet;
Longer a-knowing than most wits do live;
And which no affection praise enough can give!
To it, thy language, letters, arts, best life,
Which might with half mankind maintain a strife.
All which I meant to praise, and yet I would; But leave, because I cannot as I should!


by Richard Brautigan | |

To England

 There are no postage stamps that send letters
back to England three centuries ago,
no postage stamps that make letters
travel back until the grave hasn't been dug yet,
and John Donne stands looking out the window,
it is just beginning to rain this April morning,
and the birds are falling into the trees
like chess pieces into an unplayed game,
and John Donne sees the postman coming up the street,
the postman walks very carefully because his cane
is made of glass.


by John Donne | |

Holy Sonnet II: As Due By Many Titles I Resign

 As due by many titles I resign
My self to Thee, O God; first I was made
By Thee, and for Thee, and when I was decayed
Thy blood bought that, the which before was Thine;
I am Thy son, made with Thy Self to shine,
Thy servant, whose pains Thou hast still repaid,
Thy sheep, thine image, and, till I betrayed
My self, a temple of Thy Spirit divine;
Why doth the devil then usurp on me?
Why doth he steal, nay ravish that's thy right?
Except thou rise and for thine own work fight,
Oh I shall soon despair, when I do see
That thou lov'st mankind well, yet wilt not choose me,
And Satan hates me, yet is loth to lose me.


by John Donne | |

Holy Sonnet XII: Why Are We By All Creatures Waited On?

 Why are we by all creatures waited on?
Why do the prodigal elements supply
Life and food to me, being more pure than I,
Simple, and further from corruption?
Why brook'st thou, ignorant horse, subjection?
Why dost thou, bull, and bore so seelily,
Dissemble weakness, and by one man's stroke die,
Whose whole kind you might swallow and feed upon?
Weaker I am, woe is me, and worse than you,
You have not sinned, nor need be timorous.
But wonder at a greater wonder, for to us Created nature doth these things subdue, But their Creator, whom sin nor nature tied, For us, His creatures, and His foes, hath died.


by John Donne | |

Holy Sonnet XV: Wilt Thou Love God As He Thee? Then Digest

 Wilt thou love God, as he thee? Then digest,
My soul, this wholesome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by angels waited on
In heaven, doth make his Temple in thy breast.
The Father having begot a Son most blest, And still begetting, (for he ne'er be gone) Hath deigned to choose thee by adoption, Co-heir t' his glory, and Sabbath' endless rest.
And as a robbed man, which by search doth find His stol'n stuff sold, must lose or buy 't again: The Son of glory came down, and was slain, Us whom he'd made, and Satan stol'n, to unbind.
'Twas much that man was made like God before, But, that God should be made like man, much more.


by John Donne | |

Holy Sonnet XVI: Father Part Of His Double Interest

 Father, part of his double interest
Unto thy kingdom, thy Son gives to me,
His jointure in the knotty Trinity
He keeps, and gives to me his death's conquest.
This Lamb, whose death with life the world hath blest, Was from the world's beginning slain, and he Hath made two Wills which with the Legacy Of his and thy kingdom do thy Sons invest.
Yet such are thy laws that men argue yet Whether a man those statutes can fulfil; None doth; but all-healing grace and spirit Revive again what law and letter kill.
Thy law's abridgement, and thy last command Is all but love; Oh let this last Will stand!


by John Donne | |

Elegy VII

 Nature's lay idiot, I taught thee to love,
And in that sophistry, Oh, thou dost prove
Too subtle: Foole, thou didst not understand
The mystic language of the eye nor hand:
Nor couldst thou judge the difference of the air
Of sighs, and say, This lies, this sounds despair:
Nor by th' eyes water call a malady
Desperately hot, or changing feverously.
I had not taught thee, then, the Alphabet Of flowers, how they devisefully being set And bound up might with speechless secrecy Deliver errands mutely, and mutually.
Remember since all thy words used to be To every suitor, Ay, if my friends agree; Since, household charms, thy husband's name to teach, Were all the love tricks that thy wit could reach; And since, an hour's discourse could scarce have made One answer in thee, and that ill arrayed In broken proverbs and torn sentences.
Thou art not by so many duties his, That from the world's Common having severed thee, Inlaid thee, neither to be seen, nor see, As mine: who have with amorous delicacies Refined thee into a blisful Paradise.
Thy graces and good words my creatures be; I planted knowledge and life's tree in thee, Which Oh, shall strangers taste? Must I alas Frame and enamel plate, and drink in glass? Chaf wax for others' seals? break a colt's force And leave him then, being made a ready horse?


by John Donne | |

A Lame Beggar

 I am unable, yonder beggar cries,
To stand, or move; if he say true, he lies.


by John Donne | |

The Apparition

 When by thy scorn, O murd'ress, I am dead,
And that thou think'st thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feigned vestal, in worse arms shall see;
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tired before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
Thou call'st for more,
And in false sleep will from thee shrink,
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bathed in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
A verier ghost than I.
What I will say I will not tell thee now, Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent, I'd rather thou shouldst painfully repent Than by my threat'nings rest still innocent.


