I’m back with the Songs & Sonnets this week. I have so many favourite Donne poems that it seems futile to keep saying that this is a favourite poem, but it is. The Legacy plays on the theme of lovers exchanging their hearts as love tokens so that when death comes, even if it’s only leaving the loved one for a short time, the lover’s own heart is already in the beloved’s keeping.
When last I died, and, dear, I die
As often as from thee I go,
Though it be but an hour ago
—And lovers’ hours be full eternity—
I can remember yet, that I
Something did say, and something did bestow ;
Though I be dead, which sent me, I might be
Mine own executor, and legacy.
I heard me say, “Tell her anon,
That myself,” that is you, not I,
” Did kill me,” and when I felt me die,
I bid me send my heart, when I was gone ;
But I alas ! could there find none ;
When I had ripp’d, and search’d where hearts should lie,
It kill’d me again, that I who still was true
In life, in my last will should cozen you.
Yet I found something like a heart,
But colours it, and corners had ;
It was not good, it was not bad,
It was entire to none, and few had part ;
As good as could be made by art
It seem’d, and therefore for our loss be sad.
I meant to send that heart instead of mine,
But O ! no man could hold it, for ’twas thine.