“To teach thee, I am naked first”

John Donne: To His Mistress Going to Bed

Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour 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 glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th’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 th’hills shadow steals.
Off with your 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, bring’st 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 am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be,
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are as Atlanta’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 lay-men, 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 than,
What need’st thou have more covering than a man?

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9 thoughts on ““To teach thee, I am naked first”

  1. can’t see the grace and beauty in playing with stuff one can never accomplish.

    and yes, i’m judging the content. what else matters more than the subject matter? (same discussion as every time)

  2. Ah, those wonderful Metaphysical Poets – for me, John Donne is the greatest. Thank you for posting this, a great start to the day.

  3. Possibly my favourite poem, I used to know it off by heart and still know large chunks.

    I love the metaphysicals, such beauty of language and all too frequently the poem’s content is essentially “fancy a shag love?”.

    As for what matters more than the subject matter, well it’s poetry, so just possibly the language.

  4. oh well but what is language for, i ask you? if it does no more fulfill its task, it may as well be no more than a polite shell.

    i know, i know, it’s art.

    but that is no excuse, since there is art, divine in both ways, shell and content.

  5. let me add:

    if it’s only content, it’s a pamphlet, and poor art (i remember mercy saying something similar, once)

    if it’s only shell, it’s decadent. (and not only the poem; even more any pleased and not critical reception!!)

  6. I have no problem with the decadent. Art for art’s sake is sufficient.

    That said, here there is both form and content. The content is a hymn to desire, and that’s only vulgar if you make it so.

    The language is beautiful, the concepts within it are beautiful too.

    To teach thee, I am naked first; why than,
    What need’st thou have more covering than a man?

    If you don’t see the beauty in that content, the fault may not lie in the poem.

  7. *lol* no wonder you say that

    i did not mention vulgar. that was you.

    i was talking about something never to accomplish. men not being able to give birth. f.e., and even those who would never admit to it, can hardly bear that this a fact, and incontrovertible.

    ask yourself why god is a male concept in most societies. here you find proof for my argument in every word, and it disgusts me.

  8. the male birth jealousy idea holds about as much water as Freud’s female penis jealousy idea.
    Note that I’m not making a statement whether both are correct or incorrect, just that they are based on the same kind of logic and if one is plausible, so is the other. You decide.

  9. gotcha. i’m sure they’re both true. even though, for my part, i’d call it curiosity, ’cause i’ve always wanted to know what it’s like! 🙂

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