John Donne Poem

Of a Lady in the Black Mask

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Why choose she black; was it that in whiteness
She did Leda equal? whose brightness
Must suffer loss to put a beauty on,
Which hath no grace but from proportion.
It is but colour, which to lose is gain,
For she in black doth the Æthiopian stain.
Being the form that beautifies the creature,
Her rareness not in colour is, but feature.
Black on her receives so strong a grace
It seems the fittest beauty for the face.
Colour is not, but in estimation,
Fair or foul, as it is styled by fashion.
Kings wearing sackcloth it doth royal make;
So black[nes]s from her face doth beauty take.
It not in colour but in her inheres,
For what she is is fair, not what she wears.
The Moor shall envy her, as much, or more,
As did the ladies of our court before.
The sun shall mourn that he had westward been,
To seek his love, whilst she i’ th’ north was seen.
Her blackness lends like lustre to her eyes,
As in the night pale Phoebe glorifies.
Hell, sin, and vice their attributes shall lose
Of black; for it wan and pale whiteness choose,
As like themselves, common, and most in use.
Sad of that colour is the late abuse.

To the Author, Incipit Joannes Dones
To my Lord of Pembroke


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