When by thy scorn, O murd’ress, I am dead
And that thou think’st thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feign’d vestal, in worse arms shall see;
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tir’d before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
Thou call’st for more,
And in false sleep will from thee shrink;
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
A verier ghost than I.
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,
I’had rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threat’nings rest still innocent.
This is just vindictively mean and I love it! Talk about a lover scorned… or is it more a threat of what could be? Is it not a plea, or warning, about what will happening when the lover finally pushes the writer too far and they end up with someone else who won’t treat them anywhere near as good – and because this is John Donne, for treat, know we mean sex. The writer’s saying any lover after him won’t have the stamina, won’t know her needs, or anything in the same way as he does. Yes, he’s saying he’ll die and haunt her in her bed with her new lover who won’t offer her comfort at the apparition, who won’t satisfy her sexual appetite, and to avoid this happening she should repent now to avoid that horrid fate. He also slurs at her by calling her a ‘virgin’; hateful, bitter anger, I love this so much!
Obviously, also being John Donne, there are a lot of religious themes about rejecting the ‘good’ path and dealing with the consequences, but that’s not what I’m looking at here. I’m looking at the raw emotion of someone being pushed to their limits and lashing out with unkind, nasty words. Because that is somehow so much more human to me.