O my America!

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. John Donne, 1572-1631 - en.svg

With America in the headlines, Gert was reminded of these marvellous lines from John Donne’s To His Mistress, Going To Bed :

Licence my roving hands, and let them go,

Before, behind, between, above, below.

O my America! my new-found-land,

My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,

My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie,

How blest am I in this discovering thee!

To enter in these bonds, is to be free;

There where my hand is set, my seal shall be.

You can read the whole poem at:


Image By Mutichou ; edição de Eugenio Hansen, OFS, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31311010

15 thoughts on “O my America!

  1. Donne’s ideal republic has fallen far short of its initial expectations, hasn’t it? Mind you, the notion that “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves” is ringing rather hollow these days, if it ever cam closer than a pious hope …

    1. I love the idea that when he was writing this America was so new, and was such a brilliantly original metaphor for the triumph of discovery in sexual love.

      I must say it occurred to me to contrast this approach to sex with Donald T’s. I think Donne did a bit better than “I moved on her like a bitch”, don’t you?

      Yes, bad days for nationalism of all kinds.

  2. Well, in Donne’s day, America was merely a colony of the King’s, just barely (the first English settlement was in Jamestown in 1607, and the second at Plymouth in 1620; Donne probably wrote this poem (according to the Internets between those years), and there was no such thing (aside from maybe Iceland) as a democracy in the world. So America was indeed ruled by one man, James 1. Trump or no, America has turned out quite differently politically than Donne must have envisioned it. And Brexit might (??) go away, so there’s hope for all of us, at least from this American’s point of view.

    1. I don’t think anyone could have imagined how democracy would shape the world. I must admit I’m coming close to agreeing with Plato that it means
      “everything will seem to be as worthwhile as everything else, and so open-mindedness will naturally become empty-headedness. Star-struck by the idols of liberty and equality, the democrat will be a merrily-befuddled enthusiast for every passing fancy”. (This is from Anthony Gottlieb’s recent ‘The Dream Of Reason’, highly recommended).
      The only difference at the moment seems to be that the voice of the people isn’t merrily-befuddled but angrily befuddled.

    2. Less hope than we had hoped. Hillary won the popular vote, but with our arcane electoral college, looks as if Trump will be Mr. President for the next four years. Please remember that more than half of Americans did not vote for him, and don’t be unhappy with all of us. We will be hoping that the rest of the world does not bear the brunt of this.

      And the world does go on . . .

      1. you’d be surprised at how widespread the consternation here is. It will be very very interesting to see how he performs. Several commentators here are doubting that he has the capacity to get across all the complex issues a President has to deal with on a daily basis. If so the best you can hope is that he has the sense to appoint good people to do it for him, and just be a kind of figurehead. And if HC had won there would have been endless trouble with lawsuits and pursuits by the Republicans and no doubt continuation of the policy of saying no to everything. Maybe the system had become so sclerotic that it needed a bomb to go off!

        1. There are dozens of explanations for what went wrong and what it all means, and I haven’t had time to get data on which to think it through. I am appalled at the fact the 53% of the white women who voted, voted for Trump. I’m put off by the notion that the liberal elites have ignored the cries of despair from white men who are being trampled underfoot by women and minorities grabbing away their jobs and identities. In the late 1960s when I was working in the poverty program in Eugene, Oregon and the surrounding Lane County the forests (literally, evergreen forests) were spotted with small white towns where people were leading somewhat marginal lives, and openly and proudly keeping Black people out. The Black people lived in Eugene where the University was, and had their varying classes, like everyone else, and the radicals (both white and Black) teamed up with each other when it suited their narrow purposes, to make trouble of one sort or another. This is all very deja vu.

          I’ve been thinking what to say to “reassure” our daughters, who worked very hard for Hillary, spent sizable chunks of money that they barely had, and were in tears last night. I want to say, look, JFK was assassinated my freshman year of college; the country (and my brother and friends) went to war; we marched for rights of Blacks, we protested the war. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated; Nixon (OMG) got elected president; we lived through Watergate, and the end of the war and the oil crisis, and a lot more, and here we are. I have to agree that Mr. Trump is a different creature in a different time, and maybe we won’t survive him, but we’ve survived so much.

          As it happens, the white men and women who believe that they have lost something that they once had and want it back, go all the way back to our War between the States. Many of them moved out of the South and into the middle of the country, but carried their beliefs with them. Some scholars argue that it is a deeper human condition, of yearning for a lost pure place, and try to make it noble, but it always seems to end up with the whites saying, the browns and blacks are taking over my country; the gays and disabled, and mentally ill, and old folks are taking up my space and money, and they need to go away. Sometimes it’s successful Blacks and Browns and gays saying the same things; to me it sounds very odd coming from their mouths, just as when women say “it’s fine with me to have Trump say those things about women.”

          We here who are wondering exactly how this will all play are deeply sympathetic to the people elsewhere who have to live with it, and didn’t even get to vote on it. I think that Mr. Trump is pretty smart in some ways, but knows very little about policy, and really doesn’t care. So, we agree, maybe he will choose good people (Sarah Palin when she was governor here actually did appoint some excellent people), but given the people close to him now we aren’t sure. If Ivanka, who seems to be intelligent and level-headed has a say, that will help. Also, Mr. Trump seems to have a very short attention span for details, and that presents opportunities for opportunistic people to take advantage. Also, we have a Republican Senate and House who (probably fortunately for us) are already seriously at odds with each other about what they should do.

          Back to schoolwork, and thank you for the opportunity to think about this . . .

          1. It seems to me like neoliberal economics playing itself out to its inevitable conclusion, with some people being very rich and lots of people having little or nothing. Dog eat dog. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess.
            My sympathies to you all. I know I feel terrible about it, so I can only imagine how you and your family must be feeling.

            1. It’s true that some of the people who are upset and voted for Trump are those who don’t have much. But plenty of people I know from high school and other parts of my life (including the present) are very comfortably off and are also angry and afraid. I am not sure of what. Dying, maybe, without ever having felt satisfied despite their material comfort. How that allows them to vote for Mr. Trump, I understand viscerally, but I have a hard time with letting them get away with being so frightened and unthinking, and uncaring about others. They should grow up.

              We felt much the same way when Richard Nixon got elected (and then there was George Bush) — the US seems to get tired of being rational after a few years, and go for the most primeval person that the Republicans can put on the ballot.

              We’ll hope for everyone’s sake that some breath of sanity from the cosmos eases the effects of the next four years.

  3. Thank you for posting a snippet of Donne. And here in America we still are grotesquely sexualized. Donne pictured a fertile, new virginal land of pleasures===alas, what have we become!

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