The Extasie, by John Donne

John Donne (1572 – 1631), was an English poet, considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets.

This is a wondrous poem entitled The Extasie:

WHERE, like a pillow on a bed,
A Pregnant banke swel’d up, to rest
The violets reclining head,
Sat we two, one anothers best.

Our hands were firmely cimented
With a fast balme, which thence did spring,
Our eye-beames twisted, and did thred
Our eyes, upon one double string;

So to’entergraft our hands, as yet
Was all the meanes to make us one,
And pictures in our eyes to get
Was all our propagation.

As ‘twixt two equall Armies, Fate
Suspends uncertaine victorie,
Our soules, (which to advance their state,
Were gone out,) hung ‘twixt her, and mee.

And whil’st our soules negotiate there,
Wee like sepulchrall statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
And wee said nothing, all the day.

If any, so by love refin’d,
That he soules language understood,
And by good love were growen all minde,
Within convenient distance stood,

He (though he knew not which soule spake,
Because both meant, both spake the same)
Might thence a new concoction take,
And part farre purer then he came.

This Extasie doth unperplex
(We said) and tell us what we love,
Wee see by this, it was not sexe,
Wee see, we saw not what did move:

But as all severall soules containe
Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love, these mixt soules, doth mixe againe,
And makes both one, each this and that.

A single violet transplant,
The strength, the colour, and the size,
(All which before was poore, and scant,)
Redoubles still, and multiplies.

When love, with one another so
Interinanimates two soules,
That abler soule, which thence doth flow,
Defects of lonelinesse controules.

Wee then, who are this new soule, know,
Of what we are compos’d, and made,
For, th’Atomies of which we grow,
Are soules, whom no change can invade.

But O alas, so long, so farre
Our bodies why doe wee forbeare?
They are ours, though they are not wee, Wee are
The intelligences, they the spheare.

We owe them thankes, because they thus,
Did us, to us, at first convay,
Yeelded their forces, sense, to us,
Nor are drosse to us, but allay.

On man heavens influence workes not so,
But that it first imprints the ayre,
Soe soule into the soule may flow,
Though it to body first repaire.

As our blood labours to beget
Spirits, as like soules as it can,
Because such fingers need to knit
That subtile knot, which makes us man:

So must pure lovers soules descend
T’affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
Else a great Prince in prison lies.

To’our bodies turne wee then, that so
Weake men on love reveal’d may looke;
Loves mysteries in soules doe grow,
But yet the body is his booke.

And if some lover, such as wee,
Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still marke us, he shall see
Small change, when we’are to bodies gone

See Donne, John, in The Metaphysical Poets, ed., Gardiner, Helen, Penguin (1972) in Useful Reading.

Useful reading

The Lodger - Shakespeare on Silver Street - Charles Nicholl

The Lodger – Shakespeare on Silver Street – Charles Nicholl

This list is of excellent research material on Shakespeare and early modern history. I’ve tried to refrain from any weighty academic texts, keeping the list to books a general reader would enjoy.

The haunting of Paul Fox, a silke weaver

The following is an excerpt from the chapbook Strange and Fearful News from Plaisto in the Parish of Westham (1645). The author speaks of one Paul Fox, a silke weaver, who found his house haunted for a period of one month. Witnesses of events were said to be in the thousands, including notable scholars of the time.

Two years after the release of Strange and Fearful News from Plaisto in the Parish of Westham of 1645 came the release of another piece entitled The Most Strange and Wonderful Apparition of Blood in a Pool at Garreton (1647).  Both pieces are analysed in the book The Battle of the Frogs and Fairford’s Flies by Jerome Friedman.

In the parish of Westham in the County of Essex liveth one Paul Fox, a silke Weaver, a man of an honest life and conversation, and hath a wife and children. This mans house for the space of one month last past or more hath beene haunted with a Spirit.  There hung a sword in the Chamber with the hilts downwards, and the point in the sealing of the house, which in a sudden came flourishing about the roome, flying up and downe, no hand touching it.  The said Paul Fox being then in the roome, and some others, but the Sword came not neere any of them: and although at first it was some terror to the Beholders, the said Fox took hold of it by the hilt, the point still turning in his hand in severall ways, and he forthwith ran into the next room with it, laying it downe upon a Bench where it lay still.  After, he lockt the Chamber door, the Sword being in it, but while he was talking of this business, the Sword came again into the roome and flourished about as before, the doore not opening, nor any signe appearing how it came out of the roome.

Then there being a Cane standing in the Kitchen (such a one as men usually walk withall in the street) the Cane itself came hopping up the staires, giving a tap on every stair as it came, and presented itself in the Roome, standing upright on one end.  It began to dance round about the Table on which the Sword lay for the space of halfe a quarter of an hour.  This being ended, Paul Fox was in good hopes that he should heareafter have quiet, but one good Evening there was a strange kind of rapping at the doore, and a Spirit with a soft hollow voyce commanded him to open the doore.  To which Paul Fox replyd that he thought it was an evill spirirt and wished it to return to Hell Gates.  But it seems this made the Spirit angry, for the next day at noon, Fox and his son and two servants were at their worke, cutting peeces in the Loome, when the silke shot off, and great stone Tyles, Brick-bats, Oyster shells, peeces of bread, and other things, came in at the Window and broke all the Glasse, and frightened young Fox and two servants out of the roome but did not hurt any of them.

In the yard lay a great stone of about half a hundred weight, and as Paul Fox and divers others were in a roome, one paire of staires high, this stone came tumbling up stairs into the middell of the room without any thing seene to move it.  One of Fox’s men tooke up the stone and laid it back down in the yard, but within a quarter on an hour, the same stone came tumbling up the stairs as before.  These things being behold by at least 100 people at once.  I should be too tedious to relate every particular that hath happened here within this month, how Fox and his sons are sometimes pulled by the hayre, lugged by the ears, knockt on the head, pulled out of their beds, troubled with many noyses, their bookes and bread throwne about the room.  The wife of Paul Fox, having made a porrage, left the pot with the residue in the corner at the end of the kitchen, but after it had stood there close covered for the space of half an houre, the lid suddenly sprung right up, and the porrage dashed against the walls and was dispersed about the roome.

In some parts of the Countries whole flocks of Geese have been feeding on the greens over night and in the morning some of them have been found fluttering on their back with their heele upwards, others running and reeling up and down and making hidious noyse, and many of them starke dead.  In those that were dead was found a long quill (as it were) thrust the length of ones finger into the fundament of the Geese and in others that were but half dead the quill was in but about an inch and a halfe, and within a few houres they dyed also.  These things are thought apparently to exceed from witchcraft.

Matthias Grünewald

Matthias Grünewald, c.1475 - 1528

Matthias Grünewald, c.1475 – 1528

Matthias Grünewald, c.1475 – August 31st 1528, is a major figure among German Renaissance painters such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, and Albrecht Altdorfer. Matthias (also first name Mathis, surname Gothart or Neithardt) focused on paintings of a religious nature.

In total there are only ten Grünewald paintings, several comprising of a number of panels. There are additionally thirty-five of his drawings known to be in existence. Much of his work was lost at sea in transport to Sweden as war booty.

Here is some of his work:

Matthias Grünewald - Concert of Angels and Nativity

Matthias Grünewald – Concert of Angels (left) and Nativity (right). 1510-1515. Oil on panel.
Musée d’Unterlinden, Colmar, France.

Matthias Grünewald - Panel from Isenheim Altarpiece

Matthias Grünewald – Panel from Isenheim Altarpiece. Source: WebMuseum

Matthias Grünewald - Temptation of St Anthony

Matthias Grünewald – Temptation of St Anthony. This is one panel from The Isenheim Altarpiece, Grünewald’s most famous piece.

The Isenheim Altarpiece was painted between 1512 and 1516 and is on display at The Unterlinden Museum at Colmar, Alsace, in France. More information on the piece can be found on Wikipedia.

17th century weather

Shakespeare lived during a climatic period known as “The Little Ice Age”, an age of excessive cold and stormy weather. During this age there was little scientific knowledge of weather and most still believed it was controlled by God, or evil forces such as witches.

Shakespeare - The Tempest

Shakespeare – The Tempest