Treasure Island

John Donne

(24 January 1572 - 31 March 1631 / London, England)

Upon The Translation Of The Psalms By Sir Philip Sidney And The Countess Of Pembroke, His Sister


ETERNAL God—for whom who ever dare
Seek new expressions, do the circle square,
And thrust into straight corners of poor wit
Thee, who art cornerless and infinite—
I would but bless Thy name, not name Thee now
—And Thy gifts are as infinite as Thou—
Fix we our praises therefore on this one,
That, as thy blessed Spirit fell upon
These Psalms' first author in a cloven tongue
—For 'twas a double power by which he sung
The highest matter in the noblest form—
So thou hast cleft that Spirit, to perform
That work again, and shed it here, upon
Two, by their bloods, and by Thy Spirit one ;
A brother and a sister, made by Thee
The organ, where Thou art the harmony.
Two that make one John Baptist's holy voice,
And who that Psalm, 'Now let the Isles rejoice,'
Have both translated, and applied it too,
Both told us what, and taught us how to do.
They show us islanders our Joy, our King ;
They tell us why, and teach us how to sing.
Make all this all three choirs, heaven, earth, and spheres ;
The first, Heaven, hath a song, but no man hears ;
The spheres have music, but they have no tongue,
Their harmony is rather danced than sung ;
But our third choir, to which the first gives ear
—For Angels learn by what the Church does here—
This choir hath all. The organist is he
Who hath tuned God and man, the organ we ;
The songs are these, which heaven's high holy Muse
Whisper'd to David, David to the Jews ;
And David's successors in holy zeal,
In forms of joy and art do re-reveal
To us so sweetly and sincerely too,
That I must not rejoice as I would do,
When I behold that these Psalms are become
So well attired abroad, so ill at home,
So well in chambers, in Thy Church so ill,
As I can scarce call that reform'd until
This be reform'd ; would a whole state present
A lesser gift than some one man hath sent ?
And shall our Church unto our Spouse and King
More hoarse, more harsh than any other, sing ?
For that we pray, we praise Thy name for this,
Which, by this Moses and this Miriam, is
Already done ; and as those Psalms we call,
—Though some have other authors—David's all,
So though some have, some may some Psalms translate,
We Thy Sidneian psalms shall celebrate,
And, till we come th' extemporal song to sing
—Learn'd the first hour that we see the King,
Who hath translated those translators—may
These their sweet learned labours all the way
Be as our tuning, that when hence we part,
We may fall in with them, and sing our part !

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010
Edited: Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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