John Donne on (Good) Friday

Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward


Let man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,

The intelligence that moves, devotion is,

And as the other spheres, by being grown

Subject to foreign motions, lose their own,

And being by others hurried every day,

Scarce in a year their natural form obey:

Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit

For their first mover, and are whirled by it.

Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west

This day, when my soul’s form bends toward the east.

There I should see a sun, by rising set,

And by that setting endless day beget;

But that Christ on this Cross, did rise and fall,

Sin had eternally benighted all.

Yet dare I’ almost be glad, I do not see

That spectacle of too much weight for me.

Who sees God’s face, that is self life, must die;

What a death were it then to see God die?

It made his own lieutenant Nature shrink,

It made his footstool crack, and the sun wink.

Could I behold those hands which span the poles,

And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?

Could I behold that endless height which is

Zenith to us, and to’our antipodes,

Humbled below us? or that blood which is

The seat of all our souls, if not of his,

Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn,

By God, for his apparel, ragged, and torn?

If on these things I durst not look, durst I

Upon his miserable mother cast mine eye,

Who was God’s partner here, and furnished thus

Half of that sacrifice, which ransomed us?

Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,

They are present yet unto my memory,

For that looks towards them; and thou look’st towards me,

O Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree;

I turn my back to thee, but to receive

Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.

O think me worth thine anger, punish me,

Bur off my rusts, and my deformity,

Restore thine image, so much, by thy grace,

That thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.




Selection take from: John Donne: A Critical Edition of the Major Works,  edited by John Carey; Oxford: OUP, 1990

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