John Donne

John Donne Poems

John Donne is one of the most important English poets of his time. He was the best of the metaphysical poets and is remembered for his skill with conceits. His poetry evolved greatly as he grew older, and more contemplative religious works replaced the erotic poems of his youth. His works include the Holy Sonnets, Juvenilia: or Certain Paradoxes and Problems, and Letters to severall persons of honour.

Some of Donne’s most famous poems include No Man is an Island, A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, The Flea, Death be not Proud (Holy Sonnet 10)and The Sun Rising.

Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness

by John Donne

‘Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness’ by John Donne is written from the perspective of a dying man hoping to gain access to heaven. 

John Donne's metaphysical style is apparent in this poem, characterized by intricate and surprising metaphors that provoke deep thought. He often explores spiritual and philosophical themes, which can be seen here in the consideration of mortality, faith, and the soul's passage to heaven.

Since I am coming to that holy room,

         Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,

I shall be made thy music; as I come

         I tune the instrument here at the door,

A Hymn to God the Father

by John Donne

In ‘A Hymn to God the Father,’ Donne’s introspective and confessional tone explores sin, forgiveness, and the speaker’s personal relationship with God.

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?

A Jet Ring Sent

by John Donne

‘A Jet Ring Sent’ by John Donne describes how a speaker’s beloved returned his promise ring. The speaker meditates on the nature of their relationship and how it is symbolized by the black ring. 

Thou art not so black as my heart,

    Nor half so brittle as her heart, thou art ;

What would'st thou say ? shall both our properties by thee be spoke,

    —Nothing more endless, nothing sooner broke?

A Lecture upon the Shadow

by John Donne

‘A Lecture upon the Shadow’ by John Donne depicts a deteriorating relationship. It at first appeared to be blossoming but has since fallen apart.

Stand still, and I will read to thee

A lecture, love, in love's philosophy.

         These three hours that we have spent,

         Walking here, two shadows went

A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day

by John Donne

‘A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day’ by John Donne is one of the poet’s best poems about love and loss. It depicts the speaker’s grief after the death of someone he loved.

'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,

Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;

         The sun is spent, and now his flasks

         Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;

A Valediction: of Weeping

by John Donne

        Let me pour forth

My tears before thy face, whilst I stay here,

For thy face coins them, and thy stamp they bear,

And by this mintage they are something worth,

Air and Angels

by John Donne

‘Air and Angels’ by John Donne depicts the unsual nature of the speaker’s love. He knows they have to come togther and allow their love to encircle one another.

Twice or thrice had I lov'd thee,

Before I knew thy face or name;

So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame

Angels affect us oft, and worshipp'd be;

Batter my Heart (Holy Sonnet 14)

by John Donne

‘Batter my Heart,’ also known as ‘Holy Sonnet 14,’ is one of Donne’s best religious poems. It is directed at God and asks him to take hold of the speaker.

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

Break of Day

by John Donne

‘Break of Day’ by John Donne is an aubade told from a female perspective. It conveys a woman’s understanding of her relationship with a busy lover. 

‘Tis true, ‘tis day, what though it be?

O wilt thou therefore rise from me?

Why should we rise because ‘tis light?

Did we lie down because ‘twas night?

Explore more poems from John Donne

Death, be not Proud (Holy Sonnet 10)

by John Donne

‘Death, be not Proud’ by John Donne is one of the poet’s best poems about death. It tells the listener not to fear Death as he keeps morally corrupt company and only leads to Heaven.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;

For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

Elegy V: His Picture

by John Donne

‘Elegy V’ by John Donne is addressed to the poet’s lover. He asks her to accept him when he returns, despite the fact that he’s going to look and act differently.

Here take my picture; though I bid farewell

Thine, in my heart, where my soul dwells, shall dwell.

'Tis like me now, but I dead, 'twill be more

When we are shadows both, than 'twas before.

Elegy VII: Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love

by John Donne

‘Elegy VII’ by John Donne, also known as ‘Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love,’ is a typical piece about unrequited love.

Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love,

And in that sophistry, oh, thou dost prove

Too subtle: Fool, thou didst not understand

The mystic language of the eye nor hand:

For Whom the Bell Tolls/No Man is an Island

by John Donne

In ‘For Whom the Bell tolls,’ John Donne explores themes of life, death, and the human condition. He suggests that no man is an “island.”

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward

by John Donne

‘Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward’ by John Donne is a poem about spiritual transformation. It also depicts the speaker’s fear of confronting God.

Let mans Soule be a Spheare, and then, in this,

The intelligence that moves, devotion is,

And as the other Spheares, by being growne

Subject to forraigne motion, lose their owne,

Holy Sonnet 17 (XVII)

by John Donne

Holy Sonnet 17 (XVII) by John Donne is a religious poem. It takes an affectionate tone as the speaker addresses his love for God.

Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt

To nature, and to hers, and my good is dead,

And her soul early into heaven ravished,

Wholly in heavenly things my mind is set.

Holy Sonnet II

by John Donne

‘Holy Sonnet II’ by John Donne is the second in a series of religious sonnets that Donne is well-known for. This poem is directed to God and explores a speaker’s concerns about their fate. 

As due by many titles I resign

Myself to thee, O God. First I was made

By Thee; and for Thee, and when I was decay’d

Thy blood bought that, the which before was Thine.

Holy Sonnet IV

by John Donne

John Donne’s ‘Holy Sonnet IV’ (O, my black soul) is one of his famous religious sonnets in which he talks about a speaker’s sinful soul. This poem is full of vivid imagery and symbolism.

O, my black soul, now thou art summoned

By sickness, Death's herald and champion ;

Thou'rt like a pilgrim, which abroad hath done

Treason, and durst not turn to whence he's fled ;

Holy Sonnet IX

by John Donne

‘Holy Sonnet IX’ by John Donne, also known by its first line ‘If poisonous minerals, and if that tree’ is one of several “Holy Sonnets” the poet composed during his lifetime. This particular poem focuses on a dispute between the speaker and God.

If poisonous minerals, and if that tree,

Whose fruit threw death on (else immortal) us,

If lecherous goats, if serpents envious

Cannot be damn'd, alas ! why should I be ?

Holy Sonnet VII: At the round earth’s imagin’d corners

by John Donne

Holy Sonnet 7, ‘At the round earth’s imagin’d corners, blow’ contains a speaker’s description of Judgment Day and an appeal to God to forgive him his sins. 

At the round earth's imagined corners, blow

Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise

From death, you numberless infinities

Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go,

I Am a Little World Made Cunningly

by John Donne

‘I Am a Little World Made Cunningly’ by John Donne contains a speaker’s prayer to God that both the good and bad of his soul be purged with fire. 

I am a little world made cunningly

Of elements and an angelic sprite,

But black sin hath betray'd to endless night

My world's both parts, and oh both parts must die

Love’s Alchemy

by John Donne

Some that have deeper digg'd love's mine than I,

Say, where his centric happiness doth lie;

         I have lov'd, and got, and told,

But should I love, get, tell, till I were old,

Love’s Growth

by John Donne

I scarce believe my love to be so pure

   As I had thought it was,

   Because it doth endure

Vicissitude, and season, as the grass;

Lovers’ Infiniteness

by John Donne

John Donne’s poetry tends to have love, death, and religion as central themes. ‘Lovers’ Infiniteness’ is no exception, exploring the infiniteness in love.

If yet I have not all thy love,

Dear, I shall never have it all;

I cannot breathe one other sigh, to move,

Nor can intreat one other tear to fall;

Song: Go and catch a falling star

by John Donne

‘Song: Go and catch a falling star’ by John Donne tells of a speaker’s belief that there are no women in the world who are both beautiful and faithful. 

Go and catch a falling star,

    Get with child a mandrake root,

Tell me where all past years are,

    Or who cleft the devil's foot,

The Anniversary

by John Donne

All Kings, and all their favourites,

         All glory of honours, beauties, wits,

    The sun itself, which makes times, as they pass,

    Is elder by a year now than it was

The Apparition

by John Donne

When by thy scorn, O murd'ress, I am dead

         And that thou think'st thee free

From all solicitation from me,

Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,