To His Mistress Going to Bed
Donne, John. The Elegies and the Songs and Sonnets of John Donne. Edited by Helen Gardner. London: Oxford University Press, 1965: 14-16.
1Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy;
2Until I labour, I in labour lie.
3The foe oft-times, having the foe in sight,
4Is tired with standing, though he never fight.
5Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glittering,
6But a far fairer world encompassing.
7Unpin that spangled breast-plate, which you wear,
8That th'eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
9Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
10Tells me from you that now it is bed-time.
11Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
12That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
13Your gown going off such beauteous state reveals,
14As when from flowery meads th' hill's shadow steals.
15Off with your wiry coronet, and show
16The hairy diadems which on you do grow.
17Off with your hose and shoes; then softly tread
18In this love's hallow'd temple, this soft bed.
19In such white robes heaven's angels used to be
20Revealed to men ; thou, angel, bring'st with thee
21A heaven-like Mahomet's paradise ; and though
22Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
23By this these angels from an evil sprite ;
24They set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
25 Licence my roving hands, and let them go
26Before, behind, between, above, below.
27O, my America, my Newfoundland,
28My kingdom, safest when with one man mann'd,
29My mine of precious stones, my empery ;
30How am I blest in thus discovering thee !
31To enter in these bonds, is to be free ;
32Then, where my hand is set, my soul shall be.
33 Full nakedness ! All joys are due to thee;
34As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be
35To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
36Are like Atlanta's ball cast in men's views;
37That, when a fool's eye lighteth on a gem,
38His earthly soul might court that, not them.
39Like pictures, or like books' gay coverings made
40For laymen, are all women thus array'd.
41Themselves are only mystic books, which we
42Whom their imputed grace will dignify
43Must see reveal'd. Then, since that I may know,
44As liberally as to thy midwife show
45Thyself ; cast all, yea, this white linen hence;
46There is no penance due to innocence:
47To teach thee, I am naked first; why then,
48What needst thou have more covering than a man?
RPO poem Editors:
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh