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Category: John Donne

Meditation 1 – John Donne

John_Donne

                              John Donne
 
                                 _______
 

to my utter embarrassment, my
profound dismay, I attributed in
my last title John Donne‘s No
inadvertently, a somewhat later 
though nearly contemporary 
poet of Donne‘s, equally as 
noteworthy, thereby accounting, 
maybe, for my confusion, my 
lapse, my infelicity, however still 
unforgivable
 
once I mistook Schubert for 
Beethoven, and, however similar
these might become in their 
euphoric musical explorations
despite their obvious rhythmic 
differences, never a sufficient 
excuse, though, for that flagrant 
flaw – still blush at the memory 
of that faux pas, among French 
intellectuals no less, the worst, 
the least forgiving   
 
John Donne, I’ve found since, is
not only noteworthy for his ribald 
poems, the ones we studied mostly 
at school, but his “Devotions upon
Emergent Occasions, from which 
No man is an island” is but one
inspirational bit, is replete with 
other gems 
 
he’d composed them after having
survived a brush with death, they 
are wise, and worth individually
considering for their spiritual 
illumination, their metaphysical 
light, their sage and sober 
guidance
 
here’s Meditation 1, or
 
                                   The first grudging of, the sicknesse.
 
“Variable, and therfore miserable condition of Man; this minute I was well, and am ill, this minute. I am surpriz’d with a sodaine change, and alteration to worse, and can impute it to no cause, nor call it by any name. We study Health, and we deliberate upon our meats, and drink, and ayre, and exercises, and we hew, and wee polish every stone, that goes to that building; and so our Health is a long and regular work; But in a minute a Canon batters all, overthrowes all, demolishes all; a Sicknes unprevented for all our diligence, unsuspected for all our curiositie; nay, undeserved, if we consider only disorder, summons us, seizes us, possesses us, destroyes us in an instant. O miserable condition of Man, which was not imprinted by God, who as hee is immortall himselfe, had put a coale, a beame of Immortalitie into us, which we might have blowen into a flame, but blew it out, by our first sinne; wee beggard our selves by hearkning after false riches, and infatuated our selves by hearkning after false knowledge. So that now, we doe not onely die, but die upon the Rack, die by the torment of sicknesse; nor that onely, but are preafflicted, super-afflicted with these jelousies and suspitions, and apprehensions of Sicknes, before we can cal it a sicknes; we are not sure we are ill; one hand askes the other by the pulse, and our eye asks our urine, how we do. O multiplied misery! we die, and cannot enjoy death, because wee die in this torment of sicknes; we art tormented with sicknes, and cannot stay till the torment come, but preapprehensions and presages, prophecy those torments, which induce that death before either come; and our dissolution is conceived in these first changes, quickned in the sicknes it selfe, and borne in death, which beares date from these first changes. Is this the honour which Man hath by being a litle world, That he hath these earthquakes in him selfe, sodaine shakings; these lightnings, sodaine flashes; these thunders, sodaine noises; these Eclypses, sodain offuscations, and darknings of his senses; these Blazing stars, sodaine fiery exhalations; these Rivers of blood, sodaine red waters? Is he a world to himselfe onely therefore, that he hath inough in himself, not only to destroy, and execute himselfe, but to presage that execution upon himselfe; to assist the sicknes, to antidate the sicknes, to make the sicknes the more irremediable, by sad apprehensions, and as if he would make a fire the more vehement, by sprinkling water upon the coales, so to wrap a hote fever in cold Melancholy, least the fever alone should not destroy fast enough, without this contribution nor perfit the work (which is destruction) except we joynd an artificiall sicknes, of our owne melancholy, to our natural, our unnaturall fever. O perplex’d discomposition, O ridling distemper, O miserable condition of Man!”
  
                                                                                      John Donne
 
 
in other words, carpe diem, seize 
the day, don’t worry, be happy,
something too many of us learn 
too late 
 
Richard
 
psst: thanks, Guy, for the heads up,
         Guy is a librarian friend of mine 
         with the goods on the Tudors

 

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“No man is an island” – John Donne

john-donne-arriving-in-heaven-1911.jpg!Large                                     

                              John Donne Arriving in Heaven (1911)
 
                                                   Stanley Spencer
 
                                                        _________
 
 
the Munk Debates have been going  
on for some time now, a community 
service program of the very highest 
order, personalities of considerable 
note come together to champion their
positions on questions of supreme
importance in our global environment
 
Hitchens, the notorious, and highly 
influential, atheist contrarian, on 
religion, and suffered to him an 
ignominious defeat   
 
the crude but highly influential military 
advocate and, for a time, Canada’s Chief 
of Defence Staff, as well as the irascible 
Robert BoltonAmerican Ambassador to 
the U.N during the George W. Bush 
administration, and mightily held her 
own
 
Glenn Greenwald, the man who
published Edward Snowden’s trove
of leaked documents, discusses state
surveillance, others, all, have 
contributed to eloquent, and often 
riveting, exchanges 
 
last week the Canadian program went
continent-wide, including, this time, 
in other words, the United States, 
Louise Arbour, the highly respected 
Canadian jurist, and other mostly 
 
Simon Schama, a political pundit, 
offered little to that arenacounting on 
polished credentials, it appeared to me, 
instead of solid information, but stopped 
the show nevertheless with a recitation 
a literary document of the highest 
consequence we’ve all heard but never 
quite properly placed, during otherwise
more conventional closing arguments
 
despite strong opposition to my 
perspective from the site’s comment 
section, I thought No man is an island 
is on this issue not a bad at all place to 
start
 
 
Richard 
 
 
              ________________
 
 
 
 

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

              
                                                                                       John Donne

“Aubade” – Philip Larkin‏

if I said about To be, or not to be that it
had never been equalled with respect to its
broodingly existential substance, this next
poem comes pretty close to doing that

note the link to Hamlet in the word
“indecision”, a consequence of the
“standing chill / That slows each
impulse down”

note also, incidentally, that the metre is
entirely Shakespearean, read “Aubade“
out loud

any further comment I’ll cede with
gratitude and delight to moonbeamtickseed,
a promise of shrewd insight I recently
discovered on the Internet, reciprocally,
as it happened, after moonbeamtickseed,
serendipitously supposedly, had discovered,
having happened on some of my Elizabeth
Barrett Browning
and alerted me to it, me,
not at all adverse, of course, to being
discovered

___________

Aubade

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Philip Larkin

“COMMENTARY: Martin Heidegger says somewhere–I can’t seem to find the
quote online–that’s it only in solitude that people face the angst of
death and fully understand what it means to be temporary. When we have
company the logical awareness of death doesn’t produce an emotional
response because, in those self-forgetful moments, the “I” that dies
is taken over by the “we” that doesn’t. Something like that. Notice,
as the poem progresses, how Larkin switches from ‘I’ to ‘we’–as a
means of comfort? as a way of letting philosophical rhetoric displace
fear? And also notice how he ends the poem with a bitter but also
freeing description of the outside world–the world of offices and
phone-calls and correspondences–banal, clay-white, and sunless as it
may be–is also mankind’s medicine, the means of deflecting these
critical fears. Postmen are doctors in that they bring contact and
correspondence (a suggestion here of language and poetry) into the
solitude of the house.

The language in “[Aubade]” is a little uneven, but there are some
moments of dead-on description. “Arid interrogation,” “furnace fear,”
“uncaring, intricate rented world” and several dark maxims:
“religion….that vast moth-eaten musical brocade/ invented to pretend
we never die” and “being brave/ let’s no one off the grave/ death is
no different whined at than withstood.” The rhymes (set in a 10 line
pattern that has a name I can’t think of) are natural and unforced and
add to the solitary desire to “link” as he says in the second stanza.

I should say, as a sort of afterthought that it’s interesting to
compare this poem with Donne’s aubade “[The Sun Rising]“.
I think they may have more in common that the genre,
though I’m hard pressed at the moment to say what it is.
I should say, as a second afterthought,that, aptly
but unfortunately, this was the last great poem Larkin
wrote. After its publication in 1977, he had 7 years ahead
of him in which he wrote little.”

moonbeamtickseed

go, moonbeamtickseed

Richard