Abbildungen der Seite

• A spirit passed before my face; the hair of my head stood up: fear and trembling came upon me, and made all my bones to shake ?." Upon which words I will make no comment, but leave them to be considered by the incredulous reader: to whom I will also commend this following consideration; that there be many pious and learned men, that believe our merciful God hath assigned to every man a particular guardian angel to be his constant monitor, and to attend him in all his dangers, both of body and soul. And the opinion that every man hath his particular angel may gain some authority, by the relation of St. Peter's miraculous deliverance out of prison?, not by many, but by one angel.And this belief may yet gain more credit, by the reader's considering, that when Peter, after his enlargement, knocked at the door of Mary, the mother of John, and Rode, the maid-servant, being surprised with joy that Peter was there, did not let him in, but ran in haste, and told the disciples (who were then and there met together) that Peter was at the door; and they, not believing it, said she was mad; yet, when she again affirmed it, though they then believed it not, yet they concluded, and said, It is his angel.

More observations of this na and inferences from them, might be made to gain the relation a firmer belief: but I forbear, lest I, that intended to be but a relator, may be thought to be an engaged person for the proving what was related to me; and yet I think myself bound to declare, that though it was not told me by Mr. Donne himself, it was told me (now long since) by a person of honour, and of such intimacy with him, that he knew more of the secrets of his soul, than any person then living: and I think he told me the truth; for it

[blocks in formation]

was told with such circumstances, and such asseveration, that (to say nothing of my own thoughts) I verily believe he that told it me did himself believe it to be true.

I forbear the reader's farther trouble, as to the relation, and what concerns it; and will conclude mine with commending to his view a copy of verses given by Mr. Donne to his wife at the time he then parted from her. And I beg leave to tell, that I have heard some critics, learned both in languages and poetry, say, that none of the Greek or Latin poets did ever equal them.



As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
The breath goes now, and some say no:
So let us melt, and make no noise;
No wind-sighs or tear-floods us move ;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.
Movings of th' earth cause harms and fears ;
Men reckon what they did or meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent,
Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense), cannot admit
Absence; because that doth remove
Those things that elemented it.
But we, by a soul so much refined,
That our souls know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care not hands, eyes, or lips to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion.
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If we be two, we are two so
As stiff twin-compasses are two :
Thy soul, the fixt foot, makes no show
To move, but does if th other do.
And though thine in the centre sit,
Yet, when my other far does roam,
Thine leans and hearkens after it,
And grows erect as mine comes home.
Such thou must be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And me to end where I begun.

I return from my account of the vision, to tell the reader, that both before Mr. Donne's going into France, at his being there, and after his return, many of the nobility, and others that were powerful at court, were watchful and solicitous to the

King for some secular employment for him. The King had formerly both known and put a value upon his company, and had also given him some hopes of a state-employment; being always much pleased when Mr. Donne attended him, especially at his meals, where there were usually many deep discourses of general learning, and very often friendly disputes or debates of religion betwixt his Majesty and those divines, whose places required their attendance on him at those times; particularly the Dean of the Chapel, who then was Bishop Montague (the publisher of the learned and eloquent works of his Majesty) and the most reverend Doctor Andrews, the late learned Bishop of Winchester, who was then the King's Almoner.

About this time there grew many disputes, that concerned the oath of supremacy and allegiance, in which the King had appeared, and engaged himself by his public writings now extant: and his Majesty, discoursing with Mr. Donne, concerning many of the reasons which are usually urged against the taking of those oaths, apprehended such a validity and clear

ness in his stating the questions, and his answers to them, that his Majesty commanded him to bestow some time in drawing the arguments into a method, and then to write his answers to them; and, having done that, not to send, but be his own messenger, and bring them to him. To this he presently and diligently applied himself, and within six weeks brought them to him under his own hand-writing, as they be now printed; the book bearing the name of “ Pseudo-Martyr," printed anno 1610.

When the King had read and considered that book, he persuaded Mr. Donne to enter into the ministry; to which at that time he was, and appeared, very unwilling, apprehending it (such was liis mistaken modesty) to be too weighty for his abilities; and though his Majesty had promised him a favour, and many persons of worth mediated with liis Majesty for some secular employment for him, (to which his education had adapted him) and particularly the Earl of Somerset, when in his greatest height of favour; who being then at Theobalds with the King, where one of the clerks of the council died that night, the Earl posted a messenger for Mr. Donne to come to him immediately, and at Mr. Donne's coming, said, “Mr. Donne, to testify the reality of my affection, and my purpose to prefer you, stay in this garden till I go up to the King, and bring you word that you are clerk of the council. Doubt not my doing this, for I know the King loves you, and know the King will not deny me." But the King gave a positive denial to all requests, and, having a discerning spirit, replied, “I know Mr. Donne is a learned man, has the abilities of a learned divine, and will prove a powerful preacher ; and my desire is to prefer him that way, and in that way I will deny you nothing for him.” After that time, as he professeth', “the King descended

1 In his Book of Devotions.

to a persuasion, almost to a solicitation, of him to enter into sacred orders;" which though he then denied not, yet he deferred it for almost three years. All which time he applied himself to an incessant study of textual divinity, and to the attainment of a greater perfection in the learned languages, Greek and Hebrew.

In the first and most blessed times of Christianity, when the Clergy were looked upon with reverence, and deserved it, when they overcame their opposers by high examples of virtue, by a blessed patience and long-suffering; those only were then judged worth the ministry, whose quiet and meek spirits did make them look upon that sacred calling with an humble adoration and fear to undertake it; which indeed requires such great degrees of humility, and labour, and care, that none but such were then thought worthy of that celestial dignity; and such only were then sought out, and solicited to undertake it. This I have mentioned, because forwardness and inconsideration could not in Mr. Donne, as in many others, be an argument of insufficiency or unfitness; for he had considered long, and had many strifes within himself concerning the strictness of life and competency of learning required in uch as enter into sacred orders; and doubtless, considering his own demerits, did humbly ask God, with St. Paul, “Lord, who is sufficient for these things?” and with meek Moses, “Lord, who am I?” And sure if he had consulted with flesh and blood, he had not for these reasons put his hand to that holy plough. But God, who is able to prevail, wrestled with him, as the Angel did with Jacob, and marked him; marked him for his own; marked him with a blessing, a blessing of obedience to the motions of his blessed Spirit. And then, as he had formerly asked God with Moses, “Who am I?” so now, being inspired with an apprehension of God's

« ZurückWeiter »