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The Holy Sonnets of John Donne - 9 Songs for Tenor and Piano

Word count: 1033

Song Cycle by Juliana Hall

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1. O my blacke Soule [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Oh my blacke Soule! now thou art summoned
By sicknesse, death's herald, and champion;
Thou art like a pilgrim,  which abroad hath done
Treason, and durst not turne to whence hee is fled,
Or like a thiefe, which till death's doome be read,
Wisheth himselfe deliver'd from prison;
But dam'd and hal'd to execution,
Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned.
Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lacke;
But who shall give thee that grace to beginne?
Oh make thyselfe with holy mourning blacke,
And red with blushing, as thou are with sinne;
Or wash thee in Christ's blood, which hath this might
That being red, it dyes red soules to white.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. Batter my heart [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Sonnet sacré", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Batter my heart, three person'd God; for you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.

I, like an usurpt towne, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.

Yet dearely I love you, and would be loved faine,
But am betroth'd unto your enemie:
Divorce mee, untie, or breake that knot againe,

Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish mee.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

3. Oh might those sighes and teares [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Oh might those sighes and teares return againe
Into my breast and eyes, which I have spent,
That I might in this holy discontent
Mourne with some fruit, as I have mourn'd in vaine;
In mine Idolatry what show'rs of rain
Mine eyes did waste? What griefs my heart did rent?
That sufferance was my sinne; now I repent
'Cause I did suffer, I must suffer paine.
Th'hydroptique drunkard, and night scouting thief,
The itchy lecher and self-tickling proud
Have the remembrance of past joyes, for relief
Of coming ills. To poore me is allow'd
No ease; for long, yet vehement griefe hath been
Th'effect and cause, the punishment and sinne.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

4. Oh, to vex me [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Oh, to vex me, contraryes meet in one:
In constancy unnaturally hath begott
A constant habit; that when I would not
I change in vowes, and in devotione.
As humorous is my contritione
As my profane Love and as soone forgott:
As ridlingly distemper'd, cold and hott,
As praying, as mute; as infinite, as none.
I durst not view Heav'n yesterday; and today
In prayers, and flatt'ring speeches I court God:
Tomorrow I quake with true feare of his rod.
So my devout fitts come and go away,
Like a fantastique Ague: save that here
Those are my best dayes, when I shake with feare.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. What if this present [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


What if this present were the world's last night?
Marke in my heart, O Soule, where thou dost dwell,
The picture of Christ crucified, and tell
Whether that countenance can thee affright,
Teares in his eyes quench the amazing light,
Blood fills his frownes, which from his pierc'd head fell.
And can that tongue adjudge thee into hell,
Which pray'd forgivenesse for his foes fierce spight?
No, no; but as in my Idolatrie
I said to all my profane mistresses,
Beauty, of pity, foulenesse onely is
A sign of rigour: so I say to thee,
To wicked spirits are horrid shapes assign'd,
This beauteous forme assures a piteous minde.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

6. Since she whom I lov’d [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Since she whom I lov'd hath pay'd her last debt
To Nature, and to hers, and my good is dead,
And her Soule early into Heaven ravished,
Wholly on heavenly things my mind is sett.
Here the admyring her my mind did whett
To seeke thee God; so streams do shew their head;
But though I have found thee and thou my thirst hast fed,
A holy thirsty dropsy melts mee yett,
But why should I begg more love, when as thou
Dost wooe my soul for hers: off'ring all thine:
And dost not only feare lest I allow
My love to Saints and Angels, things divine,
But in thy tender jealousy dost doubt
[Lest the world, Fleshe]1, yea, Devill putt thee out.


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1 Hall: "Least in the world. Fleshe"

Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

7. At the round earth's imagin'd corners [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


At the round earth's imagined corners, blow 
Your trumpets, angels, and arise 
From death, you numberless infinities 
Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow
All whom war, death, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law, chance hath slain; and you whose eyes 
Shall behold God and never taste death's woe,
But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space,
For, if above all these my sins abound,
'Tis late to ask abundance of Thy grace,
When we are there. Here on this lowly ground,
Teach me how to repent, for that's as good
As if [Thou hadst]1 seal'd my pardon with Thy blood.


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1 Britten: "Thoud'st"

Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

8. Thou hast made me [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Thou hast made me, and shall thy work decay?
Repaire me now, for now mine end doth haste,
I runne to death, and death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday;
I dare not move my dim eyes anyway,
Despaire behind, and death before doth cast
Such terror, and my feeble flesh doth waste
By sinne in it, which it t'wards Hell doth weigh;
Onely thou art above, and when t'wards thee
By thy leave I can looke, I rise againe;
But our old subtle foe so tempteth me,
That not one houre myselfe can I sustaine;
Thy Grace may wing me to prevent his art,
And thou like Adamant draw mine iron heart.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

9. Death be not proud [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE GER ITA

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) [singable] (Bertram Kottmann) , "Sonett über den Tod", copyright © 2013, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "Non esser fiera, Morte", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for thou art not soe,
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor [yet canst thou]1 kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do goe,
Rest of their bones, and souls deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sickness dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well 
And better than thy stroake; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


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1 Bennett: "nor canst thou yet"

Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator]

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