To Sir Henry Wotton [Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls...]
Donne, John. The Satires, Epigrams and Verse Letters of John Donne. Edited by W. Milgate. London: Oxford University Press, 1967: 71-73.
1 Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls;
2For thus, friends absent speak. This ease controls
3The tediousness of my life: but for these
4I could ideate nothing which could please,
5But I should wither in one day, and pass
6To a bottle of hay, that am a lock of grass.
7 Life is a voyage, and in our lives' ways
8Countries, courts, towns are rocks, or remoras;
9They break or stop all ships, yet our state's such,
10That though than pitch they stain worse, we must touch.
11If in the furnace of the raging line,
12Or under th' adverse icy pole thou pine,
13Thou know'st two temperate regions, girded in,
14Dwell there ; but O, what refuge canst thou win
15Parch'd in the court, and in the country frozen?
16Shall cities built of both extremes be chosen?
17Can dung or garlic be perfume? Or can
18A scorpion or torpedo cure a man?
19Cities are worst of all three; of all three
20(O knotty riddle!) each is worst equally.
21Cities are sepulchres; they who dwell there
22Are carcases, as if no such there were.
23And courts are theatres, where some men play
24Princes, some slaves, all to one end, of one clay.
25The country is a desert, where the good,
26Gain'd, inhabits not, born, is not understood.
27There men become beasts, and prone to more evils;
28In cities blocks, and in a lewd court devils.
29As in the first chaos, confusedly,
30Each element's qualities were in th' other three,
31So pride, lust, covetise, being several
32To these three places, yet all are in all,
33And mingled thus, their issue is incestuous.
34Falsehood is denizon'd. Virtue is barbarous.
35Let no man say there, ." Virtue's flinty wall
36Shall lock vice in me, I'll do none, but know all.."
37Men are sponges, which, to pour out, receive,
38Who know false play, rather than lose, deceive.
39For in best understandings sin began,
40Angels sinn'd first, then devils, and then man.
41Only perchance beasts sin not; wretched we
42Are beasts in all but white integrity.
43I think if men, which in these place live,
44Durst look in themselves, and themselves retrieve,
45They would like strangers greet themselves, seeing then
46Utopian youth grown old Italian.
47 Be then thine own home, and in thyself dwell;
48Inn anywhere, continuance maketh hell.
49And seeing the snail, which everywhere doth roam,
50Carrying his own house still, still is at home,
51Follow (for he is easy paced) this snail,
52Be thine own palace, or the world's thy gaol.
53And in the world's sea do not like cork sleep
54Upon the water's face; nor in the deep
55Sink like a lead without a line; but as
56Fishes glide, leaving no print where they pass,
57Nor making sound, so, closely thy course go;
58Let men dispute, whether thou breathe, or no.
59Only in this one thing, be no Galenist: to make
60Courts' hot ambitions wholesome, do not take
61A dram of country's dullness; do not add
62Correctives, but, as chemics, purge the bad.
63 But, sir, I advise not you, I rather do
64Say o'er those lessons, which I learn'd of you:
65Whom, free from Germany's schisms, and lightness
66Of France, and fair Italy's faithlessness,
67Having from these suck'd all they had of worth,
68And brought home that faith which you carried forth,
69I thoroughly love. But if myself I have won
70To know my rules, I have, and you have
RPO poem Editors:
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh