John Donne
Idque notant Criticis, Medici
     evenisse Diebus.

The Phisicians observe these
accidents to have fallen upon
the criticall dayes.

I WOULD not make Man worse than hee is, Nor his Condition more miserable than it is. But could I though I would? As a man cannot flatter God, nor over prayse him, so a man cannot injure Man, nor undervalue him. Thus much must necessarily be presented to his remembrance, that those false Happinesses, which he hath in this World, have their times, and their seasons, and their critical dayes, and they are Judged, and Denominated according to the times, when they befall us. What poore Elements are our happinesses made of, if Tyme, Tyme which wee can scarce consider to be any thing, be an essential part of our happines! All things are done in some place; but if we consider Place to be no more, but the next hollow Superficies of the Ayre, Alas, how thinne, and fluid a thing is Ayre, and how thinne a filme is a Superficies, and a Superficies of Ayre! All things are done in time too; but if we consider Tyme to be but the Measure of Motion, and howsoever it may seeme to have three stations, past, present, and future, yet the first and last of these are not (one is not, now, and the other is not yet) and that which you call present, is not now the same that it was, when you began to call it so in this Line, (before you sound that word, present, or that Monosyllable, now, the present, and the Now is past), if this Imaginary halfe-nothing, Tyme, be of the Essence of our Happinesses, how can they be thought durable? Tyme is not so; How can they bee thought to be? Tyme is not so; not so, considered in any of the parts thereof. If we consider Eternity, into that, Tyme never entred; Eternity is not an everlasting flux of Tyme; but Tyme is a short parenthesis in a longe period; and Eternity had been the same, as it is, though time had never beene; If we consider, not Eternity, but Perpetuity, not that which had no Tyme to beginne in, but which shall outlive Tyme and be, when Tyme shall bee no more, what A Minute is the life of the Durablest Creature, compared to that! And what a Minute is Mans life in respect of the Sunnes, or of a Tree! and yet how little of our life is Occasion, opportunity to receyve good in; and how litle of that occasion, doe wee apprehend, and lay hold of! How busie and perplexed a Cobweb, is the Happinesse of Man here, that must bee made up with a Watchfulnesse, to lay hold upon Occasion, which is but a little peece of that, which is Nothing, Tyme! And yet the best things are Nothing without that. Honors, Pleasures, Possessions, presented to us, out of time, in our decrepit, and distasted, and unapprehensive Age, loose their Office, and loose their Name; They are not Honors to us, that shall never appeare, nor come abroad into the Eyes of the people, to receive Honor, from them who give it: Nor pleasures to us, who have lost our sense to taste them; nor possessions to us, who are departing from the possession of them. Youth is their Criticall Day; that Judges them, that Denominates them, that inanimates, and informes them, and makes them Honors, and Pleasures, and Possessions; and when they come in an unapprehensive Age, they come as a Cordial when the bell rings out, as a Pardon, when the Head is off. We rejoyce in the Comfort of fire, but does any man cleave to it at Midsomer; Wee are glad of the freshnesse, and coolenes of a Vault, but does any man keepe his Christmas there; or are the pleasures of the Spring acceptable in Autumne? If happinesse be in the season, or in the Clymate, how much happier then are Birdes than Men, who can change the Climate, and accompanies and enjoy the same season ever. 

Source :
Donne, John.  The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne.
Charles M. Coffin, Ed. New York: Modern Library, 1952. 435-437.
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