St. Lucy's Day

Portrait of John Donne, artist unknown, 1595

Portrait of John Donne, artist unknown, 1595

A nocturnall upon St. Lucies day, Being the shortest day

Tis the yeares midnight, and it is the dayes,
Lucies, who scarce seaven houres herself unmaskes ;
    The Sunne is spent, and now his flasks
    Send forth light squibs, no constant rayes ;
            The worlds whole sap is sunke:
The generall balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunke,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar'd with me, who am their Epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers bee
At the next world, that is, at the next Spring:
   For I am every dead thing,
   In whom love wrought new Alchemie.
            For his art did expresse
A quintessence even from nothingnesse,
From dull privations, and leane emptiness:
He ruin'd mee, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death; things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soule, forme, spirit, whence they beeing have;
    I, by Love's limbecke, am the grave
    Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
            Have wee two wept, and so
Drownd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two Chaosses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our soules, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing, the Elixir grown;
    Were I a man, that I were one
    I needs must know; I should preferre,
            If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, 'a light, and body must be here.

But I am None; nor will my Sunne renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser Sunne
    At this time to the Goat is runne
    To fetch new lust, and give it you,
            Enjoy your summer all,
Since shee enjoys her long night's festivall,
Let mee prepare towards her, and let mee call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the yeares and the dayes deep midnight is.

—John Donne
From the Complete Poetry of John Donne, John T. Shawcross, editor