15 January 2014
In what torne ship soever I embarke,
That ship shall be my embleme of thy Arke;
What sea soever swallow mee, that flood
Shall be to mee an embleme of thy blood;
Though thou with clouds of anger do disguise
Thy face; yet through that maske I know those eyes,
Which, though they turne away sometimes,
They never will despise.
- "A Hymne to Christ, at the Authors last going into Germany", John Donne
So at last I have found a book of John Donne's poetry! This copy is a 1942 Oxford University Press publication, which would have been exactly what I wanted if was given the choice. It is truly a treasure with an added bonus of some fun pages inside! A post card with Donne's portrait, type-writer typed page with a devotion of Donne's, another page with a poem and handwritten notes from a previous owner of this book, and not pictured above is a newspaper advertisement from January 26, 1964 of a biographical novel about Donne. Interesting tidbits in addition to a book that I have long been searching for and never could find. Until now.
For some reason, in all my visits to used bookstores, I have rarely seen a book of John Donne's poetry. My theory is that everyone who has a copy just simply does not give it away or sell it, because they are much to precious of poems to get rid of. You know how there are those certain books you always see in every used bookstore you ever step into? Because once people read it the realize they won't ever read it again so they give it away or sell it? This is not one of them.
John Donne was born in 1571 in London, and if you are looking for easy reading to fill the space of a novel, this is not what you want to read. His poems are, simply for the spelling, a little challenging, but even more so is the subtext. Understanding his poems takes some work. But it is so enjoyable if you are up for it. Granted, for someone just starting to read poetry, Donne is not a good place to start. It is only now that I am able to really appreciate his writings because I don't think I was shaped into the proper poetry reader years ago. And I don't think I am able to understand all his poems even now. But that doesn't stop the enjoyment of these poems and the challenge of working out the meanings.
This is the kind of book I can bring everywhere with me and always have something to read. Either re-reading and more deeply engaging with a poem, or trying to unwrap one I haven't read yet.