To the Countess of Bedford [Madam, Reason is our soul's left hand, faith her right...]
Donne, John. The Satires, Epigrams and Verse Letters of John Donne. Edited by W. Milgate. London: Oxford University Press, 1967: 90-91.
2Reason is our soul's left hand, faith her right,
3 By these we reach divinity, that's you;
4Their loves, who have the blessing of your sight,
5 Grew from their reason, mine from fair faith grew.
6But as, although a squint left-handedness
7 Be ungracious, yet we cannot want that hand,
8So would I, not to increase, but to express
9 My faith, as I believe, so understand.
10Therefore I study you first in your saints,
11 Those friends whom your election glorifies,
12Then in your deeds, accesses and restraints,
13 And what you read, and what yourself devise.
14But soon the reasons why you're loved by all,
15 Grow infinite, and so pass reason's reach,
16Then back again to implicit faith I fall,
17 And rest on that the Catholic voice doth teach;
18That you are good: and not one heretic
19 Denies it: if he did, yet you are so;
20For rocks, which high to sense deep-rooted stick,
21 Waves wash, not undermine, nor overthrow.
22In everything there naturally grows
23 A balsamum to keep it fresh and new,
24If 'twere not inured by extrinsic blows;
25 Your birth and beauty are this balm in you.
26But you, of learning, and religion,
27 And virtue, and such ingredients, have made
28A mithridate, whose operation
29 Keeps off, or cures, what can be done or said.
30Yet this is not your physic, but your food,
31 A diet fit for you; for you are here
32The first good angel, since the world's frame stood,
33 That ever did in woman's shape appear.
34Since you are then God's masterpiece, and so
35 His factor for our loves, do as you do,
36Make your return home gracious, and bestow
37 This life on that; so make one life of two.
38 For, so God help me, I would not miss you there,
39 For all the good which you can do me here.
RPO poem Editors:
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh