Elegy IX: The Autumnal

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      As I have seen in one autumnal face.
3Young beauties force our love, and that's a rape,
4      This doth but counsel, yet you cannot scape.
5If 'twere a shame to love, here 'twere no shame;
6      Affection here takes reverence's name.
7Were her first years the golden age? That's true,
8      But now she's gold oft tried and ever new.
9That was her torrid and inflaming time,
10      This is her tolerable tropic clime.
11Fair eyes, who asks more heat than comes from hence,
12      He in a fever wishes pestilence.
13Call not these wrinkles, graves; if graves they were,
14      They were Love's graves, for else he is no where.
15Yet lies not Love dead here, but here doth sit
17And here till hers, which must be his death, come,
18      He doth not dig a grave, but build a tomb.
19Here dwells he; though he sojourn ev'rywhere
21Here where still evening is, not noon nor night,
22      Where no voluptuousness, yet all delight.
23In all her words, unto all hearers fit,
24      You may at revels, you at council, sit.
25This is Love's timber, youth his underwood;
26      There he, as wine in June, enrages blood,
27Which then comes seasonabliest when our taste
28      And appetite to other things is past.
30      Was lov'd for age, none being so large as she,
31Or else because, being young, nature did bless
32      Her youth with age's glory, barrenness.
33If we love things long sought, age is a thing
34      Which we are fifty years in compassing;
35If transitory things, which soon decay,
36      Age must be loveliest at the latest day.
37But name not winter faces, whose skin's slack,
38      Lank as an unthrift's purse, but a soul's sack;
39Whose eyes seek light within, for all here's shade;
40      Whose mouths are holes, rather worn out than made;
41Whose every tooth to a several place is gone,
42      To vex their souls at resurrection:
43Name not these living death's-heads unto me,
45I hate extremes, yet I had rather stay
46      With tombs than cradles, to wear out a day.
48      My love descend, and journey down the hill,
49Not panting after growing beauties. So,
50      I shall ebb on with them who homeward go.


1] Thought to have been addressed to Magdalen Herbert, mother of George Herbert, probably about 1609. Back to Line
16] anachorit: anchorite, hermit. Back to Line
20] progress: royal state journey. Back to Line
29] Xerxes' strange Lydian love. According to Herodotus and others, Xerxes so much admired the beauty and size of a plane tree which he saw in Lydia that he hung it with gold ornaments and gave it a guardian. Back to Line
44] antique: probably with a punning suggestion of `antic.' Back to Line
47] lation: motion; the first printed texts read "motion natural" for natural lation. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.179.