Ash Wednesday


“In what torne ship soever I embarke…” The very word “whatsoever” is ripped apart, flapping around that wounded ship, and suddenly I feel the torn ship of my life.  The sea of “s” sounds swallows me and washes me into Donne’s decision: I will take my journeys and I will see Christ in them.

Here is the whole poem:

A Hymne to Christ, at the Author’s Last Going Into Germany
(by John Donne)

In what torne ship soever I embarke,
That ship shall be my embleme of thy Arke;
What sea soever swallow mee, that flood
Shall be to mee an embleme of thy blood;
Though thou with clouds of anger do disguise
Thy face; yet through that maske I know those eyes,
Which, though they turne away sometimes,
They never will despise.

I sacrifice this Iland unto thee,
And all whom I lov’d there, and who lov’d mee;
When I have put our seas twixt them and mee,
Put thou thy sea betwixt my sinnes ande thee.
As the trees sap doth seeke the root below
In winter, in my winter now I goe,
Where none but thee, th’Eternall root
Of true Love I may know.

Nor thou nor thy religion dost controule,
The amorousnesse of an harmonious Soule,
But thou would’st have that love thy self: As thou
Art jealous, Lord, so I am jealous now,
Thou lov’st not, till from loving more, thou free
My soule: Who ever gives, takes libertie:
O, if thou car’st not whom I love
Alas, thou lov’st not mee.

Seale then this bill of my Divorce to All,
On whom those fainter beames of love did fall;
Marry those loves, which in youth scattered bee
On Fame, Wit, Hopes (false mistresses) to thee.
Churches are best for Prayer, that have least light:
To see God only, I goe out of sight:
And to scape stormy dayes, I chuse
An Everlasting night.

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