Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne
Id agunt.
Upon these Indications of digested
matter, they proceed to purge.

THOUGH counsel seeme rather to consist of spirituall parts, than action, yet action is the spirit and the soule of counsell. Counsels are not alwaies determined in Resolutions; wee cannot alwaies say, this was concluded; actions are alwaies determined in effects; wee can say this was done. Then have Lawes their reverence, and their majestie, when we see the Judge upon the Bench executing them. Then have counsels of warre their impressions, and their operations, when we see the seale of an Armie set to them. It was an ancient way of celebrating the memorie of such as deserved well of the State, to afford them that kinde of statuarie representation, which was then called Hermes; which was, the head and shoulders of a man, standing upon a Cube, but those shoulders without armes and hands. All together it figured a constant supporter of the State, by his counsell: But in this Hieroglyphique, which they made without hands, they passe their consideration no farther, but that the Counsellor should bee without hands, so farre as not to reach out his hand to forraigne tentations of bribes, in matters of Counsell, and that it was not necessary, that the head should employ his owne hand; that the same men should serve in the execution, which assisted in the Counsell; but that there should not belong hands to every head, action to every counsell, was never intended, so much as in figure, and representation. For, as Matrimonie is scarce to bee called Matrimonie, where there is a resolution against the fruits of matrimonie, against the having of Children, so counsels are not counsels, but illusions, where there is from the beginning no purpose to execute the determinations of those counsels. The arts and sciences are most properly referred to the head; that is their proper Element and Spheare; but yet the art of proving, Logique, and the art of perswading, Rhetorique, are deduced to the hand, and that expressed by a hand contracted into a fist, and this by a hand enlarged, and expanded; and evermore the power of man, and the power of God himselfe is expressed so, All things are in his hand; neither is God so often presented to us, by names that carry our consideration upon counsell, as upon execution of counsell; he is oftener called the Lord of Hosts, than by all other names, that may be referred to the other signification. Hereby therefore wee take into our meditation, the slipperie condition of man, whose happinesse, in any kinde, the defect of any one thing, conducing to that happinesse, may ruine; but it must have all the peeces to make it up. Without counsell, I had not got thus farre; without action and practise, I should goe no farther towards health. But what is the present necessary action? purging: A withdrawing, a violating of Nature, a farther weakening: O deare price, and O strange way of addition, to doe it by substraction; of restoring Nature, to violate Nature; of providing strength, by increasing weaknesses! Was I not sicke before? And is it a question of comfort to be asked now, Did your Physicke make you sicke? Was that it that my Physicke promised, to make me sicke? This is another step, upon which we may stand, and see farther into the miserie of man, the time, the season of his Miserie; It must bee done now: O over-cunning, over-watchfull, overdiligent, and over-sociable misery of man, that seldome comes alone, but then when it may accompanie other miseries, and so put one another into the higher exaltation, and better heart! I am ground even to an attenuation, and must proceed to evacuation, all waies to exinanition and annihilation.  

Source :
Donne, John.  The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne.
Charles M. Coffin, Ed. New York: Modern Library, 1952. 451-452.
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