January 30, 2023

Save the Net Books

Blogazine on Books, Arts, and Music

John Donne’s “Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Eve”

It’s midnight of the year and it’s the day
Lucy, who unmasks herself for just under seven hours;
The sun is gone, and now its bottles
Send out light squibs, not constant beams;
All the sap of the world has sunk;
The general balm of the hydroptic earth has drunk,
Where, as at the feet of the bed, life has shrunk,
dead and buried; but all these seem to be laughing
Compared to me who am her epitaph.

So study me, you who will be lovers:
In the next world, that is, next spring;
‘Cause I’m all dead
In whom love has created new alchemy.
Because his art expressed itself
A quintessence out of nowhere,
Of dull deprivation and meager emptiness;
He ruined me and I am reborn
Of absence, darkness, death – things that are not.

All others draw from everything good,
life, soul, form, spirit, whence they got;
I, by love, am the grave
That’s nothing. Often a flood
We both cried and stuff
Drown the whole world, we two; often we have grown
Two to be mess when we showed it
Worry about anything else; and often absenteeism
Withdrew our souls and reduced us to corpses.

But I am by her death – which word wrongs her –
From the first nothing the elixir grew;
If I were a man, I would be one
I need to know; I should prefer
if i were an animal
Some ends, some means; yes abhor plants, yes stones,
And love; all, all invest some properties.
If I were an ordinary nothing
As a shadow, there must be a light and a body here.

But I’m not; nor shall my sun be renewed
Beloved ones, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time the goat is run
To get new lust and give it to you
Enjoy your summer everyone
There she enjoys her long night party.
Let me prepare for her and let me call
This hour is their vigil and since then their eve
It is deep midnight both of the year and of the day.

— John Donne (1572-1631)

“Regarded by many as the greatest of all Capricorn odes.” – Alastair Crowley