To Mr. Rowland Woodward
Donne, John. The Satires, Epigrams and Verse Letters of John Donne. Edited by W. Milgate. London: Oxford University Press, 1967: 69-70.
1Like one who in her third widowhood doth profess
2Herself a nun, tied to retiredness,
3So affects my Muse, now, a chaste fallowness;
4Since she to few, yet to too many hath shown,
5How love-song weeds and satiric thorns are grown,
6Where seeds of better arts were early sown.
7Though to use and love poetry, to me,
8Betroth'd to no one art, be no adultery;
9Omissions of good, ill, as ill deeds be.
10For though to us it seems but light and thin,
11Yet in those faithful scales, where God throws in
12Men's works, vanity weighs as much as sin.
13If our souls have stain'd their first white, yet we
14May clothe them with faith, and dear honesty,
15Which God imputes as native purity.
16There is no virtue but religion.
17Wise, valiant, sober, just, are names, which none
18Want, which want not vice-covering discretion.
19Seek we then ourselves in ourselves; for as
20Men force the sun with much more force to pass,
21By gathering his beams with a crystal glass;
22So we, if we into ourselves will turn,
23Blowing our sparks of virtue, may out-burn
24The straw, which doth about our hearts sojourn.
25You know, physicians, when they would infuse
26Into any oil the souls of simples, use
27Places, where they may lie still warm, to choose.
28So works retiredness in us; To roam
29Giddily and be everywhere, but at home,
30Such freedom doth a banishment become.
31We are but farmers of ourselves, yet may,
32If we can stock ourselves, and thrive, uplay
33Much, much dear treasure for the great rent day.
34Manure thyself then, to thyself be approv'd,
35And with vain outward things be no more mov'd,
36But to know, that I love thee and would be lov'd.
RPO poem Editors:
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh