Friday, April 29, 2011

Old school: John Donne's The Triple fool

Old School: Old stuff that you were supposed to read in college that didn't make sense and didn't mean anything to you ("What's a merchant?"). But now you're older and wiser and now it means something. Maybe.

Fun facts about John Donne:
  • He lost his father and several of his brothers and sisters when he was just a boy
  • He went to school, learned a bunch of languages and then joined the navy 
  • He married a woman in secret and then was thrown in jail by her father
  • He got out and became a successful priest (one of his most famous sermons contains the passage beginning, “No man is an island” and ending, “Therefore ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”)

Now read this carefully. It's great.
by John Donne

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry ;
But where's that wise man, that would not be I,
If she would not deny ?
Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea water's fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
Through rhyme's vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.

But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth set and sing my pain ;
And, by delighting many, frees again
Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when 'tis read.
Both are increasèd by such songs,
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three.
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

1 comment:

  1. "Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce" or to be cynical, "Misery loves company." But Donne is not being cynical but optimistic in expecting to find solace by sharing the verse. Nice job.