Song: Go and Catch a Falling Star

Mandrake RootOne of my favourite poets is John Donne, who was born in London is 1572 and is considered a pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets. His poems have a great rhythm and often mix fantasy with metaphors and ‘Song’, often known as ‘Go and Catch a Falling Star’ is one of his best.

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.

Song is a fantastic poem which on the face of it seems to be about the infidelity of women, and how you are as unlikely to catch a meteor or hear a mermaids singing than you are to meet an honest and a fair women. However, when you delve into it more deeply, it comes across as a more of a lament about the nature of people in general, and how no matter their intentions, will always sin.

As a side note, fans of the film Stardust will be interested to hear that Neil Gaimen used this poem as inspiration for him book, with the fallen star being the main character. It’s well worth a watch!

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