Satire III

Original Text: 
John Donne, Poems, by J. D. With elegies on the authors death (M. F. for J. Marriot, 1633). MICF no. 556 ROBA. Facs. edn. Menston: Scolar Press, 1969. PR 2245 A2 1633A. STC 7045.
2Those tears to issue which swell my eyelids;
3I must not laugh, nor weep sins and be wise;
4Can railing, then, cure these worn maladies?
5Is not our mistress, fair Religion,
6As worthy of all our souls' devotion
8Are not heaven's joys as valiant to assuage
9Lusts, as earth's honour was to them? Alas,
10As we do them in means, shall they surpass
11Us in the end? and shall thy father's spirit
12Meet blind philosophers in heaven, whose merit
14Thee, whom he taught so easy ways and near
15To follow, damn'd? Oh, if thou dar'st, fear this;
16This fear great courage and high valour is.
17Dar'st thou aid mutinous Dutch, and dar'st thou lay
18Thee in ships' wooden sepulchres, a prey
19To leaders' rage, to storms, to shot, to dearth?
20Dar'st thou dive seas, and dungeons of the earth?
21Hast thou courageous fire to thaw the ice
22Of frozen North discoveries? and thrice
26Canst thou for gain bear? and must every he
27Which cries not, "Goddess," to thy mistress, draw
28Or eat thy poisonous words? Courage of straw!
29O desperate coward, wilt thou seem bold, and
30To thy foes and his, who made thee to stand
31Sentinel in his world's garrison, thus yield,
32And for forbidden wars leave th' appointed field?
33Know thy foes: the foul devil, whom thou
34Strivest to please, for hate, not love, would allow
36The world's all parts wither away and pass,
37So the world's self, thy other lov'd foe, is
38In her decrepit wane, and thou loving this,
39Dost love a wither'd and worn strumpet; last,
40Flesh (itself's death) and joys which flesh can taste,
41Thou lovest, and thy fair goodly soul, which doth
42Give this flesh power to taste joy, thou dost loathe.
43Seek true religion. O where? Mirreus,
44Thinking her unhous'd here, and fled from us,
45Seeks her at Rome; there, because he doth know
46That she was there a thousand years ago,
47He loves her rags so, as we here obey
49Crantz to such brave loves will not be enthrall'd,
50But loves her only, who at Geneva is call'd
51Religion, plain, simple, sullen, young,
52Contemptuous, yet unhandsome; as among
53Lecherous humours, there is one that judges
54No wenches wholesome, but coarse country drudges.
55Graius stays still at home here, and because
56Some preachers, vile ambitious bawds, and laws,
57Still new like fashions, bid him think that she
58Which dwells with us is only perfect, he
59Embraceth her whom his godfathers will
60Tender to him, being tender, as wards still
61Take such wives as their guardians offer, or
63All, because all cannot be good, as one
64Knowing some women whores, dares marry none.
65Graccus loves all as one, and thinks that so
66As women do in divers countries go
67In divers habits, yet are still one kind,
68So doth, so is Religion; and this blind-
69ness too much light breeds; but unmoved, thou
70Of force must one, and forc'd, but one allow,
71And the right; ask thy father which is she,
72Let him ask his; though truth and falsehood be
73Near twins, yet truth a little elder is;
74Be busy to seek her; believe me this,
75He's not of none, nor worst, that seeks the best.
76To adore, or scorn an image, or protest,
77May all be bad; doubt wisely; in strange way
78To stand inquiring right, is not to stray;
79To sleep, or run wrong, is. On a huge hill,
80Cragged and steep, Truth stands, and he that will
81Reach her, about must and about must go,
82And what the hill's suddenness resists, win so.
83Yet strive so that before age, death's twilight,
84Thy soul rest, for none can work in that night.
85To will implies delay, therefore now do;
86Hard deeds, the body's pains; hard knowledge too
87The mind's endeavours reach, and mysteries
88Are like the sun, dazzling, yet plain to all eyes.
89Keep the truth which thou hast found; men do not stand
90In so ill case, that God hath with his hand
91Sign'd kings' blank charters to kill whom they hate;
92Nor are they vicars, but hangmen to fate.
93Fool and wretch, wilt thou let thy soul be tied
94To man's laws, by which she shall not be tried
95At the last day? Oh, will it then boot thee
98Is not this excuse for mere contraries
99Equally strong? Cannot both sides say so?
100That thou mayest rightly obey power, her bounds know;
101Those past, her nature and name is chang'd; to be
102Then humble to her is idolatry.
103As streams are, power is; those blest flowers that dwell
104At the rough stream's calm head, thrive and do well,
105But having left their roots, and themselves given
106To the stream's tyrannous rage, alas, are driven
107Through mills, and rocks, and woods, and at last, almost
108Consum'd in going, in the sea are lost.
109So perish souls, which more choose men's unjust
110Power from God claim'd, than God himself to trust.


1] Between 1593 and 1600 Donne wrote five formal satires. Satire III may have been written as early as 1593 and certainly reflects an intermediate position before Donne had decided formally to become an Anglican. One MS. gives the satire the sub-title "Of Religion." Back to Line
7] first blinded age: that of classical antiquity, before revelation; the idea is repeated in the reference to blind philosophers of line 12. Back to Line
13] imputed: attributed; in its religious sense, "to impute" is to attribute qualities (of righteousness or guilt) to a person by vicarious substitution. Back to Line
23] salamanders: thought to be able to live in fire. Back to Line
24] the three children of the fiery furnace (Daniel 3).
fires of Spain: i.e., of the Spanish inquisition. Back to Line
25] limbecs: alembics for distillation. Back to Line
35] to be quit: i.e., to be quit of you. Back to Line
48] statecloth: royal canopy. Back to Line
62] values: fines. Back to Line
96] Philip: Philip of Spain.
Gregory: the pope. Back to Line
97] Harry: Henry VIII. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.181.