Go and catch a falling star

A portrait of Donne as a young man – c. 1595 – National Portrait Gallery, LondonEnter a caption


Song: Go and catch a falling star   (by J. Donne)
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.
John Donne (1572- 1631) was a poet, satirist, lawyer and cleric in the Church of England. He is considered the most important representative of the metaphysical poets.

In this “Song” often known by its first line, “Go and catch a falling star”, Donne makes use of sensual style. vivacity of language and originality of metaphor to endorse the misogynistic belief that beautiful women are unfaithful.

Va’ a catturare una stella cadente,
Metti incinta una radice di mandragora,
Dimmi dove sono finiti tutti gli anni passati,
O chi ha spaccato il piede del Diavolo,
Insegnami a udire il canto delle sirene,
O a tener lontane le fitte dell’invidia,
E trova,
Quale vento
Serve a favorire una mente onesta.

Se tu fossi destinato a strane visioni,
Cose invisibili da vedere,
Cavalca diecimila giorni e notti,
Finchè l’età ti imbiancherà i capelli come la neve,
E quando ritornerai tu mi racconterai
Tutte le strane meraviglie che ti son capitate
E giurerai che
In nessun luogo
Vive una donna bella e leale.

Se tu ne trovassi una, fammelo sapere,
Un tal pellegrinaggio sarebbe dolce,
Ma no, non farlo, perché io non ci andrei,
Neppure se ci potessimo incontrare alla porta accanto;
Pur se sincera nel momento in cui l’incontri
E poi mentre scrivi la tua lettera,
Già lei
Prima che io arrivi,
Sarà stata infedele a due o a tre.


A portrait of Donne as a young man – c. 1595 – National Portrait Gallery, London


17 thoughts on “Go and catch a falling star

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