Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne
Metusque, relabi.
They warne mee of the fearefull
danger of relapsing.

IT IS not in mans body, as it is in the Citie, that when the Bell hath rung, to cover your fire, and rake up the embers, you may lie downe and sleepe without feare. Though you have by physicke and diet, raked up the embers of your disease, stil there is a feare of a relapse; and the greater danger is in that. Even in pleasures, and in paines, there is a propriety, a Meum and Tuum; and a man is most affected with that pleasure which is his, his by former enjoying and experience, and most intimidated with those paines which are his, his by a wofull sense of them, in former afflictions. A covetous person, who hath preoccupated all his senses, filled all his capacities, with the delight of gathering, wonders how any man can have any taste of any pleasure in any opennesse, or liberalitie; So also in bodily paines, in a fit of the stone, the Patient wonders why any man should call the Gout a paine: And hee that hath felt neither, but the tooth-ache is as much afraid of a fit of that, as either of the other, of either of the other. Diseases, which we never felt in our selves, come but to a compassion of others that have endured them; Nay, compassion it selfe comes to no great degree, if wee have not felt in some proportion, in our selves, that which wee lament and condole in another. But when wee have had those torments in their exaltation, our selves, wee tremble at a relapse. When wee must pant through all those fierie heats, and saile thorow all those overflowing sweats, when wee must watch through all those long nights, and mourne through all those long daies, (daies and nights, so long, as that Nature her selfe shall seeme to be perverted, and to have put the longest day, and the longest night, which should bee six moneths asunder, into one naturall, unnaturall day) when wee must stand at the same barre, expect the returne of Physitians from their consultations, and not bee sure of the same verdict, in any good Indications, when we must goe the same way over againe, and not see the same issue, this is a state, a condition, a calamitie, in respect of which, any other sicknesse, were a convalescence, and any greater, lesse. It addes to the affliction, that relapses are, (and for the most part justly) imputed to our selves, as occasioned by some disorder in us; and so we are not onely passive, but active, in our owne ruine; we doe not onely stand under a falling house, but pull it downe upon us; and wee are not onely executed, (that implies guiltinesse) but wee are executioners, (that implies dishonor) and executioners of our selves, (and that implies impietie). And wee fall from that comfort which wee might have in our first sicknesse, from that meditation, Alas, how generally miserable is Man, and how subject to diseases, (for in that it is some degree of comfort, that wee are but in the state common to all) we fall, I say, to this discomfort, and selfe accusing, and selfe condemning; Alas, how unprovident, and in that, how unthankfull to God and his instruments am I, in making so ill use of so great benefits, in destroying so soone, so long a worke, in relapsing, by my disorder, to that from which they had delivered mee; and so my meditation is fearefully transferred from the body to the minde, and from the consideration of the sicknesse to that sinne, that sinful carelessness by which I have occasioned my relapse. And amongst the many weights that aggravate a relapse, this also is one, that a relapse proceeds with a more violent dispatch, and more irremediably, because it finds the Countrie weakned, and depopulated before. Upon a sicknesse, which as yet appeares not, wee can scarce fix a feare, because wee know not what to feare; but as feare is the busiest, and irksomest affection, so is a relapse (which is still ready to come) into that, which is but newly gone, the nearest object, the most immediate exercise of that affection of feare

Source :
Donne, John.  The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne.
Charles M. Coffin, Ed. New York: Modern Library, 1952. 456-458.
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