John Donne
Ingeniumque malum, numeroso
     stigmate, fassus
Pellitur ad pectus, Morbique
     Suburbia, Morbus.

The Sicknes declares the
infection and malignity
thereof by spots.

WEE say, that the world is made of sea, and land, as though they were equal; but we know that ther is more sea in the Western, than in the Eastern Hemisphere: We say that the Firmament is full of starres, as though it were equally full; but we know, that there are more stars under of the Northerne, than under the Southern Pole. We say, the Elements of man are man are misery, and happinesse, as though he had an equal proportion of both, and the dayes of man vicissitudinary, as though he had as many good daies, as ill, and that he liv’d under a perpetuall Equinoctial night, and day equall, good and ill fortune in the same measure. But it is far from that; hee drinkes misery, and he tastes happinesse; he mowes misery, and he gleanes happinesse; he journies in misery, he does but walke in happinesse; and which is worst his misery is positive, and dogmaticall, his happinesse is but disputable and problematicall; All men call Misery, Misery, but Happinesse changes the name, by the taste of man. In this accident that befalls mee now, that this sicknesse declares itself by Spots, to be a malignant, and pestilentiall disease, if there be a comfort in the declaration, that therby the Phisicians see more cleerely what to doe, there may bee as much discomfort in this, That the malignitie may bee so great, as that all that they can doe, shall doe nothing; That an enemy declares himselfe : then, when he is able to subsist, and to pursue, and to atchive his ends, is no great comfort. In intestine Conspiracies, voluntary Confessions doe more good, than Confessions upon the Rack; in these Infections, when Nature her selfe confesses, and cries out by these outward declarations, which she is able to put forth of her selfe, they minister comfort; but when all is by strength of Cordials, it is but a Confession upon the Racke, by which though wee come to knowe the malice of that man, yet wee doe not knowe whether there bee not as much malice in his heart then, as before his confession; we are sure of his Treason, but not of his Repentance; sure of him, but not of his Complices. It is a faint comfort to know the worst, when the worst is remedilesse; and a weaker than that, to know much ill, and not to know, that that is the worst. A woman is comforted with the birth of her Son, her body is eased of a burthen; but if shee could prophetically read his History, how ill a man, perchance how ill a sonne, he would prove, shee should receive a greater burthen into her Mind. Scarce any purchase that is not clogged with secret encumbrances; scarce any happines that hath not in it so much of the nature of false and base money, as that the Allay is more than the Metall. Nay, is it not so, (at least much towards it) even in the exercise of Vertues? I must bee poore, and want, before I can exercise the vertue of Gratitude; miserable, and in torment, before I can exercise the vertue of patience; How deepe do we dig, and for how coarse gold? And what other Touchstone have we of our gold, but comparison? Whether we be as happy, as others, or as ourselves at other times; O poore stepp toward being well, when these spots do only tell us, that we are worse, than we were sure of before. 

Source :
Donne, John.  The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne.
Charles M. Coffin, Ed. New York: Modern Library, 1952. 434-435.
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