Anatomy of the World:
The First Anniversary

by John Donne

When that rich soul which to her heaven is gone, Whom all they celebrate, who know they have one, (For who is sure he hath a soul, unless It see, and judge, and follow worthiness, And by deeds praise it? he who doth not this, May lodge an inmate soul, but 'tis not his.) When that Queen ended here her progress time, And, as to'her standing house, to heaven did climb, Where, loth to make the saints attend her long, She's now a part both of the choir, and song, This world, in that great earthquake languished; For in a common bath of tears it bled, Which drew the strongest vital spirits out: But succoured then with a perplexed doubt, Whether the world did lose, or gain in this, (Because since now no other way there is But goodness, to see her, whom all would see, All must endeavour to be good as she,) This great consumption to a fever turned, And so the world had fits; it joyed, it mourned. And, as men think, that agues physic are, And th' ague being spent, give over care, So thou, sick world, mistak'st thyself to be Well, when alas, thou 'rt in a lethargy. Her death did wound and tame thee then, and then Thou mightst have better spared the sun, or man. That wound was deep, but 'tis more misery, That thou hast lost thy sense and memory. 'Twas heavy then to hear thy voice of moan, But this is worse, that thou art speechless grown. Thou has forgot thy name, thou hadst; thou wast Nothing but she, and her thou hast o'erpast. For as a child kept from the font, until A prince, expected long, come to fulfil The ceremonies, thou unnamed hadst laid, Had not her coming, thee her palace made: Her name defined thee, gave thee form, and frame, And thou forget'st to celebrate thy name. Some months she hath been dead (but being dead, Measures of times are all determined) But long she'hath been away, long, long, yet none Offers to tell us who it is that's gone. But as in states doubtful of future heirs, When sickness without remedy impairs The present prince, they'are loth it should be said, The prince doth languish, or the prince is dead: So mankind feeling now a general thaw, A strong example gone, equal to law, The cement which did faithfully compact And glue all virtues, now resolved, and slacked, Thought it some blasphemy to say she'was dead; Or that our weakness was discovered In that confession; therefore spoke no more Than tongues, the soul being gone, the loss deplore. But though it be too late to succour thee, Sick world, yea dead, yea putrefied, since she Thy'intrinsic balm, and thy preservative, Can never be renewed, thou never live, I (since no man can make thee live) will try, What we may gain by thy anatomy. Her death hath taught us dearly, that thou art Corrupt and mortal in thy purest part. Let no man say, the world itself being dead, 'Tis labour lost to have discovered The world's infirmities, since there is none Alive to study this dissection; For there's a kind of world remaining still, Though she which did inanimate and fill The world, be gone, yet in this last long night, Her ghost doth walk; that is, a glimmering light, A faint weak love of virtue and of good Reflects from her, on them which understood Her worth; and though she have shut in all day, The twilight of her memory doth stay; Which, from the carcase of the old world, free, Creates a new world; and new creatures be Produced: the matter and the stuff of this, Her virtue, and the form our practice is. And though to be thus elemented, arm These creatures, from home-born intrinsic harm, (For all assumed unto this dignity, So many weedless paradises be, Which of themselves produce no venomous sin, Except some foreign serpent bring it in) Yet, because outward storms the strongest break, And strength itself by confidence grows weak, This new world may be safer, being told The dangers and diseases of the old: For with due temper men do then forgo, Or covet things, when they their true worth know. There is no health; physicians say that we At best, enjoy but a neutrality. And can there be worse sickness, than to know That we are never well, nor can be so? We are born ruinous: poor mothers cry, That children come not right, nor orderly, Except they headlong come, and fall upon An ominous precipitation. How witty's ruin! how importunate Upon mankind! it laboured to frustrate Even God's purpose; and made woman, sent For man's relief, cause of his languishment. They were to good ends, and they are so still, But accessory, and principal in ill. For that first marriage was our funeral: One woman at one blow, then killed us all, And singly, one by one, they kill us now. We do delightfully ourselves allow To that consumption; and profusely blind, We kill ourselves, to propagate our kind. And yet we do not that; we are not men: There is not now that mankind, which was then, When as the sun, and man, did seem to strive, (Joint tenants of the world) who should survive. When stag, and raven, and the long-lived tree, Compared with man, died in minority; When, if a slow-paced star had stol'n away From the observer's marking, he