Love's Progress

Original Text: 
Donne, John. The Elegies and the Songs and Sonnets of John Donne. Edited by Helen Gardner. London: Oxford University Press, 1965: 16-19.
1Whoever loves, if he do not propose
2The right true end of love, he's one that goes
3To sea for nothing but to make him sick.
4Love is a bear-whelp born: if we o'er-lick
5Our love, and force it new strange shapes to take,
6We err, and of a lump a monster make.
7Were not a calf a monster, that were grown
8Faced like a man, though better than his own?
9Perfection is in unity; prefer
10One woman first, and then one thing in her.
11I, when I value gold, may think upon
12The ductileness, the application,
13The wholesomeness, the ingenuity,
14From rust, from soil, from fire ever free;
15But if I love it, 'tis because 'tis made
16By our new nature, use, the soul of trade.
17    All this in women we might think upon,
18(If women had them) and yet love but one.
19Can men more injure women than to say
20They love them for that, by which they're not they?
21Makes virtue woman? must I cool my blood
22Till I both be, and find one wise and good?
23May barren angels love so. But if we
24Make love to woman, virtue is not she,
25As beauty is not, nor wealth. He that strays thus
26From her to hers is more adulterous
27Than if he took her maid. Search every sphere
28And firmament, our Cupid is not there.
29He's an infernal God, and underground
30With Pluto dwells, where gold and fire abound.
31Men to such gods their sacrificing coals
32Did not on altars lay, but pits and holes.
33Although we see celestial bodies move
34Above the earth, the earth we till and love.
35So we her airs contemplate, words and heart,
36And virtues, but we love the centric part.
37    Nor is the soul more worthy, or more fit
38For love, than this, as infinite as it.
39But in attaining this desired place
40How much they err, that set out at the face?
41The hair a forest is of ambushes,
42Of springs, snares, fetters, and manacles;
43The brow becalms us when 'tis smooth and plain,
44And when 'tis wrinkled, shipwrecks us again ;
45Smooth, 'tis a paradise, where we would have
46Immortal stay, but wrinkled 'tis a grave.
47The nose, like to the first meridian, runs
48Not 'twixt an east and west, but 'twixt two suns ;
49It leaves a cheek, a rosy hemisphere,
50On either side, and then directs us where
51Upon the islands fortunate we fall,
52(Not faint Canaries, but ambrosial),
53Her swelling lips, to which when we are come,
54We anchor there, and think ourselves at home,
55For they seem all ; there Sirens' songs and there
56Wise Delphic oracles do fill the ear.
57There, in a creek where chosen pearls do swell,
58The remora, her cleaving tongue, doth dwell.
59These and the glorious promontory, her chin,
60O'erpast, and the straight Hellespont between
61The Sestos and Abydos of her breasts,
62Not of two lovers, but two loves, the nests,
63Succeeds a boundless sea, but yet thine eye
64Some island moles may scattered there descry;
65And sailing towards her India, in that way
66Shall at her fair Atlantic navel stay.
67Though there the current be the pilot made,
68Yet, ere thou be where thou shouldst be embay'd,
69Thou shalt upon another forest set,
70Where many shipwreck, and no further get.
71When thou art there, consider what this chase
72Misspent by thy beginning at the face.
73    Rather set out below; practice thy art;
74Some symmetry the foot hath with that part
75Which thou dost seek, and is thy map for that,
76Lovely enough to stop, but not stay at.
77Least subject to disguise and change it is;
78Men say the devil never can change his;
79It is the emblem that hath figured
80Firmness; 'tis the first part that comes to bed.
81Civility we see refined; the kiss,
82Which at the face began, transplanted is,
83Since to the hand, since to the imperial knee,
84Now at the papal foot delights to be.
85If kings think that the nearer way, and do
86Rise from the foot, lovers may do so too;
87For, as free spheres move faster far than can
88Birds, whom the air resists, so may that man
89Which goes this empty and ethereal way,
90Than if at beauty's elements he stay.
91Rich Nature in women wisely made
92Two purses, and their mouths aversely laid.
93They then which to the lower tribute owe,
94That way which that exchequer looks must go;
95He which doth not, his error is as great,
96As who by clyster gives the stomach meat.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh
RPO Edition: