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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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Written 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.

Written 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.

Written 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.

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Written by John Donne |


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!

Written 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.

Written by John Donne |


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.

Written 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.

Written 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.

Written 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.

Written by John Donne |


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.

Written by John Donne |

Air And Angels

 Twice or thrice had I loved thee,
Before I knew thy face or name,
So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame,
Angels affect us oft, and worship'd be;
Still when, to where thou wert, I came,
Some lovely glorious nothing I did see.
But since my soul, whose child love is, Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do, More subtile than the parent is, Love must not be, but take a body too, And therefore what thou wert, and who, I bid Love ask, and now That it assume thy body, I allow, And fix itself in thy lip, eye, and brow.
Whilst thus to ballast love, I thought, And so more steadily to have gone, With wares which would sink admiration, I saw, I had love's pinnace overfraught, Ev'ry thy hair for love to work upon Is much too much, some fitter must be sought; For, nor in nothing, nor in things Extreme, and scatt'ring bright, can love inhere; Then as an Angel, face, and wings Of air, not pure as it, yet pure doth wear, So thy love may be my loves sphere; Just such disparity As is twixt Air and Angels' purity, 'Twixt women's love, and men's will ever be.

Written by John Donne |

Holy Sonnet XI: Spit In My Face You Jews And Pierce My Side

 Spit in my face you Jews, and pierce my side,
Buffet, and scoff, scourge, and crucify me,
For I have sinned, and sinned, and only he
Who could do no iniquity hath died:
But by my death can not be satisfied
My sins, which pass the Jews' impiety:
They killed once an inglorious man, but I
Crucify him daily, being now glorified.
Oh let me, then, his strange love still admire: Kings pardon, but he bore our punishment.
And Jacob came clothed in vile harsh attire But to supplant, and with gainful intent: God clothed himself in vile man's flesh, that so He might be weak enough to suffer woe.

Written by John Donne |

The Legacy

 When I died last, and, Dear, I die
 As often as from thee I go,
 Though it be but an hour ago,
And Lovers' hours be full eternity,
I can remember yet, that I
 Something did say, and something did bestow;
Though I be dead, which sent me, I should be
Mine own executor and legacy.
I heard me say, "Tell her anon, That myself, that is you, not I, Did kill me," and when I felt me die, I bid me send my heart, when I was gone, But alas could there find none, When I had ripp'd me, and search'd where hearts should lie; It kill'd me again, that I who still was true, In life, in my last will should cozen you.
Yet I found something like a heart, But colors it, and corners had, It was not good, it was not bad, It was intire to none, and few had part.
As good as could be made by art It seem'd, and therefore for our losses sad, I meant to send this heart in stead of mine, But oh, no man could hold it, for 'twas thine.

Written by John Donne |

Elegy IX: The Autumnal

 No spring nor summer Beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnall face.
Young beauties force our love, and that's a rape, This doth but counsel, yet you cannot 'scape.
If 'twere a shame to love, here 'twere no shame, Affection here takes Reverence's name.
Were her first years the Golden Age; that's true, But now she's gold oft tried, and ever new.
That was her torrid and inflaming time, This is her tolerable Tropique clime.
Fair eyes, who asks more heat than comes from hence, He in a fever wishes pestilence.
Call not these wrinkles, graves; if graves they were, They were Love's graves; for else he is no where.
Yet lies not Love dead here, but here doth sit Vowed to this trench, like an Anachorit.
And here, till hers, which must be his death, come, He doth not dig a grave, but build a tomb.
Here dwells he, though he sojourn ev'ry where, In progress, yet his standing house is here.
Here, where still evening is; not noon, nor night; Where no voluptuousness, yet all delight In all her words, unto all hearers fit, You may at revels, you at counsel, sit.
This is Love's timber, youth his under-wood; There he, as wine in June enrages blood, Which then comes seasonabliest, when our taste And appetite to other things is past.
Xerxes' strange Lydian love, the Platane tree, Was loved for age, none being so large as she, Or else because, being young, nature did bless Her youth with age's glory, Barrenness.
If we love things long sought, Age is a thing Which we are fifty years in compassing; If transitory things, which soon decay, Age must be loveliest at the latest day.
But name not winter-faces, whose skin's slack; Lank, as an unthrift's purse; but a soul's sack; Whose eyes seek light within, for all here's shade; Whose mouths are holes, rather worn out than made; Whose every tooth to a several place is gone, To vex their souls at Resurrection; Name not these living deaths-heads unto me, For these, not ancient, but antique be.
I hate extremes; yet I had rather stay With tombs than cradles, to wear out a day.
Since such love's natural lation is, may still My love descend, and journey down the hill, Not panting after growing beauties so, I shall ebb out with them, who homeward go.

Written by John Donne |

The Indifferent

 I can love both fair and brown,
Her whom abundance melts, and her whom want betrays,
Her who loves loneness best, and her who masks and plays,
Her whom the country formed, and whom the town,
Her who believes, and her who tries,
Her who still weeps with spongy eyes,
And her who is dry cork, and never cries;
I can love her, and her, and you, and you,
I can love any, so she be not true.
Will no other vice content you? Will it not serve your turn to do as did your mothers? Or have you old vices spent, and now would find out others? Or doth a fear, that men are true, torment you? Oh we are not, be not you so; Let me, and do you, twenty know.
Rob me, but bind me not, and let me go.
Must I, who came to travel thorough you, Grow your fixed subject, because you are true? Venus heard me sigh this song, And by Love's sweetest part, Variety, she swore She heard not this till now; and that it should be so no more.
She went, examined, and returned ere long, And said, "Alas, some two or three Poor heretics in love there be, Which think to 'stablish dangerous constancy.
But I have told them, Since you will be true, You shall be true to them who're false to you.