Of the Progress of the Soul: The Second Anniversary

By John Donne 1572–1631 John Donne

(excerpt)

OF THE PROGRESS OF THE SOUL
Wherein,
by occasion of the religious death of Mistress
Elizabeth Drury, the incommodities of the soul in this her life, and her
exaltation in the next, are contemplated
THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY

Forget this rotten world, and unto thee
Let thine own times as an old story be.
Be not concern'd; study not why, nor when;
Do not so much as not believe a man.
For though to err, be worst, to try truths forth
Is far more business than this world is worth.
I'he world is but a carcass; thou art fed
By it, but as a worm, that carcass bred;
And why shouldst thou, poor worm, consider more,
When this world will grow better than before,
Than those thy fellow-worms do think upon
That carcass's last resurrection?
Forget this world, and scarce think of it so,
As of old clothes, cast off a year ago.
To be thus stupid is alacrity;
Men thus lethargic have best memory.
Look upward; that's towards her, whose happy state
We now lament not, but congratulate.
She, to whom all this world was but a stage,
Where all sat heark'ning how her youthful age
Should be employ'd, because in all she did
Some figure of the golden times was hid.
Who could not lack, what'er this world could give,
Because she was the form, that made it live;
Nor could complain that this world was unfit
To be stay'd in, then when she was in it;
She, that first tried indifferent desires
By virtue, and virtue by religious fires;
She, to whose person paradise adher'd,
As courts to princes; she, whose eyes enspher'd
Star-light enough t' have made the South control,
(Had she been there) the star-full Northern Pole;
She, she is gone; she is gone; when thou knowest this,
What fragmentary rubbish this world is
Thou knowest, and that it is not worth a thought;
He honours it too much that thinks it nought.
Think then, my soul, that death is but a groom,
Which brings a taper to the outward room,
Whence thou spiest first a little glimmering light,
And after brings it nearer to thy sight;
For such approaches doth heaven make in death.
Think thyself labouring now with broken breath,
And think those broken and soft notes to be
Division, and thy happiest harmony.
Think thee laid on thy death-bed, loose and slack,
And think that but unbinding of a pack,
To take one precious thing, thy soul, from thence.
Think thyself parch'd with fever's violence;
Anger thine ague more, by calling it
Thy physic; chide the slackness of the fit.
Think that thou hear'st thy knell, and think no more,
But that, as bells call'd thee to church before,
So this to the Triumphant Church calls thee.
Think Satan's sergeants round about thee be,
And think that but for legacies they thrust;
Give one thy pride, to'another give thy lust;
Give them those sins which they gave thee before,
And trust th' immaculate blood to wash thy score.
Think thy friends weeping round, and think that they
Weep but because they go not yet thy way.
Think that they close thine eyes, and think in this,
That they confess much in the world amiss,
Who dare not trust a dead man's eye with that
Which they from God and angels cover not.
Think that they shroud thee up, and think from thence
They reinvest thee in white innocence.
Think that thy body rots, and (if so low,
Thy soul exalted so, thy thoughts can go)
Think thee a prince, who of themselves create
Worms, which insensibly devour their state.
Think that they bury thee, and think that rite
Lays thee to sleep but a Saint Lucy's night.

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet John Donne 1572–1631

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Renaissance

Subjects Religion, Health & Illness, Living, Disappointment & Failure, The Body, Faith & Doubt, Nature, Time & Brevity, Growing Old, Sorrow & Grieving, Death, Christianity, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Imagery, Allusion, Rhymed Stanza, Elegy, Metaphor, Couplet

 John  Donne

Biography

John Donne's standing as a great English poet, and one of the greatest writers of English prose, is now assured. However, it has been confirmed only in the early 20th century. The history of Donne's reputation is the most remarkable of any major writer in English; no other body of great poetry has fallen so far from favor for so long and been generally condemned as inept and crude. In Donne's own day his poetry was highly prized . . .

Continue reading this biography

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.