John Donne is at his most densely metaphysical in the first lines of his "Elegy upon the untimely death of the incomparable Prince Henry." The eldest son of James I, the Prince died at the age of eighteen, disappointing the hopes of those who had foreseen him as a patron of the arts and hero of the Protestant cause. I dont believe Ive ever seen the relationship between faith and reason put so strikingly.Look to me, faith, and look to my faith, God;For both my centres feel this period.Of weight one centre, one of greatness is;And reason is that centre, faith is this;For into our reason flow, and there do end,All that this natural world doth comprehend:Quotidian things and equidistant hence,Shut in, for man, in one circumference.But for th' enormous greatnesses which areSo disproportioned and so angular,As is God's essence, place, and providence,Where, how, when, what souls do, departed hence,These things (eccentric else) on faith do strike;Yet neither all, nor upon all, alike.For reason, put to her best extension,Almost meets faith and makes both centres one;And nothing ever came so near to thisAs contemplation of that Prince we miss;For all that Faith might credit mankind could,Reason still seconded that this prince would.And heres a site with an article that relates Donnes epistemology to those of Augustine and Aquinas.

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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