Jack Sweeney's basic English translation of Donne's 'Loves Deity' from 1943

John L. (Jack) Sweeney fist published his Basic English translation of Donne’s “Love Deity” in Reed Whittemore and James Jesus Angleton’s Furioso 2:1 (p. 34) in 1943. Sweeney's note on the experiment included these comments: "It should be noted that in terms of the system of Basic English its use in verse form is unorthodox. It is not a literary language . … In a certain sense the extension printed here is a sport [but] it may suggest to educationists an auxiliary device for the analysis and discussion of language in poetry. As I. A. Richards said in a different connection, 'Most people find that having versions of a passage before them opens up the task of explaining immensely. This is true even when one version of it is clearly very inferior; its presence still throws the implications on the other into relief." The poem was reprinted in Delos 1:4 (1988-89), pp. 138-40.
What's remarkable about Sweeney's translation is how very beautiful it is.

Some background from a 1956 article in the Harvard Crimson

Sweeney came to Harvard in 1940 to work with I.A. Richards on the Committee on Communications--using Richard's "Basic English" to prepare simplifications of the Bill of Rights and immigration documents. Curator of the {Lamont Library] Poetry Room since 1943 and selection specialist for Widener since 1946, Sweeney controls the purchase of modern English and American writings for the working collection of the University libraries. In the Poetry room, he has assembled a thousand-reel tape collection of recordings by contemporary poets, including rare readings by Wallace Stevens. "Sweeney is the sort of man for whom Stevens would overcome his reluctance to record," one colleague said. "With his charm and intelligence, he is a person Stevens could trust. … Many disciplines are fused in his personality--the Catholic training of his youth and college years at Georgetown, graduate study at Magdalene College, Cambridge, his years as a lawyer, and extensive European travel. At Cambridge, his supervisor was I.A. Richards, whose standards of artistic excellence based on absolutes conditioned Sweeney's critical tastes. Working with Richards and William Empson in Basic English stimulated in appreciation of poetry's lingual exactness and internal architecture. With his brother James Johnson Sweeney, former head of the Museum of Modern Art, Sweeney developed an early liking for painting. … 

Loves Deity

I long to talk with some old lovers ghost,
Who dyed before the god of Love was born:

I cannot think that he, who then lov'd most,
Sunk so low, as to love one which did scorn.
But since this god produc'd a destiny,
And that vice-nature custom lets it be;
I must love her that loves not me.

Sure they, which made him god, meant not so much,

Nor he, in his young godhead practis'd it.
But when an even flame two hearts did touch,
His office was indulgently to fit
Actives to Passives, Correspondency
Only his Subject was; it cannot be
Love, till I love her that loves me.

But every modern god will now extend
His vast prerogative as far as Jove
To rage, to lust, to write to, to commend,
All is the purlue of the God of Love.
Were we not weak'ned by this Tyranny
To ungod this child again, it could not be
I should love her, who loves not me.

Rebel and Atheist too, why murmure I.
As though I felt the worst that love could do?
Love may make me leave loving, or might try
A deeper plague, to make her love me too,
Which, since she loves before, I'm loth to see;
Falshood is worse than hate; and that must be,
If she whom I love, should love me.

John Donne (1669)
Hear John Richetti read the poem on PennSound: MP3

Loves Deity (Sweeney adaption)

Talk with some old lover
Dead before the god of love had come to be
Would do my poor heart good. For he,
As full of love when living as I am now
Would not have done what I have done,
Have given love to an unkind, unloving one.
But as this god has made things so,
And ways of men have not till now said 'no',
No other way I see
But give my love to one
Who has no love for me. 

This certainly was not designed by those
Who made him god, and he, when young,
Would not have let it be,
But when two hearts were touched with equal fire
His purpose was to see 

A balance in the scales of their desire,
Loves answering one another
In regular harmony
His interest was; there is no love
Till I have love for her who gives her love to me. 

In range of rule now every new-made god
Will undertake the part of Jove.
And all the acts and secrets of the heart
Are ruled and guided by the god of love.
If only, starting suddenly awake,
We might from this cruel boy his power take,
It, this way, would not be
That I gave love to her who has no love for me. 

But why do I,
With heart at war against my god and government,
Say things which seem to say
That love's worst punishment has come my way?
Love still has the power to make me give up loving,
Or that much sharper pain, make her give love to me
Which, as another has her love, I would not see.
False love is worse than hate; and that would be,
If she who has my love, had love for me.