Adnax Publications
Theme 8: Love and Courtship (xii)

< John Donne >

Love's Alchemy 
poem

 

Poems (1633, d2)

Some that have deeper digg'd love's Myne than I, 
Say, where his centrique happinesse doth lie; 
I have lov'd, and got, and told, 
But should I love, get, tell, till I were old, 
I should not find that hidden mysterie; 
Oh, 'tis imposture all: 
And as no chymique yet th'Elixar got, 
But glorifies his pregnant pot 
If by the way to him befall 
Some odoriferous thing, or medicinall, 
So, lovers dreame a rich and long delight, 
But get a winter-seeming summer's night

Chymique : the alchemist never actually produces the elixir of life, but only some medicinal or smelling thing, which falls far short of his expectations.   Winter-seeming summer’s night : a contradictory thing. We have every justification for expecting that it will be good, but in practice it turns out rather different.  


Our ease, our thrift, our honour, and our day, 
Shall we for this vaine Buble's shadow pay? 
Ends love in this, that my man 
Can be as happy'as I can; If he can 
Endure the short scorne of a Bridegroome's play? 
That loving wretch that sweares 
'Tis not the body’s mary, but the mindes, 
Which he in her Angelique finds, 
Would sweare as justly that he heares, 
In that daye's rude hoarse minstralsey, the spheares
Hope not for minde in women; at their best 
Sweetnesse and wit, they'are but Mummy possest.

Mary : more likely to be an archaic form for ‘marrow’ than the ‘marry’ often substituted.   Spheares : the harmony of the spheres : the divine harmony of the universe in motion.  Mummy : an embalmed body, a body without a mind.

 

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