might stay Two or three hundred years to see'it again, And then make up his observation plain; When, as the age was long, the size was great: Man's growth confessed, and recompensed the meat: So spacious and large, that every soul Did a fair kingdom, and large realm control: And when the very stature thus erect, Did that soul a good way towards heaven direct. Where is this mankind now? who lives to age, Fit to be made Methusalem his page? Alas, we scarce live long enough to try Whether a true made clock run right, or lie. Old grandsires talk of yesterday with sorrow, And for our children we reserve tomorrow. So short is life, that every peasant strives, In a torn house, or field, to have three lives. And as in lasting, so in length is man Contracted to an inch, who was a span; For had a man at first in forests strayed, Or shipwrecked in the sea, one would have laid A wager, that an elephant, or whale, That met him, would not hastily assail A thing so equal to him: now alas, The fairies, and the pygmies well may pass As credible; mankind decays so soon, We'are scarce our fathers' shadows cast at noon. Only death adds to'our length: nor are we grown In stature to be men, till we are none. But this were light, did our less volume hold All the old text; or had we changed to gold Their silver; or disposed into less glass Spirits of virtue, which then scattered was. But 'tis not so: we'are not retired, but damped; And as our bodies, so our minds are cramped: 'Tis shrinking, not close weaving that hath thus, In mind and body both bedwarfed us. We seem ambitious, God's whole work to undo; Of nothing he made us, and we strive too, To bring ourselves to nothing back; and we Do what we can, to do 't so soon as he. With new diseases on ourselves we war, And with new physic, a worse engine far. Thus man, this world's vice-emperor, in whom All faculties, all graces are at home; And if in other creatures they appear, They're but man's ministers, and legates there, To work on their rebellions, and reduce Them to civility, and to man's use. This man, whom God did woo, and loth t' attend Till man came up, did down to man descend, This man, so great, that all that is, is his, Oh what a trifle, and poor thing he is! If man were anything, he's nothing now: Help, or at least some time to waste, allow T' his other wants, yet when he did depart With her whom we lament, he lost his heart. She, of whom th' ancients seemed to prophesy, When they called virtues by the name of she ; She in whom virtue was so much refined, That for allay unto so pure a mind She took the weaker sex, she that could drive The poisonous tincture, and the stain of Eve, Out of her thoughts, and deeds; and purify All, by a true religious alchemy; She, she is dead; she's dead: when thou know'st this, Thou know'st how poor a trifling thing man is. And learn'st thus much by our anatomy, The heart being perished, no part can be free. And that except thou feed (not banquet) on The supernatural food, religion, Thy better growth grows withered, and scant; Be more than man, or thou'art less than an ant. Then, as mankind, so is the world's whole frame Quite out of joint, almost created lame: For, before God had made up all the rest, Corruption entered, and depraved the best: It seized the angels, and then first of all The world did in her cradle take a fall, And turned her brains, and took a general maim Wronging each joint of th' universal frame. The noblest part, man, felt it first; and then Both beasts and plants, cursed in the curse of man. So did the world from the first hour decay, That evening was beginning of the day, And now the springs and summers which we see, Like sons of women after fifty be. And new philosophy calls all in doubt, The element of fire is quite put out; The sun is lost, and th' earth, and no man's wit Can well direct him where to look for it. And freely men confess that this world's spent, When in the planets, and the firmament They seek so many new; they see that this Is crumbled out again to his atomies. 'Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone; All just supply, and all relation: Prince, subject, father, son, are things forgot, For every man alone thinks he hath got To be a phoenix, and that then can be None of that kind, of which he is, but he. This is the world's condition now, and now She that should all parts to reunion bow, She that had all magnetic force alone, To draw, and fasten sundered parts in one; She whom wise nature had invented then When she observed that every sort of men Did in their voyage in this world's sea stray, And needed a new compass for their way; She that was best, and first original Of all fair copies; and the general Steward to Fate; she whose rich eyes, and breast, Gilt the West Indies, and perfumed the East; Whose having breathed in this world, did bestow Spice on those isles, and bade them still smell so, And that rich Indy which doth gold inter, Is but as single money, coined from her: She to whom this world must itself refer, As suburbs, or the microcosm of her, She, she is dead; she's dead: when thou