“Song” and why I love it

Song by John Donne

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’est 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.


John Donne holds a special place in my heart. When I was a freshman in college my advisor convinced me to take a 17th Century Literature class (Because my college was wacky and I could do things like that without any pre-requisites. Also because I was awesome enough to be able to do it.). I was completely terrified because I knew nothing about 17th Century literature and I was also one of only two freshman in the class. (In case you were all worried, I did fine and wound up getting some of the highest marks in the class.)

During that class I developed a fondness for Ben Johnson and Aemilia Lanyer. I wrote a massive paper analyzing their country house poems and the difficult position poets were in as they sought patronage in conjunction with their creative expression.

But before all of that, we read John Donne. I enjoy his wry humor and I enjoy that his humor remains wry even now, talk about talent. I feel like he’d be amused to know that 378 years later people are still reading, enjoying and discussing this poem he wrote in 1633.