Because it is Saint Lawrence today – San Lorenzo in my corner of the world – a night to go stargazing, to “catch” Perseids, to recite star-themed poetry…
And I know, John Donne’s Song isn’t exactly star-themed – but I like the string of impossibilities, the playful sense of quest with a falling star on the lid…
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,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
Serves to advance an honest mind.
If thou be’st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
Lives a woman true, and fair.
If thou find’st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet;
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
False, ere I come, to two, or three.
Hm, yes. Perhaps I like it better before the last stanza – when it all turns sour and misogynistic… I’m always wary or reading too much autobiography in poems (unless I have to adapt them for the stage), but I think I’d rather imagine Donne writing this after a spat with a woman, rather than out of cold theory. “I’ve written you a song, dearest…”
Ah well, never mind. This is meant to be about the stars, not a poet’s fits of jealous misogyny. Let’s leave out the last stanza and go stargazing, shall we?