John Donne

24 January 1572 - 31 March 1631 / London, England

Epithalamion Made At Lincoln's Inn


HAIL sun-beams in the east are spread ;
Leave, leave, fair bride, your solitary bed ;
No more shall you return to it alone ;
It nurseth sadness, and your body's print,
Like to a grave, the yielding down doth dint ;
You, and your other you, meet there anon.
Put forth, put forth, that warm balm-breathing thigh,
Which when next time you in these sheets will smother,
There it must meet another,
Which never was, but must be, oft, more nigh.
Come glad from thence, go gladder than you came ;
To-day put on perfection, and a woman's name.
Daughters of London, you which be
Our golden mines, and furnish'd treasury ;
You which are angels, yet still bring with you
Thousands of angels on your marriage days ;
Help with your presence, and devise to praise
These rites, which also unto you grow due ;
Conceitedly dress her, and be assign'd,
By you fit place for every flower and jewel ;
Make her for love fit fuel,
As gay as Flora and as rich as Ind ;
So may she, fair and rich in nothing lame,
To-day put on perfection, and a woman's name.

And you frolic patricians,
Sons of those senators, wealth's deep oceans ;
Ye painted courtiers, barrels of other's wits ;
Ye countrymen, who but your beasts love none ;
Ye of those fellowships, whereof he's one,
Of study and play made strange hermaphrodites,
Here shine ; this bridegroom to the temple bring.
Lo, in yon path which store of strew'd flowers graceth,
The sober virgin paceth ;
Except my sight fail, 'tis no other thing.
Weep not, nor blush, here is no grief nor shame,
To-day put on perfection, and a woman's name.

Thy two-leaved gates, fair temple, unfold,
And these two in thy sacred bosom hold,
Till mystically join'd but one they be ;
Then may thy lean and hunger-starvèd womb
Long time expect their bodies, and their tomb,
Long after their own parents fatten thee.
All elder claims, and all cold barrenness,
All yielding to new loves, be far for ever,
Which might these two dissever ;
Always, all th'other may each one possess ;
For the best bride, best worthy of praise and fame,
To-day puts on perfection, and a woman's name.

Winter days bring much delight,
Not for themselves, but for they soon bring night ;
Other sweets wait thee than these diverse meats,
Other disports than dancing jollities,
Other love-tricks than glancing with the eyes,
But that the sun still in our half sphere sweats ;
He flies in winter, but he now stands still.
Yet shadows turn ; noon point he hath attain'd ;
His steeds will be restrain'd,
But gallop lively down the western hill.
Thou shalt, when he hath run the heaven's half frame,
To-night put on perfection, and a woman's name.

The amorous evening star is rose,
Why then should not our amorous star inclose
Herself in her wish'd bed ? Release your strings,
Musicians ; and dancers take some truce
With these your pleasing labours, for great use
As much weariness as perfection brings.
You, and not only you, but all toil'd beasts
Rest duly ; at night all their toils are dispensed ;
But in their beds commenced
Are other labours, and more dainty feasts.
She goes a maid, who, lest she turn the same,
To-night puts on perfection, and a woman's name.

Thy virgin's girdle now untie,
And in thy nuptial bed, love's altar, lie
A pleasing sacrifice ; now dispossess
Thee of these chains and robes, which were put on
To adorn the day, not thee ; for thou, alone,
Like virtue and truth, art best in nakedness.
This bed is only to virginity
A grave, but to a better state, a cradle.
Till now thou wast but able
To be, what now thou art ; then, that by thee
No more be said, “ I may be,” but, “ I am,”
To-night put on perfection, and a woman's name.

Even like a faithful man content,
That this life for a better should be spent,
So she a mother's rich stile doth prefer,
And at the bridegroom's wish'd approach doth lie,
Like an appointed lamb, when tenderly
The priest comes on his knees to embowel her.
Now sleep or watch with more joy ; and, O light
Of heaven, to-morrow rise thou hot, and early ;
This sun will love so dearly
Her rest, that long, long we shall want her sight.
Wonders are wrought, for she, which had no maim,
To-night puts on perfection, and a woman's name.
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