so in a voice, so in a shapeless flame

A detail from The Good Samaritan window designed by Harrington Mann and made by J and W Guthrie, 1893. Originally in Trinity Church, Claremont Street, Glasgow, now in the Stained Glass Museum.

Twice or thrice had I loved thee,
Before I knew thy face or name;
So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame,
Angels affect us oft, and worshipped be;
Still when, to where thou wert, I came,
Some lovely glorious nothing I did see.
But since my soul, whose child love is,
Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do,
More subtle than the parent is,
Love must not be, but take a body too;
And therefore what thou wert, and who,
I bid love ask, and now
That it assume thy body I allow,
And fix itself to thy lip, eye, and brow.

Whilst thus to ballast love I thought,
And so more steadily to have gone,
With wares which would sink admiration,
I saw I had love’s pinnace overfraught
Every thy hair for love to work upon
Is much too much, some fitter must be sought;
For, nor in nothing, nor in things
Extreme and scatt’ring bright, can love inhere.
Then as an angel, face and wings
Of air, not pure as it, yet pure doth wear,
So thy love may be my love’s sphere.
Just such disparity
As is ‘twixt air and angel’s purity,
‘Twixt women’s love and men’s will ever be.

John Donne, Air and Angels, 1633

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