knows't this, Thou know'st how lame a cripple this world is. And learn'st thus much by our anatomy, That this world's general sickness doth not lie In any humour, or one certain part; But as thou sawest it rotten at the heart, Thou seest a hectic fever hath got hold Of the whole substance, not to be controlled, And that thou hast but one way, not to admit The world's infection, to be none of it. For the world's subtlest immaterial parts Feel this consuming wound, and age's darts. For the world's beauty is decayed, or gone, Beauty, that's colour, and proportion. We think the heavens enjoy their spherical, Their round proportion embracing all. But yet their various and perplexed course, Observed in divers ages, doth enforce Men to find out so many eccentric parts, Such divers down-right lines, such overthwarts, As disproportion that pure form. It tears The firmament in eight and forty shares, And in these constellations then arise New stars, and old do vanish from our eyes: As though heaven suffered earthquakes, peace or war, When new towers rise, and old demolished are. They have impaled within a zodiac The free-born sun, and keep twelve signs awake To watch his steps; the goat and crab control, And fright him back, who else to either pole (Did not these tropics fetter him) might run: For his course is not round; nor can the sun Perfect a circle, or maintain his way One inch direct; but where he rose today He comes no more, but with a cozening line, Steals by that point, and so is serpentine: And seeming weary with his reeling thus, He means to sleep, being now fall'n nearer us. So, of the stars which boast that they do run In circle still, none ends where he begun. All their proportion's lame, it sinks, it swells. For of meridians, and parallels, Man hath weaved out a net, and this net thrown Upon the heavens, and now they are his own. Loth to go up the hill, or labour thus To go to heaven, we make heaven come to us. We spur, we rein the stars, and in their race They're diversely content t' obey our pace. But keeps the earth her round proportion still? Doth not a Tenerife, or higher hill Rise so high like a rock, that one might think The floating moon would shipwreck there, and sink? Seas are so deep, that whales being struck today, Perchance tomorrow, scarce at middle way Of their wished journey's end, the bottom, die. And men, to sound depths, so much line untie, As one might justly think that there would rise At end thereof, one of th' Antipodes: If under all, a vault infernal be, (Which sure is spacious, except that we Invent another torment, that there must Millions into a strait hot room be thrust) Then solidness, and roundness have no place. Are these but warts, and pock-holes in the face Of th' earth? Think so: but yet confess, in this The world's proportion disfigured is, That those two legs whereon it doth rely, Reward and punishment are bent awry. And, oh, it can no more be questioned, That beauty's best, proportion, is dead, Since even grief itself, which now alone Is left us, is without proportion. She by whose lines proportion should be Examined, measure of all symmetry, Whom had that ancient seen, who thought souls made Of harmony, he would at next have said That harmony was she, and thence infer, That souls were but resultances from her, And did from her into our bodies go, As to our eyes, the forms from objects flow: She, who if those great Doctors truly said That the Ark to man's proportions was made, Had been a type for that, as that might be A type of her in this, that contrary Both elements, and passions lived at peace In her, who caused all civil war to cease. She, after whom, what form soe'er we see, Is discord, and rude incongruity; She, she is dead, she's dead; when thou know'st this Thou know'st how ugly a monster this world is: And learn'st thus much by our anatomy, That here is nothing to enamour thee: And that, not only faults in inward parts, Corruptions in our brains, or in our hearts, Poisoning the fountains, whence our actions spring, Endanger us: but that if everything Be not done fitly'and in proportion, To satisfy wise, and good lookers on, (Since most men be such as most think they be) They're loathsome too, by this deformity. For good, and well, must in our actions meet; Wicked is not much worse than indiscreet. But beauty's other second element, Colour, and lustre now, is as near spent. And had the world his just proportion, Were it a ring still, yet the stone is gone. As a compassionate turquoise which doth tell By looking pale, the wearer is not well, As gold falls sick being stung with mercury, All the world's parts of such complexion be. When nature was most busy, the first week, Swaddling the new born earth, God seemed to like That she should sport herself sometimes, and play, To mingle, and vary colours every day: And then, as though she could not make enow, Himself his various rainbow did allow. Sight is the noblest sense of any one, Yet sight hath only colour to feed on, And colour is decayed: summer's robe grows Dusky, and like an oft dyed garment shows. Our blushing red, which used in cheeks to spread, Is inward sunk, and only our souls are red. Perchance the world might have recovered, If she whom we lament had not been dead: But she, in whom all white, and red, and blue (Beauty's ingredients) voluntary grew, As in an unvexed paradise; from whom Did all things verdure, and their lustre come, Whose composition was miraculous, Being all colour, all diaphanous, (For air, and fire but thick gross bodies were, And liveliest stones but drowsy, and pale to her,) She, she, is dead; she's dead: when thou know'st this, Thou know'st how wan a ghost this our world is: And learn'st thus much by our anatomy, That it should more affright, than pleasure thee. And that, since all fair colour then did sink, 'Tis now but wicked vanity, to think To colour vicious deeds with good pretence, Or with bought colours to illude men's sense. Nor in aught more this world's decay appears, Than that her influence the heaven forbears, Or that the elements do not feel this, The father, or the mother barren is. The clouds conceive not rain, or do not pour In the due birth time, down the balmy shower. Th' air doth not motherly sit on the earth, To hatch her seasons, and give all things birth. Spring-times were common cradles, but are tombs; And false conceptions fill the general wombs. Th' air shows such meteors, as none can see, Not only what they mean, but what they be. Earth such new worms, as would have troubled much Th' Egyptian Mages to have made more such. What artist now dares boast that he can bring Heaven hither, or constellate anything, So as the influence of those stars may be Imprisoned in an herb, or charm, or tree, And do by touch, all which those stars could do? The art is lost, and correspondence too. For heaven gives little, and the earth takes less, And man least knows their trade, and purposes. If this commerce 'twixt heaven and earth were not Embarred, and all this traffic quite forgot, She, for whose loss we have lamented thus, Would work more fully and powerfully on us. Since herbs, and roots by dying, lose not all, But they, yea ashes too, are medicinal, Death could not quench her virtue so, but that It would be (if not followed) wondered at: And all the world would be one dying swan, To sing her funeral praise, and vanish then. But as some serpents' poison hurteth not, Except it be from the live serpent shot, So doth her virtue need her here, to fit That unto us; she working more than it. But she, in whom to such maturity Virtue was grown, past growth, that it must die, She, from whose influence all impressions came, But, by receivers' impotencies, lame, Who, though she could not transubstantiate All states to gold, yet gilded every state, So that some princes have some temperance; Some counsellors some purpose to advance The common profit; and some people have Some stay, no more than kings should give, to crave; Some women have some taciturnity, Some nunneries, some grains of chastity. She that did thus much, and much more could do, But that our age was iron, and rusty too, She, she is dead; she 's dead; when thou know'st this, Thou know'st how dry a cinder this world is. And learn'st thus much by our anatomy, That 'tis in vain to dew, or mollify It with thy tears, or sweat, or blood: nothing Is worth our travail, grief, or perishing, But those rich joys, which did possess her heart, Of which she's now partaker, and a part. But as in cutting up a man that 's dead, The body will not last out to have read On every part, and therefore men direct Their speech to parts, that are of most effect; So the world's carcase would not last, if I Were punctual in this anatomy. Nor smells it well to hearers, if one tell Them their disease, who fain would think they're well. Here therefore be the end: and, blessed maid, Of whom is meant whatever hath been said, Or shall be spoken well by any tongue, Whose name refines coarse lines, and makes prose song, Accept this tribute, and his first year's rent, Who till his dark short taper's end be spent, As oft as thy feast sees this widowed earth, Will yearly celebrate thy second birth, That is, thy death. For though the soul of man Be got when man is made, 'tis born but then When man doth die. Our body 's as the womb, And as a midwife death directs it home. And you her creatures, whom she works upon And have your last, and best concoction From her example, and her virtue, if you In reverence to her, do think it due, That no one should her praises thus rehearse, As matter fit for chronicle, not verse, Vouchsafe to call to mind, that God did make A last, and lasting'st piece, a song. He spake To Moses, to deliver unto all, That song: because he knew they would let fall The Law, the prophets, and the history, But keep the song still in their memory. Such an opinion (in due measure) made Me this great office boldly to invade. Nor could incomprehensibleness deter Me, from thus trying to emprison her. Which when I saw that a strict grave could do, I saw not why verse might not do so too. Verse hath a middle nature: heaven keeps souls, The grave keeps bodies, verse the fame enrols. Top