Friday, November 18, 2005

The Funeral by John Donne

Whoever comes to shroud me, do not harm
Nor question much
That subtle wreath of hair, which crowns my arm;
The mystery, the sign, you must not touch,
For 'tis my outward soul,
Viceroy to that, which then to heaven being gone,
Will leave this to control
And keep these limbs, her provinces, from dissolution.
For if the sinewy thread my brain lets fall
Through every part
Can tie those parts, and make me one of all,
Those hairs which upward grew, and strength and art
Have from a better brain,
Can better do'it; except she meant that I
By this should know my pain,
As prisoners then are manacled, when they'are condemn'd to die.

Whate'er she meant by'it, bury it with me,
For since I am
Love's martyr, it might breed idolatry,
If into other hands these relics came;
As 'twas humility
To afford to it all that a soul can do,
So, 'tis some bravery,
That since you would have none of me, I bury some of you.

This is a confusing poem with a simple abab rhyme scheme. It seems like the speaker's death is a metaphor of his love relationship. The first stanza is graphic about the process of death: hair growing freely and still growing after the body is dead, the limbs dissolving, etc. The speaker's lover is keeping the speaker from dying, just as they are trying to keep their love from failing. The speaker likens his love to being a prisoner, as if he is being forced in this relationship before it dies. The second stanza changes from the process of death, to a reflection of death. I'm not sure how the speaker is a martyr. I think the relics that the speaker wants buried with him are memories of his ex lover, that he is burying with the death of their love. In the end, the speaker seems to get his revenge on his ex lover, for whatever happened.


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