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Miscarriage

A waking vision, 1612, by John Donne.

[In 1612, when John Donne was in his thirty-ninth year, be accompanied his friend, Sir Robert Drury, and Lord Hay, on an embassy to France--much against the desire of his wife who was then with child, and in ill health. "Her divining soul boded her some ill in his absence"; however, Donne was persuaded. The journey to Paris was completed on the twelfth day].

"Two days," Izaac Walton records, "after their arrival there, Mr. Donne was left alone in that room, in which Sir Robert, and he, and some other friends had dined together. To this place Sir Robert returned within half an hour; and as he left, so he found, Mr. Donne alone; but in such an ecstasy [fit or trance, not pleasure], and so altered as to his looks, as amazed Sir Robert to behold him; insomuch that he earnestly desired Mr. Donne to declare what had befallen him in the short time of his absence. To which Mr. Donne was not able to make a present answer: but, after a long and perplexed pause, did at last say, 'I have seen a dreadful vision since I saw you: I have seen my dear wife pass twice by me through this room, with her hair hanging about her shoulders, and a dead child in her arms: this I have seen since I saw you.'

"To which Sir Robert replied, 'Sure, Sir, you have slept since I saw you; and this is the result of some melancholy dream, which I desire you to forget, for you are now awake.' To which Mr. Donne's reply was: 'I cannot be surer that I now live, than that I have not slept since I saw you: and am as sure, that at her second appearing, she stopped, and looked me in the face, and vanished.'

[Rest and sleep only confirmed his confidence. A servant was immediately sent to England. On his return, he informed Donne] "that he found and left Mrs. Donne very sad, and sick in her bed; and that, after a long and dangerous labour, she had been delivered of a dead child. And, upon examination, the abortion proved to be the same day, and about the very hour, that Mr. Donne affirmed he saw her pass by him in his chamber.

"This is a relation that will beget some wonder, and it well may; for most of our world are at present possessed with an opinion, that Visions and Miracles are ceased. And, though it is most certain, that two lutes being both strung and tuned to an equal pitch, and then one played upon, the other, that is not touched, being laid upon a table at a fit distance, will--like an echo to a trumpet--warble a faint audible harmony, in answer to the same tune; yet many will not believe there is any such thing as a sympathy of souls. . ."

--Izaak Walton--

From Walter de la Mare's Behold, This Dreamer! (1939). Bracketed additions are de la Mare's. The passage is untitled; "Miscarriage" is just my title of convenience.

--Chris Wayan--



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