Sometimes I forget about the classical.
I get so caught up in the contemporary that it’s easy to look back in disdain for poetry and craft that existed in a time before the trends that poetry is seeing now.
I realize that I blog a lot about bookstores and libraries, but for real, these places are magical. This past August, my boyfriend and I were strolling around Saratoga Springs and were caught in a torrential downpour, so naturally our soppy and shivering selves ran into the nearest used bookstore which felt like Ollivander’s wand shop from Harry Potter.
I found a book of poems by John Donne, whom I knew my grandmother liked (my grandmother is also a poet of sorts, and we talked line breaks and the romantics one night after accidentally getting too drunk before a funeral) and I really loved a particular poem by him which I will paste below. I read it over about 15 times trying to understand what he meant, but I found a new appreciation for the classical poetry that I had forgotten about in the midst of the contemporary. Don’t get me wrong, I love contemporary poetry, but I think sometimes I forget that classical poetry exists or I undervalue it. I love how carefully selected words are, how dainty and beautiful the poems read. They remind me of lace curtains or something.
I wonder how folks like John Donne could be a source of our poetry today? What classical sources do you guys turn to, if you do?
Any who, here is the poem that I bookmarked. I also ended up purchasing John Donne’s collection for $13.99, and he now sits on my bookshelf and makes my bedroom smell like old books (better than any kind of Febreeze).
A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No:
So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.
Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.
Dull sublunary lovers’ love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.
But we by a love so much refined,
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do.
And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.