john_donne.jpg John Donne
Selected Poems
(1573-1631)

Stella Gonet reads the biographical narrative linking entire poems and excerpts read by Nat and also by Haydn Gwynne, Jeremy Northam, David Horovitch and Alex Jennings.

From a total running time of approximately 2 ΒΌ hours, Nat's contribution is only around 13 minutes and includes the following;

The Anniversary, To the Countess of Bedford, Sonnet 13, 'Hail Bishop Valentine'

The following two poems are my favourites from Nat's share of the recording; Firstly, The Flea lasting for a delightful minute and a half;

The Flea

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deny'st me is;
It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Confess it, 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, nay, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, w'are met,
And cloistered in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to this, self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
In what 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 thyself, 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

And Elegy 19 - To His Mistress Going to Bed, which was first published twenty-five years after Donne's death, as it was considered to be too indecent at the time. (As read by Nat, it really should carry the safety warning; 'Do not operate machinery or drive while listening' - very distracting..!)


To His Mistris Going to Bed

Come, Madame, come, all rest my powers defie,
Until I labour, I in labour lye.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tir'd with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glistering
But a farre fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled brest-plate which you weare
That th'eyes of busy fooles may be stopt there:
Unlace your selfe, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now 'tis your bed time.
Off with that happy buske, whom I envye
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gownes going off, such beautious state reveales
As when from flow'ry meades th'hills shadow steales.
Off with that wyrie coronet and showe
The hairy dyadem which on you doth growe.
Off with those shoes: and then softly tread
In this loves hallow'd temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes, heavens Angels us'd to bee
Receiv'd by men; Thou Angel bring'st with thee
A heaven like Mahomet's Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we eas'ly know
By this these Angels from an evill sprite:
They set our haires, but these the flesh upright.

Licence my roving hands, and let them goe
Behind, before, above, between, below.
O my America, my new found lande,
My kingdome, safeliest when with one man man'd,
My myne of precious stones, my Empiree,
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 joyes are due to thee.
As soules unbodied, bodies uncloth'd must bee,
To taste whole joyes. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta's balls, cast in mens viewes,
That when a fooles eye lighteth on a gem
His earthly soule may covet theirs not them.
Like pictures, or like bookes gay coverings made
For laymen, are all women thus arraid;
Themselves are mystique bookes, which only wee
Whom their imputed grace will dignify
Must see reveal'd. Then since that I may knowe,
As liberally as to a midwife showe
Thy selfe; cast all, yea this white linnen hence.
Here is no pennance, much less innocence.


To teach thee, I am naked first: Why than,
What need'st thou have more covering than a man?


Penguin Audiobooks
Penguin Classics
ISBN 0140865683
1997
Cassette only

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