Poetry

Holy Sonnets – John Donne – Complete Text

John Donne Holy Sonnets

Yesterday (January 22) was the birthday of poet John Donne (d. 1631).

For the church, one of the most significant works by John Donne is his brief collection of 19 holy sonnets . One of these sonnets was featured in our our lectionary poems for this week.  We’re delighted to share the complete text of this poetry collection here. 
 

[ DOWNLOAD – Complete Holy Sonnets ]
( PDF )

 
 

John Donne Holy Sonnets X-XII

 
 
X
DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better than thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
 
 
XI
SPIT in my face you Jewes, and pierce my side,
Buffet, and scoffe, scourge, and crucifie mee,
For I have sinn’d, and sinn’d, and onely hee,
Who could do no iniquitie, hath dyed:
But by my death can not be satisfied
My sinnes, which passe the Jewes impiety:
They kill’d once an inglorious man, but I
Crucifie him daily, being now glorified.
Oh let mee then, his strange love still admire:
Kings pardon, but be bore our punishment.
And Jacob came cloth’d in vile harsh attire
But to supplant, and with gainfull intent:
God cloth’d himselfe in vile mans flesh, that so
Hee might be weake enough to suffer woe.
 
 
XII
WHY are wee by all creatures waited on?
Why doe the prodigall elements supply
Life and food to mee, being more pure than I,
Simple, and further from corruption?
Why brook’st thou, ignorant horse, subjection?
Why dost thou bull, and bore so seelily
Dissemble weaknesses and by’one mans stroke die,
Whose whole kinde, you might swallow and feed upon?
Weaker I am, woe is mee, and worse than you,
You have not sinn’d, nor need be timorous.
But wonder at a greater wonder, for to us
Created nature doth these things subdue,
But their Creator, whom sin, nor nature tyed,
For us, his Creatures, and his foes, hath dyed.
 
 

Holy Sonnets – John Donne

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