I've been exploring Benjamin Britten's settings of John Donne's 'Holy Sonnets', with distinctly mixed results - but whatever the flaws of the settings, this one is beautiful poetry beautifully sung.
Since she whom I loved hath paid her last debt
To Nature, and to hers, and my good is dead,
And her soul early into heaven ravishèd,
Wholly on heavenly things my mind is set.
Here the admiring her my mind did whet
To seek thee, God; so streams do show the head;
But though I have found thee, and thou my thirst hast fed,
A holy thirsty dropsy melts me yet.
But why should I beg more love, whenas thou
Dost woo my soul, for hers offering all thine:
And dost not only fear lest I allow
My love to saints and angels, things divine,
But in thy tender jealousy dost doubt
Lest the world, flesh, yea, devil put thee out.
This poem was written after the death of Donne's wife, around the same time as 'A Hymn to Christ' which I posted last week, and it has obvious similarities to that poem in playing with the idea of God as a jealous lover, to whom earthly affections must be sacrificed but to whom, perhaps, they also lead. (These lines are the most extraordinary compliment: "Here the admiring her my mind did whet/To seek thee, God; so streams do show the head"). I confess myself puzzled by the liquid imagery which also shows up in both poems: streams, thirst, dropsy, floods, seas, sap... I wonder what's going on there.