After John Donne

After John Donne’s “To His Mistress Going to Bed”
by Lisa Russ Spaar

What might she send — a wet sleeve,
or platter of brine-latticed bluefish

dusky with capers, lemons, wine;
a briar for your thumb, a mouth,

lunatic, to suck the blood:
a signal that one too often

inside & now beside herself with thoughts
of you wonders how she might woo

and through dew-whetted keyhole
pursue & sing & win? She is marvelous

with waiting. Come. Hunt here.
Relieve with hands and tongue her heavy hour.


Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed
by John Donne

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,

Until I labour, I in labour lie.

The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,

Is tired with standing though he never fight.

Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glistering,

But a far fairer world encompassing.

Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,

That th'eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.

Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime

Tells me from you that now it is bed time.

Off with that happy busk, which I envy,

That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.

Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals,

As when from flowery meads th'hills shadow steals.

Off with your wiry coronet and show

The hairy diadem which on you doth grow:

Now off with those shoes: and then safely tread

In this love's hallowed temple, this soft bed.

In such white robes heaven's angels used to be

Received by men; thou, Angel, bring'st with thee

A heaven like Mahomet's Paradise; and though

Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know

By this these Angels from an evil sprite:

Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.

License my roving hands, and let them go

Before, behind, between, above, below.

O my America! my new-found-land,

My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,

My mine of precious stones, my empery,

How blest am I in this discovering thee!

To enter in these bonds is to be free;

Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.

Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,

As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be,

To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use

Are as Atlanta's balls, cast in men's views,

That when a fool's eye lighteth on a gem,

His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them:

Like pictures, or like books' gay coverings made

For lay-men, are all women thus arrayed.

Themselves are mystic books, which only we

(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)

Must see revealed. Then, since that I may know,

As liberally as to a midwife, show

Thyself: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,

There is no penance due to innocence:

To teach thee, I am naked first; why than,

What need'st thou have more covering than a man?

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