Friday, April 27, 2007

Crosses
My affection for Diana Wynne Jones got me started on Donne - one of his poems is the key to a problem in one of her novels, and she has a character who quotes or alludes to him regularly. He points out such details that I would never notice - but have been noticing them myself since reading this poem, "The Crosse":

Since Christ embrac'd the Crosse it selfe, dare I
His image, th'image of His Cross, deny?
Would I have profit by the sacrifice,
And dare the chosen Altar to despise?
It bore all other sinnes, but is it fit
That it should beare the sinne of scorning it?
Who from the picture would avert his eye,
How would he flye his paines, who there did dye?
From mee no Pulpit, nor misgrounded law,
Nor scandall taken, shall this Crosse withdraw,
It shall not, for it cannot; for the losse
Of this Crosse were to mee another Crosse.
Better were worse, for no affliction,
No Crosse is so extreme, as to have none;
Who can blot out the Crosse, which th'instrument
Of God dew'd on mee in the Sacrament?
Who can deny mee power, and liberty
To stretch mine arms, and mine owne Crosse to be?
Swimme, and at every stroake thou art thy Crosse,
The Mast and yard make one, where seas do tosse.
Looke downe, thou spiest out Crosses in small things;
Looke up, thou seest birds rais'd on crossed wings;
All the Globes frame, and spheares, is nothing else
But the Meridians crossing Parallels.
Materiall Crosses then, good physicke bee,
But yet spirituall have chiefe dignity.
These for extracted chemique medicine serve,
And cure much better, and as well preserve.
Then are you your own physicke, or need none,
When Still'd or purg'd by tribulation.
For when that Crosse ungrudg'd unto you stickes,
Then are you to yourselfe a Crucifixe.
As perchance, Carvers do not faces make:
But that away, which hid them there, do take.
Let Crosses, soe, take what hid Christ in thee,
And be his image, or not his, but hee.
But, as oft Alchemists doe coyners prove,
So may a selfe-despising, get selfe-love.
And then as worst surfets, of best meates bee,
Soe is pride, issued from humility,
For, 'tis no child, but monster; therefore Crosse
Your joy in crosses, else, 'tis double losse,
And crosse thy senses, else, both they, and thou
Must perish soone, and to destruction bowe.
For if the'eye seeke good objects, and will take
No crosse from bad, wee cannot 'scape a snake.
So with harsh, hard, sowre, stinking, crosse the rest,
Make them indifferent; call nothing best.
But most the eye needs crossing, that can rome,
And move; To th'other th'objects must come home.
And crosse thy heart; for that in man alone
Pants downewards, and hath palpitation.
Crosse those dejections, when it downeward tends,
And when it to forbidden heights pretends.
And as the braine through bony walls doth vent
By sutures, which a Crosses forme present,
So when thy braine workes, ere thou utter it,
Crosse and correct concupiscence of witt.
Be covetous of Crosses; let none fall;
Crosse no man else, but crosse thyself in all.
Then doth the Crosse of Christ work faithfully
Within our hearts, when wee love harmlessly
The Crosses pictures much, and with more care
That Crosses children, which our Crosses are.

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