“License my roving hands and let them go before, behind, between, above, below”

GOING TO BED
~ by John Donne

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labor, I in labor lie.
The foe oft-times, having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle like heaven’s zone glittering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate that you wear
That the eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals
As when from flowery meads the hill’s shadow steals.
Off with that wiry coronet and show
The hairy diadem which on you doth grow.
Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread
In this love’s hallowed temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes heaven’s angels used to be
Received by men. Thou, angel, bringst with thee
A heaven like Mahomet’s paradise. And though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these angels from an evil sprite,
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.

License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,
My mine of precious stones, my empery,
How blest I am in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds is to be set free,
There where my hand is set, my seal should be.

Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be,
To taste whole joys. Gems which women use
Are like Atalanta’s balls, cast in men’s views,
That when a fool’s eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them.
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings, made
For laymen, are all women thus arrayed.
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see revealed. Then since that I may know,
As liberally as to a midwife show
Thyself. Cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence.

To teach thee, I am naked first. Why then
What needst thou have more covering than a man?

##

For a scholarly edition of this poem, see Complete Poetry And Selected Prose Of John Donne, edited by Charles M. Coffin, Modern Library.

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Author: MDM

Michael Dennis Mooney is a student of humor and witticism in verse. At this site he is compiling a selection of the best works using extended metaphor in poetry, with a special interest in satire, parody, and humor. Suggestions are welcome. Send your citations of favorites, by email, to mike.mooney.home@gmail.com He has a site "New Writings" at http://jcbcast.blogspot.com And a site for essays, 'His Epistles To The Philistines" at http://tothephilistines.wordpress.com

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