John Donne
Nobilibusque trahunt, a cincto
Corde, venenum, Succis et
Gemmis, et quæ generosa,
Ministrant Ars, et Natura,

They use Cordials, to keep
the venim and Malignitie
of the disease from the

WHENCE can wee take a better argument, a clearer demonstration, that all the Greatnes of this world, is built upon opinion of others, and hath in itself no reall being, nor power of subsistence, than from the heart of man? It is always in action, and motion, still busie, still pretending to doe all, to furnish all the powers, and faculties with all that they have; But if an enemy dare rise up against it, it is the soonest endangered, the soonest defeated of any part. The Braine will hold out longer than it, and the Liver longer than that; They will endure a Siege; but an unnatural heat, a rebellious heat, will blow up the heart, like a Myne, in a minute. But howsoever, since the Heart hath the birthright and Primogeniture, and that it is Natures eldest Sonne in us, the part which is first borne to life in man, and that the other parts, as younger brethren, and servants in this family, have a dependence upon it, it is reason that the principall care hee had of it, though it bee not the strongest part; as the eldest is oftentimes not the strongest of the family. And since the Braine, and Liver, and Heart, hold not a Triumvirate in Man, a Soveraigntie equally shed upon them all, for his well-being, as the foure Elements doe, for his very being, but the Heart alone is in the Principalitie, and in the Throne, as King, the rest as Subjects, though in eminent Place and Office, must contribute to that, as Children to their Parents, as all persons to all kinds of Superiours, though oftentimes, those Parents, or those Superiours, bee not of stronger parts, than themselves, that serve and obey them that are weaker; Neither doth this Obligation fall upon us, by second Dictates of Nature, by Consequences and Conclusions arising out of Nature, or deriv'd from Nature, by Discourse, (as many things binde us even by the Law of Nature, and yet not by the primarie Law of Nature; as all Lawes of Proprietie in that which we possesses are of the Law of Nature, which law is, To give every one his owne, and yet in the primarie law of Nature there was no Proprietie, no Meum and Tuum, but an universall Communitie over all; So the Obedience of Superiours, is of the law of Nature, and yet in the primarie law of Nature, there was no Superioritie, no Magistracie;) but this contribution of assistance of all to the Soveraigne, of all parts to the Heart, is from the very first dictates of Nature; which is, in the first place, to have care of our owne Preservation, to look first to ourselves; for therefore doth the Phisician, intermit the present care of Braine, or Liver, because there is a possibilitie that they may subsist, though there bee not a present and a particular care had of them, but there is no possibilitie that they can subsist, if the Heart perish: and so, when we seem to begin with others, in such assistances, indeed wee doe beginne with ourselves, and wee ourselves are principally in our contemplation; and so all these officious, and mutual assistances are but complements towards others, and our true end is ourselves. And this is the reward of the paines of Kings; sometimes they neede the power of law, to be obey'd; and when they seeme to be obey'd voluntarily, they who doe it, doe it for their owne sakes. O how little a thing is all the greatnes of man, and through how false glasses doth he make shift to multiply it, and magnifie it to himselfe! And yet this is also another misery of this King of man, the Heart, which is also applyable to the Kings of this world, great men, that the venime and poyson of every pestilentiall disease directs itself to the Heart, affects that (pernicious affection,) and the Malignity of ill men, is also directed upon the greatest, and the best; and not only greatnesse, but goodnesse looses the vigour of beeing an Antidote, or Cordiall against it. And as the noblest, and most generous Cordialls that Nature or Art afford, or can prepare, if they be often taken, and made familiar, become no Cordialls, nor have any extraordinary operation, so the greatest Cordiall of the Heart, patience, if it bee much exercis'd, exalts the venim and the malignity of the Enemy, and the more we suffer, the more wee are insulted upon. When God had made this Earth of nothing it was but a little helpe, that he had, to make other things of this Earth: nothing can be neerer nothing, than this Earth; and yet how little of this Earth is the greatest Man; Hee thinkes he treads upon the Earth, that all is under his feete, and the Braine that thinkes so, is but Earth; his highest Region, the flesh that covers that, is but earth; and even the toppe of that, that, wherein so many Absolons take so much pride, is but a bush growing upon that Turfe of Earth. How little of the world is the Earth! And yet that is all that Man hath, or is. How little of a Man is the Heart, and yet it is all, by which he is; and this continually subject, not only to forraine poysons, conveyed by others, but to intestine poysons, bred in ourselves by pestilentiall sicknesses. O who, if before hee had a beeing, he could have sense of this miserie, would buy a being here upon these conditions? 

Source :
Donne, John.  The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne.
Charles M. Coffin, Ed. New York: Modern Library, 1952. 429-431.
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