The Autumnal

Original Text: 
Donne, John. The Elegies and the Songs and Sonnets of John Donne. Edited by Helen Gardner. London: Oxford University Press, 1965: 27-28.
1No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace
2As I have seen in one autumnal face;
3Young beauties force our love, and that's a rape;
4This doth but counsel, yet you cannot scape.
5If 'twere a shame to love, here 'twere no shame;
6Affections here take reverence's name.
7Were her first years the Golden Age? that's true,
8But now they're gold oft tried, and ever new.
9That was her torrid and inflaming time;
10This is her tolerable tropic clime.
11Fair eyes ; who asks more heat than comes from hence,
12He in a fever wishes pestilence.
13Call not these wrinkles, graves; if graves they were,
14They were Love's graves, for else he is nowhere.
15Yet lies not Love dead here, but here doth sit,
16Vow'd to this trench, like an anachorite,
17And here, till hers, which must be his death, come,
18He doth not dig a grave, but build a tomb.
19Here dwells he ; though he sojourn everywhere,
20In progress, yet his standing house is here;
21Here, where still evening is, not noon, nor night;
22Where no voluptuousness, yet all delight.
23In all her words, unto all hearers fit,
24You may at revels, you at council, sit.
25This is love's timber ; youth his underwood;
26There he, as wine in June, enrages blood;
27Which then comes seasonablest, when our taste
28And appetite to other things is past.
29Xerxes' strange Lydian love, the platane tree,
30Was loved for age, none being so large as she;
31Or else because, being young, nature did bless
32Her youth with age's glory, barrenness.
33If we love things long sought, age is a thing
34Which we are fifty years in compassing;
35If transitory things, which soon decay,
36Age must be loveliest at the latest day.
37But name not winter faces, whose skin's slack,
38Lank as an unthrift's purse, but a soul's sack;
39Whose eyes seek light within, for all here's shade;
40Whose mouths are holes, rather worn out, than made;
41Whose every tooth to a several place is gone,
42To vex their souls at resurrection;
43Name not these living death-heads unto me,
44For these, not ancient, but antique be.
45I hate extremes ; yet I had rather stay
46With tombs than cradles, to wear out a day.
47Since such love's motion natural is, may still
48My love descend, and journey down the hill,
49Not panting after growing beauties; so
50I shall ebb out with them who homeward go.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh
RPO Edition: 
2009
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