by John Donne
O, LET me not serve so, as those men serve,
Whom honour's smokes at once fatten and starve,
Poorly enrich'd with great men's words or looks ;
Nor so write my name in thy loving books
As those idolatrous flatterers, which still
Their princes' style with many realms fulfil,
Whence they no tribute have, and where no sway.
Such services I offer as shall pay
Themselves ; I hate dead names. O, then let me
Favourite in ordinary, or no favourite be.
When my soul was in her own body sheathed,
Nor yet by oaths betroth'd, nor kisses breathed
Into my purgatory, faithless thee,
Thy heart seemed wax, and steel thy constancy.
So, careless flowers strew'd on the water's face
The curled whirlpools suck, smack, and embrace,
Yet drown them ; so the taper's beamy eye
Amorously twinkling beckons the giddy fly,
Yet burns his wings ; and such the devil is,
Scarce visiting them who are entirely his.
When I behold a stream, which from the spring
Doth with doubtful melodious murmuring,
Or in a speechless slumber, calmly ride
Her wedded channel's bosom, and there chide,
And bend her brows, and swell, if any bough
Do but stoop down to kiss her upmost brow ;
Yet, if her often gnawing kisses win
The traitorous banks to gape, and let her in,
She rusheth violently, and doth divorce
Her from her native and her long-kept course,
And roars, and braves it, and in gallant scorn,
In flattering eddies promising return,
She flouts her channel, which thenceforth is dry ;
Then say I ; "That is she, and this am I."
Yet let not thy deep bitterness beget
Careless despair in me, for that will whet
My mind to scorn ; and O, love dull'd with pain
Was ne'er so wise, nor well arm'd, as disdain.
Then with new eyes I shall survey thee, and spy
Death in thy cheeks, and darkness in thine eye,
Though hope bred faith and love ; thus taught, I shall,
As nations do from Rome, from thy love fall ;
My hate shall outgrow thine, and utterly
I will renounce thy dalliance ; and when I
Am the recusant, in that resolute state
What hurts it me to be excommunicate?
Donne, John. Poems of John Donne. vol I.
E. K. Chambers, ed.
London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 111-113.
|Gerard Dou. Man Writing in
an Artist's Studio, 1628-31.
Detail. From CGFA.