by John Donne | |

Holy Sonnet V: I Am A Little World Made Cunningly

 I am a little world made cunningly
Of elements, and an angelic sprite;
But black sin hath betrayed to endless night
My worlds both parts, and (oh!) both parts must die.
You which beyond that heaven which was most high Have found new spheres, and of new lands can write, Pour new seas in mine eyes, that so I might Drown my world with my weeping earnestly, Or wash it if it must be drowned no more: But oh it must be burnt! alas the fire Of lust and envy have burnt it heretofore, And made it fouler: Let their flames retire, And burn me, O Lord, with a fiery zeal Of Thee and Thy house, which doth in eating heal.


by John Donne | |

Elegy V: His Picture

 Here take my picture; though I bid farewell,
Thine, in my heart, where my soul dwells, shall dwell.
'Tis like me now, but I dead, 'twill be more When we are shadows both than 'twas before.
When weather-beaten I come back, my hand Perhaps with rude oars torn, or sunbeams tanned, My face and breast of haircloth, and my head With cares rash sudden storms being o'erspread, My body a sack of bones, broken within, And powder's blue stains scattered on my skin; If rival fools tax thee t' have loved a man So foul and course as, Oh, I may seem then, This shall say what I was: and thou shalt say, Do his hurts reach me? doth my worth decay? Or do they reach his judging mind, that he Should now love less what he did love to see? That which in him was fair and delicate Was but the milk, which in love's childish state Did nurse it: who now is grown strong enough To feed on that, which to disused tastes seems tough.


by John Donne | |

Holy Sonnet IX: If Poisonous Minerals And If That Tree

 If poisonous minerals, and if that tree
Whose fruit threw death on else immortal us,
If lecherous goats, if serpents envious
Cannot be damned, alas, why should I be?
Why should intent or reason, born in me,
Make sins, else equal, in me more heinous?
And Mercy being easy, and glorious
To God; in his stern wrath, why threatens he?
But who am I, that dare dispute with thee
O God? Oh! of thine only worthy blood,
And my tears, make a heavenly Lethean flood,
And drown in it my sin's black memory;
That thou remember them, some claim as debt,
I think it mercy, if thou wilt forget.


by John Donne | |

Elegy III: Change

 Although thy hand and faith, and good works too,
Have sealed thy love which nothing should undo,
Yea though thou fall back, that apostasy
Confirm thy love; yet much, much I fear thee.
Women are like the Arts, forced unto to none, Open to all searchers, unprized if unknown.
If I have caught a bird, and let him fly, Another fowler using these means, as I, May catch the same bird; and, as these things be, Women are made for men, not him, nor me.
Foxes and goats, all beasts, change when they please, Shall women, more hot, wily, wild than these, Be bound to one man, and did Nature then Idly make tham apter t' endure than men? They're our clogs, not their own; if a man be Chained to a galley, yet the galley's free; Who hath a plough-land casts all his seedcorn there, And yet allows his ground more corn should bear; Though Danuby into the sea must flow, The sea receives the Rhine, Volga, and Po.
By Nature, which gave it, this liberty Thou lov'st, but Oh! canst thou love it and me? Likeness glues love: and if that thou so do, To make us like and love, must I change too? More than thy hate, I hate't; rather let me Allow her change than change as oft as she, And so not teach, but force my opinion To love not any one, nor every one.
To live in one land is captivity, To run all countries, a wild roguery; Waters stink soon if in one place they bide, And in the vast sea are more purified: But when they kiss one bank, and leaving this Never look back, but the next bank do kiss, Then are they purest.
Change is the nursery Of music, joy, life, and eternity.


by John Donne | |

Holy Sonnet IV: Oh My Black Soul! Now Art Thou Summoned

 Oh my black soul! now art thou summoned
By sickness, death's herald, and champion;
Thou art like a pilgrim, which abroad hath done
Treason, and durst not turn to whence he is fled;
Or like a thief, which till death's doom be read,
Wisheth himself delivered from prison,
But damned and haled to execution,
Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned.
Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lack; But who shall give thee that grace to begin? Oh make thy self with holy mourning black, And red with blushing, as thou art with sin; Or wash thee in Christ's blood, which hath this might That being red, it dyes red souls to white


by John Donne | |

Loves Deity

 I long to talk with some old lover's ghost,
Who died before the God of Love was born:
I cannot think that he, who then loved most,
Sunk so low as to love one which did scorn.
But since this god produced a destiny, And that vice-nature, Custom, lets it be, I must love her that loves not me.
Sure, they which made him god meant not so much, Nor he in his young godhead practised it; But when an even flame two hearts did touch, His office was indulgently to fit Actives to passives.
Correspondency Only his subject was; it cannot be Love, till I love her that loves me.
But every modern god will now extend His vast prerogative as far as Jove.
To rage, to lust, to write to, to commend, All is the purlieu of the God of Love.
Oh were we wakened by this tyranny To ungod this child again, it could not be I should love her who loves not me.
Rebel and atheist too, why murmur I As though I felt the worst that love could do? Love might make me leave loving, or might try A deeper plague, to make her love me too, Which, since she loves before, I'm loth to see; Falsehood is worse than hate; and that must be, If she whom I love should love me.