John Donne Poem

Elegy VIII: The Comparison

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As the sweet sweat of roses in a still,
As that which from chafed musk cat’s pores doth trill,
As the almighty balm of th’ early east,
Such are the sweat drops of my mistress’ breast ;
And on her neck her skin such lustre sets,
They seem no sweat drops, but pearl carcanets.
Rank sweaty froth thy mistress’ brow defiles,
Like spermatic issue of ripe menstruous boils,
Or like the scum, which, by need’s lawless law
Enforced, Sanserra’s starvèd men did draw
From parboil’d shoes and boots, and all the rest
Which were with any sovereign fatness blest ;
And like vile lying stones in saffron’d tin,
Or warts, or wheals, it hangs upon her skin.
Round as the world’s her head, on every side,
Like to the fatal ball which fell on Ide ;
Or that whereof God had such jealousy,
As for the ravishing thereof we die.
Thy head is like a rough-hewn statue of jet,
Where marks for eyes, nose, mouth, are yet scarce set ;
Like the first chaos, or flat seeming face
Of Cynthia, when th’ earth’s shadows her embrace.
Like Proserpine’s white beauty-keeping chest,
Or Jove’s best fortune’s urn, is her fair breast.
Thine’s like worm-eaten trunks, clothed in seal’s skin,
Or grave, that’s dust without, and stink within.
And like that slender stalk, at whose end stands
The woodbine quivering, are her arms and hands.
Like rough-bark’d elm-boughs, or the russet skin
Of men late scourged for madness, or for sin,
Like sun-parch’d quarters on the city gate,
Such is thy tann’d skin’s lamentable state ;
And like a bunch of ragged carrots stand
The short swollen fingers of thy gouty hand.
Then like the chemic’s masculine equal fire,
Which in the limbec’s warm womb doth inspire
Into th’ earth’s worthless dirt a soul of gold,
Such cherishing heat her best loved part doth hold.
Thine’s like the dread mouth of a fired gun,
Or like hot liquid metals newly run
Into clay moulds, or like to that Ætna,
Where round about the grass is burnt away.
Are not your kisses then as filthy, and more,
As a worm sucking an envenom’d sore?
Doth not thy fearful hand in feeling quake,
As one which gathering flowers still fears a snake?
Is not your last act harsh and violent,
As when a plough a stony ground doth rent?
So kiss good turtles, so devoutly nice
Are priests in handling reverent sacrifice,
And such in searching wounds the surgeon is,
As we, when we embrace, or touch, or kiss.
Leave her, and I will leave comparing thus,
She and comparisons are odious.

Elegy IX: The Autumnal
Elegy VII


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