Alexander Averin

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Dear John

Dear Diary,

Healing, Papa would tell me is not a science but the intuitive art of wooing nature.

W H Auden

I watched an excellent programme on BBC2 last night about the life of the Metaphysical poet John Donne. It was part of the wonderful Poetry Season programmes that are on BBC radio and television at the moment; this one was presented by Simon Schama and the wonderful Irish actress Fiona Shaw recited extracts from Donne’s poems and how well she did this too. Donne’s wife Anne came from Loseley Manor near Guildford which I know well as I used to live close by. And after they were married they lived by the river Wey at Pyrford, near Woking.

They showed this painting of Donne last night and I kept looking at it because it reminded me of someone.

He was attractive, would you agree? - Dark Mediterranean good looks, swarthy, romantic. And just look at those artistic hands…

Jack Savoretti. Can you see the likeness? If you have not heard of him he is a wonderful singer/songwriter who should be more well-known.

I’ve always been a fan of John Donne, especially back in the mists of time when I too was young and romantic; in fact I have a verse of his somewhere that I copied out when I was in my twenties, I kept it for years andI am sure I still have it but I am so annoyed because I can't find it now and neither can I find the lines anywhere on the net. Ah well, I shall keep looking. Here is a taster anyway.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Meditation 17
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions


GO and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true and fair.

If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet,
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

Air And Angels

TWICE or thrice had I loved thee,
Before I knew thy face or name ;
So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame
Angels affect us oft, and worshipp'd be.
Still when, to where thou wert, I came,
Some lovely glorious nothing did I see.
But since my soul, whose child love is,
Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do,
More subtle than the parent is
Love must not be, but take a body too ;
And therefore what thou wert, and who,
I bid Love ask, and now
That it assume thy body, I allow,
And fix itself in thy lip, eye, and brow.

Whilst thus to ballast love I thought,
And so more steadily to have gone,
With wares which would sink admiration,
I saw I had love's pinnace overfraught ;
Thy every hair for love to work upon
Is much too much ; some fitter must be sought ;
For, nor in nothing, nor in things
Extreme, and scattering bright, can love inhere ;
Then as an angel face and wings
Of air, not pure as it, yet pure doth wear,
So thy love may be my love's sphere ;
Just such disparity
As is 'twixt air's and angels' purity,
'Twixt women's love, and men's, will ever be.

The Sun Rising

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late schoolboys, and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long:
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me
Whether both the'Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear: "All here in one bed lay."

She'is all states, and all princes I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compar'd to this,
All honour's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, sun, art half as happy'as we,
In that the world's contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere.

And just to prove that I am still a romantic - here is a taste of Jack. I must still be romantic because this video made me cry.

Without - Jack Savoretti



Sleep, naps, clean sheets and summer days.

May days with the lightest of showers and warm sweet sunshine.

And kindly acts and romance.


In the garden and on the page.

Or in a song.

Poets, voices in a melody; their words our inspiration.

Bye for now,


Elizabethd said...

Lovely to read Cait.
My mother always quoted 'No man...'. It's something we do well to remember.

ChrisH said...

Oh he's nice too. What fine taste you have in young men, Cait! Tom and I had a friend read a John Donne poem at our wedding - lovely. Actually, Donne reminds me of Phil Lynot in that portrait.

Kaycie said...

I can see the likeness, too. What a handsome pair of men.

Pondside said...

Uncanny likeness - and a beautiful video.
Bit of Donne are familiar to me - must have another look.

Frances said...

Ah Cait, you've done it again. Sent us a beautiful bit of what was in your mind when you tapped those keys.

Thank you. xo

ds said...

Lovely, lovely--and you are right about the resemblance between the two men. Thanks for the poems, song, and thoughts--and the reminder to read more Donne!

muddyboots said...

amazing likeness and well spotted too, l also watched the program on John Donne, facinating.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Isn't John Donne wonderful. Did you ever see the play, Wit? Director Mike Nichols did a production of it for Public Television here starring Emma Thompson. It's pretty rough going, as it is about an academic who is dying of cancer. She is a scholar of Donne. Intense, but very real and moving.

Thanks for all the lovely words here today. And I wish you a lovely weekend. You are so right about the clean sheets and self-seeders!

lampworkbeader said...

I remember a young man, a long time ago, quoting 'Licence my roving hands and let them go....' and being terribly impressed and a bit embarrassed. I've been a John Donne groupie for many years now. Thank you for this lovely post Cait.

CAMILLA said...

Dear Cait,

Oh what a wondeful post you have shared with us, thank you.

When I was nearing twenty I had a friend who introduced me to Poetry by way of Donne, I had not until then read Poetry before, and from then on I have always loved Poetry, and Donne was such a romantic like me, I love his Poems.

The Poet looks very much like the song artist indeed Cait, and such a wonderful voice.

Thank you for the Poems and Songs Cait, your posts are like a breath of fresh air to me.