Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Bait

John Donne, I like you. A lot.

A scholar, a ladies man, a poet, and something of a rebel, you satirized the society of your time, married your bosses niece, and had twelve children with her. And if that weren't enough, you later became a priest and movingly delivered your own funeral sermon three weeks prior to your death.

Remarkable by any standards, good sir. You wrote, and lived, with style. You also enjoyed a good metaphor and used symbolism skillfully, making topics like unity and death and life more understandable. Take these two excerpts from Meditations XVII.

1. "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
2. "And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

You are a writer's writer, Mr. Donne. We love to borrow from your work and finding inspiration there, we create upon your greatness. (Hemingway certainly did, not to mention Simon and Garfunkel.)

And sometimes you took a cue from others. Christopher Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd To His Love was posthumously published in 1599 and began with, "Come live with me, and be my love." Never a fool, you recognized a good line, and using Marlowe's first words, you made them even better in The Bait.

"Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines and silver hooks.

There will the river whisp'ring run
Warm'd by thy eyes, more than the sun ;
And there th' enamour'd fish will stay,
Begging themselves they may betray . . ."

This love song sounds a lot like The Bait. Come Live With Me written by Bryant and Felice Boudleaux and performed by Ray Charles. (Click on the song title and listen to this youtube rendering, bloggers. Let me know what you think.)

Thank you for sharing your cleverness, Mr. Donne. Centuries later, you still have people talking.


  1. I love a good Renaissance poet shout-out, good lady. Thanks for this!

  2. I wish I got thank you cards like that too! :O)

  3. Oh Roxy!!! I can't see anywhere to listen to Ray Charles doing his Donne!!! But nevermind!! I love your letter to Mr Donne!!! What a man, what a talent, what an inspiration!!! Thank you for reminding blogworld just how fab he was and will always and forever be!! Take care

  4. Roxy: A great era. Thank you!

  5. Lovely, as visits over here always are. Sometimes I feel like you are the perfect, cozy little classics corner they should have in every library... :)

  6. I love this post. It's great to learn more about our inspirations

  7. Aaand, he rocked the pointy beard with such style!
    I need to read more Donne, it seems!

  8. Plus, he's kinda hawt, so that helps. :-)

  9. Oh wow, I remember studying this poem in high school! It was one of the ones I actually liked... it made me feel something. Still does. Thanks for posting!

  10. I love john donne. His work is awesome. He also had an interesting life. Thanks for reminding me of us awesomeness.

  11. What a wonderful letter to Mr Donne! A fantastic poet!

  12. He was certainly a master. I love that quote about no man being an island. I've heard it several times before and have always admired the truth of it.

    Great post, Roxy.


  13. Oh, I love, love, love John Donne! He's one of my favorites. :-)

  14. Wow... this makes me want to read some of the classics... too bad I have such a hard time understanding the language!

  15. A lovely day to read the classics! Thanks!

  16. What a lovely tribute, Roxy! In all the studying I did of Donne in school, I don't think I ever saw him in this way, You've opened my eyes to the man he was in just a few paragraphs.

  17. Twelve kids with the bosses niece? Too cool. I already like him. =D

  18. I have heard of him, but I never really gave him much thought (shame one me). Thanks for the eye opener!