Thursday, June 04, 2009

"Get with child a mandrake root"

This week I picked the first carrot from the garden. It was bifurcated and immediately made me think of the legend of the mandrake root.

I didn't panic though. Instead, I rinsed him well, pinched off his rooty little feet, nibbled off one leg at a time, then chomped down right up to the leaves.

I also remembered how much I liked this poem by John Donne.

by John Donne

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,
And find
What wind
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,
And swear,
No where
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,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

Misogynistic as it may be, it's just so tightly constructed, beautiful balanced, and very evocative.

And if it helps, John Donne really seems to have loved his wife. At the very least, he sure did knock her up a lot and after her death he never remarried, which was highly unusual during his time period.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was also made to think of the poem while viewing the movie "Dr Strangelove", a 1965 Stanley Kubric film. Peter Sellers' British exchange officer's Dickinsian name of Mandrake, triggered the poem's second line in my memory.