John Donne
Lente et Serpenti
satagunt occurrere

They find the Disease to steale
on insensibly, and endeavour
to meet with it so.

THIS is Natures nest of Boxes; The Heavens containe the Earth, the Earth, Cities, Cities, Men. And all these are Concentrique; the common center to them all, is decay, ruine; only that is Eccentrique, which was never made; only that place, or garment rather, which we can imagine, but not demonstrate, That light, which is the very emanation of the light of God, in which the Saints shall dwell, with which the Saints shall .be appareld, only that bends not to this Center, to Ruine; that which was not made of Nothing, is not threatned with this annihilation. All other things are; even Angels, even our soules; they move upon the same poles, they bend to the same Center; and if they were not made immortall by preservation, their Nature could not keep them from sinking to this center, Annihilation. In all these (the frame of the heavens, the States upon earth, and Men in them, comprehend all) Those are the greatest mischifs, which are least discerned, the most insensible in their wayes come to bee the most sensible in their ends. The Heavens have had their Dropsie, they drownd the world, and they shall have their Fever, and burn the world. Of the dropsie, the flood, the world had a foreknowledge yeares before it came; and so some made provision against it, and were saved; the fever shall break out in an instant, and consume all; The dropsie did no harm to the heavens, from whence it fell, it did not put out those lights, it did not quench those heates; but the fever, the fire shall burne the furnace it selfe, annihilate those heavens, that breath it out; Though the Dog-Starre have a pestilent breath, an infectious exhalation, yet because we know when it wil rise, we clothe our selves, and wee diet our selves, and we shadow our selves to a sufficient prevention; but Comets and blazing starres, whose effects, or significations no man can interrupt or frustrate no man foresaw: no Almanack tells us, when a blazing starre will break out, the matter is carried up in secret; no Astrologer tels us when the effects will be accomplished, for thats a secret of a higher spheare, than the other; and that which is most secret, is most dangerous. It is so also here in the societies of men, in States, and Commonwealths. Twentie rebellious drums make not so dangerous a noise, as a few whisperers, and secret plotters in corners. The Canon doth not so much hurt against a wal, as a Myne under the wall; nor a thousand enemies that threaten, so much as a few that take an oath to say nothing. God knew many heavy sins of the people, in the wildernes and after, but still he charges them with that one, with Murmuring, murmuring in their hearts, secret disobediences, secret repugnances against his declar’d wil; and these are the most deadly, the most pernicious. And it is so too, with the diseases of the body; and that is my case. The pulse, the urine, the sweat, all have sworn to say nothing, to give no Indication, of any dangerous sicknesse. My forces are not enfeebled, I find no decay in my strength; my provisions are not cut off, I find no abhorring in mine appetite; my counsels are not corrupted or infatuated, I find no false apprehensions, to work upon mine understanding; and yet they see, that invisibly, and I feele, that insensibly the disease prevailes. The disease hath established a Kingdome, an Empire in mee, and will have certaine Arcana Imperii, secrets of State, by which it will proceed, and not be bound to declare them. But yet against those secret conspiracies in the State, the Magistrate hath the rack; and against the insensible diseases, Phisicians have their examiners; and those these employ now. 

Source :
Donne, John.  The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne.
Charles M. Coffin, Ed. New York: Modern Library, 1952. 428-429.
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