Sunday Poetry – John Donne – again!

My excuse – if I need an excuse – for featuring John Donne in Sunday Poetry again is that I’ve just watched Simon Schama’s documentary on Donne. It was made a few years ago but it’s just popped up on BBC iPlayer Global which is the version of iPlayer that those of us outside the UK have access to. I enjoy iPlayer & I can watch the programs on my TV through my Apple TV box but it would be lovely if there were more recent programs available. The recent productions of Shakespeare’s History plays have my mouth watering but when will I ever be able to see them? I was pleased to see that the first series of the new Upstairs Downstairs has made an appearance so I hope it’s a sign that, as well as all the great classic serials & older documentaries, we might get to see something more recent. Of course, if they want to give us older series, Michael Wood’s In Search of the Dark Ages (read the book, never seen the series), would be a brilliant place to start!

Ok, rant over. In the documentary, Simon Schama talked to John Carey, author of the best book on Donne that I’ve read (John Donne : Life, Mind & Art), & Fiona Shaw read the poems. It sent me back to my books of Donne’s poetry & I’ve been reading the Holy Sonnets & the religious poetry that Donne wrote in his later years after he became Dean of St Paul’s. A Hymn to God the Father is one of my favourites. It’s a serious poem about repentance & forgiveness but he can’t resist the pun on his surname & the pun on Son/sun that is so reminiscent of the dazzling wordplay of the songs & sonnets.

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow’d in, a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done;
I fear no more.

6 thoughts on “Sunday Poetry – John Donne – again!

  1. I've liked the Metaphysical poets since I studied them as part of my OU degree years ago. Donne and Marvell are particular favourites. I watched the last of the four plays in the Hollow Crown series last night. I've enjoyed them all in different ways but particularly liked Richard II and Henry V although I thought Jeremy Irons as Henry IV was wonderful. I hope you get to see them soon and I hope that the BBC will carry on through the rest of the plays to Richard III. I remember sitting up late as a teenager in the 60s to watch all the plays that were filmed for TV then and being absolutely riveted by by them:)


  2. I'm very keen to see the Shakespeare so hopefully they'll either turn up on iPlayer or on the ABC. I'd love to see a new version of RIII as well. Fingers crossed! I've always loved the Metaphysical poets too. We studied them at school & it didn't spoil them for me which makes a nice change.


  3. Michelle, I'm seriously thinking about it! I'd have so much choice from the romantic but spiky love poetry to the beautiful religious poetry & then there are the sermons…


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