'HOLY SONNETS: Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt' by John Donne
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Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt
To nature, and to hers, and my good is dead,
And her soul early into heaven ravished,
Wholly in heavenly things my mind is set.
Here the admiring her my mind did whet
To seek thee, God; so streams do show the head;
But though I have found thee, and thou my thirst hast fed,
A holy thirsty dropsy melts me yet.
But why should I beg more love, whenas thou
Dost woo my soul, for hers off'ring all thine,
And dost not only fear lest I allow
My love to saints and angels, things divine,
But in thy tender jealousy dost doubt
Lest the world, flesh, yea devil put thee out.
Editor 1 Interpretation
HOLY SONNETS: Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt by John Donne
Wow. Just wow. Have you ever read a poem and felt like your heart was being squeezed so tightly that you couldn't breathe? That's how I feel reading John Donne's "Holy Sonnets: Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt."
This poem is a masterpiece of grief, love, and faith. It's a sonnet, so it follows the strict form of 14 lines and a specific rhyme scheme. But within that form, Donne packs in a lifetime of emotion and thought.
Let's start with the title. "Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt." That's a euphemism for "since my beloved has died." But it's not just any death. This is the death of someone whom Donne loved deeply. The use of "hath paid her last debt" implies that death is a debt that must be paid. It's a grim reminder that no one can escape death, no matter how much we love them.
The first quatrain sets the scene: "Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt, / And that I have not gone to bedd nor wept, / Nor at her funerall tasted of teares; / Now thou art dead, beautifull Felicity." The speaker (presumably Donne himself) admits that he hasn't cried or mourned in the traditional way. He hasn't even tasted tears at the funeral. This could be interpreted as a stoic response to grief, or it could be seen as a sign of numbness or shock.
But then there's that last line of the quatrain: "Now thou art dead, beautifull Felicity." Felicity means happiness or joy. So why is Donne calling his dead beloved "beautifull Felicity"? It's almost like he's saying that she's finally achieved the ultimate happiness in death.
The second quatrain begins with a rhetorical question: "Summer, ah, thou know'st too well / That sordid cause of Death and Fatall spell." This is addressed to the personified figure of Summer, who is often associated with growth and life. Here, Summer is being asked if it knows the cause of death and the "Fatall spell" that caused Donne's beloved to die. Of course, Summer doesn't know the answer.
The third quatrain is where the poem really starts to take off. "I mean that tyde of teares stayd for thy brith, / The obsequies of Love in livelinesse, / Shall be the tombe which harbours now thy death, / Making thy life to shine vith me in this." The speaker is saying that the tears that should have been shed at his beloved's birth (tears of joy and celebration) have been saved for her death. The "obsequies of Love" (funeral rites) are being performed while Donne himself is alive. And then there's that line about the "tome which harbours now thy death." This could be a reference to the tomb where Donne's beloved is buried, but it could also be seen as a metaphor for the poem itself. This poem is the "tome" that will keep her memory alive.
The final couplet is a prayer: "Henceforth thou art not dead, being new bid; / And breath'st for ever, in the boose abid." The speaker is asking God to grant eternal life to his beloved. "Henceforth thou art not dead" means that she is not really dead, because she lives on in the spirit. "Being new bid" means that she has been called to a new life, beyond this mortal world. And finally, she "breath'st for ever, in the boose abid." This means that she will live on forever in the "boose," which could be interpreted as heaven or a spiritual realm.
Overall, "Holy Sonnets: Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt" is a stunning example of how a sonnet can pack a punch. Donne uses language and form to convey complex emotions and ideas. He grapples with the inevitability of death, the power of love, and the promise of eternal life. It's a poem that speaks to anyone who has lost a beloved, and it reminds us that even in death, there can be beauty and joy.
I'm blown away by this poem. How about you?
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Holy Sonnets: Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt by John Donne is a poem that explores the themes of death, love, and faith. Written in the 17th century, this sonnet is a part of a larger collection of religious poems that Donne wrote during his lifetime. In this analysis, we will delve deeper into the meaning of this poem and explore the various literary devices used by Donne to convey his message.
The poem begins with the speaker lamenting the death of his loved one. He says, "Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt, / To Nature, and to hers, and my good is dead." The use of the word "debt" here is significant as it implies that death is an inevitable part of life, and everyone must pay their dues to nature. The speaker's use of the possessive pronoun "my" shows the depth of his love for the deceased, and how her death has affected him personally.
The second line of the poem, "And her soul early into heaven ravishèd," suggests that the speaker believes in an afterlife and that his loved one's soul has ascended to heaven. This is a common theme in Donne's religious poetry, where he often explores the idea of the soul's journey after death. The use of the word "ravishèd" here is interesting as it implies that the soul has been taken away forcefully, perhaps suggesting that death is not always a peaceful process.
In the third line of the poem, the speaker says, "Wholly on heavenly things my mind is set." This line shows the speaker's faith in God and his belief that his loved one is now in a better place. The use of the word "wholly" suggests that the speaker's focus is entirely on spiritual matters, and he has accepted his loved one's death as a part of God's plan.
The fourth line of the poem, "Yet living here, scarce half her life was spent," is a poignant reminder of how short life can be. The use of the word "scarce" suggests that the speaker believes his loved one's life was cut short, and there was so much more she could have done if she had lived longer. This line also highlights the fragility of life and how death can come unexpectedly.
In the fifth line of the poem, the speaker says, "Thus, quite out of myself, each part, / Willing one way, yet by love's sweet constraint, / Resigns all pleasure to her, who all gave." This line is a reflection of the speaker's love for his deceased loved one. He is willing to give up all pleasure and happiness for her sake, and he feels constrained by his love for her. The use of the word "constraint" here is significant as it suggests that the speaker's love is so strong that it is almost a burden.
The sixth line of the poem, "Nor dare I chide the world without end hour," is a reflection of the speaker's acceptance of his loved one's death. He is not angry at the world or God for taking her away, but rather he accepts it as a part of life. The use of the phrase "without end hour" suggests that the speaker's grief is eternal, and he will never forget his loved one.
The seventh line of the poem, "Yet weep I not, lest my tears come too long," is a reflection of the speaker's stoicism in the face of death. He is not weeping for his loved one, but rather he is trying to control his emotions so that he does not grieve for too long. The use of the word "lest" suggests that the speaker is aware of the dangers of prolonged grief and is trying to avoid it.
The eighth line of the poem, "For her sake then, whom nought could make so dear," is a reminder of the speaker's love for his deceased loved one. He is willing to do anything for her sake, even if it means controlling his emotions and not weeping for her. The use of the word "dear" here is significant as it suggests that the speaker's loved one was precious to him, and he valued her above all else.
The ninth line of the poem, "May I to myself, myself still be near," is a reflection of the speaker's desire to remain close to his loved one even after her death. He wants to keep her memory alive and be near to her in spirit. The use of the phrase "to myself" suggests that the speaker is trying to find solace within himself and his memories of his loved one.
The final line of the poem, "And, when I feel another grief appear, / May it to me as short as hers appear," is a reflection of the speaker's acceptance of death and his desire to move on from his grief. He knows that he will experience other losses in his life, but he hopes that they will be as short-lived as his loved one's death. The use of the word "appear" here is significant as it suggests that the speaker believes that grief is a temporary emotion that will eventually pass.
In conclusion, Holy Sonnets: Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt by John Donne is a powerful poem that explores the themes of death, love, and faith. Through his use of language and literary devices, Donne conveys the speaker's deep love for his deceased loved one and his acceptance of her death as a part of God's plan. The poem is a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of cherishing our loved ones while they are still with us.
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