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.
+ + +
The sentiment behind this poem would be more appropriate for a cry in your beer country song, if the allusions weren’t so ancient. Donne evidently had a pretty low opinion of the faithfulness of women.
I don’t share in his belief. I’ve encountered dishonesty, deceit, unfaithfulness – the whole gamut of betrayed love. Even with you, who I’ve loved above all others, I’ve had my moments of doubt.
But it’s not deceit within you which causes those doubts, but rather my own preconceptions. Some time ago I asked her what you believed to be most important in a marriage. Your answer was simple. Love and trust.
We have never lacked in love, even when things were
at their bleakest. There was more trust there than I’ve ever known. When we speak of unfaithfulness, it usually means sexually. And yet there I have had no doubt in you. I doubt you not in this now.
The fear was that you would be unfaithful to your vow. And yet your vow was simply that you’d love me always, a vow you have never wavered in.
And so Mr. Donne, I can say that I found the woman you spoke of, not after a journey of ten thousand miles, but slightly less than half of that. It matters not if she was unfaithful to others before, or after me even. What I found in her is a love that is beyond permanence, a love with I trust without limits.
I’m sorry for your sour grapes. But the woman whose existence you doubted does exist, as I suspect she existed in your time as well. You just needed to open your eyes wide enough to see her.