The Ecstasy

Original Text: 
John Donne, Poems, by J. D. With elegies on the authors death (M. F. for J. Marriot, 1633). MICF no. 556 ROBA. Facs. edn. Menston: Scolar Press, 1969. PR 2245 A2 1633A. STC 7045.
2      A pregnant bank swell'd up to rest
3The violet's reclining head,
4      Sat we two, one another's best.
5Our hands were firmly cemented
6      With a fast balm, which thence did spring;
7Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
8      Our eyes upon one double string;
10      Was all the means to make us one,
12      Was all our propagation.
13As 'twixt two equal armies fate
14      Suspends uncertain victory,
15Our souls (which to advance their state
16      Were gone out) hung 'twixt her and me.
17And whilst our souls negotiate there,
18      We like sepulchral statues lay;
19All day, the same our postures were,
20      And we said nothing, all the day.
21If any, so by love refin'd
22      That he soul's language understood,
23And by good love were grown all mind,
24      Within convenient distance stood,
25He (though he knew not which soul spake,
26      Because both meant, both spake the same)
27Might thence a new concoction take
28      And part far purer than he came.
29This ecstasy doth unperplex,
30      We said, and tell us what we love;
31We see by this it was not sex,
34      Mixture of things, they know not what,
35Love these mix'd souls doth mix again
36      And makes both one, each this and that.
38      The strength, the colour, and the size,
39(All which before was poor and scant)
40      Redoubles still, and multiplies.
41When love with one another so
42      Interinanimates two souls,
43That abler soul, which thence doth flow,
45We then, who are this new soul, know
46      Of what we are compos'd and made,
48      Are souls. whom no change can invade.
49But oh alas, so long, so far,
50      Our bodies why do we forbear?
52      The intelligences, they the spheres.
54      Did us, to us, at first convey,
55Yielded their senses' force to us,
56      Nor are dross to us, but allay.
58      But that it first imprints the air;
59So soul into the soul may flow,
60        Though it to body first repair.
62      Spirits, as like souls as it can,
64      That subtle knot which makes us man,
65So must pure lovers' souls descend
66      T' affections, and to faculties,
67Which sense may reach and apprehend,
68      Else a great prince in prison lies.
69To'our bodies turn we then, that so
70      Weak men on love reveal'd may look;
71Love's mysteries in souls do grow,
72      But yet the body is his book.
73And if some lover, such as we,
74      Have heard this dialogue of one,
75Let him still mark us, he shall see
76      Small change, when we'are to bodies gone.


1] Strictly, an ecstasy is a mystical condition in which the soul escapes the body and attains the vision of God; in more common Renaissance usage, the power of the soul to transcend the body: ''a departing and secession and suspension of the soul'' (Donne). Back to Line
9] intergraft: as with interinanimates of line 42, the emphasis is on reciprocal force. Back to Line
11] seeing their images in each other's eyes: "looking babies." Back to Line
32] what did move: what was the cause of our love. Back to Line
33] several: separate. Back to Line
37] transplant: transplanted. Back to Line
44] Defects of loneliness: weakness of separateness. Back to Line
47] atomies: atoms. Back to Line
51] In the Christian-Ptolemaic astronomical system each of the nine spheres was ruled by an "intelligence" or angel. Back to Line
53] Souls owe bodies thanks because bodies convey (bring together) bodies and souls and are not dross (scum thrown off from metals in melting) but alloy, mixture. In scholastic philosophy the force or function of the soul is perception; "sense" is the function of the body, which has been yielded. MSS (none autograph) and printed text give different readings in lines 52 and 55. Back to Line
57] The heavenly influence of the stars and planets operates through the air. Back to Line
61] "The spirits in a man ... are the thin and active part of the blood ... of a kind of middle nature, between soul and body ... to unite and apply the faculties of the soul to the organs of the body, and so there is a man'' (Donne). Back to Line
63] such: souls. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.172.