John Donne Poem

To Mrs. Magdalen Herbert

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Mad paper, stay, and grudge not here to burn
   With all those sons whom my brain did create;
At least lie hid with me, till thou return
   To rags again, which is thy native state.

What though thou have enough unworthiness
   To come unto great place as others do;
That’s much—emboldens, pulls, thrusts, I confess;
   But ’tis not all; thou shouldst be wicked too.

And that thou canst not learn, or not of me,
   Yet thou wilt go; go, since thou goest to her,
Who lacks but faults to be a prince, for she
   Truth, whom they dare not pardon, dares prefer.

But when thou comest to that perplexing eye,
   Which equally claims love and reverence,
Thou wilt not long dispute it, thou wilt die;
   And, having little now, have then no sense.

Yet when her warm redeeming hand—which is
   A miracle, and made such to work more—
Doth touch thee, sapless leaf, thou grow’st by this
   Her creature, glorified more than before.

Then as a mother which delights to hear
   Her early child misspeak half-uttered words,
Or because majesty doth never fear
   Ill or bold speech, she audience affords.

And then, cold speechless wretch, thou diest again,
   And wisely; what discourse is left for thee?
From speech of ill, and her, thou must abstain;
   And is there any good which is not she?

Yet may’st thou praise her servants, though not her;
   And wit, and virtue, and honour her attend;
And since they’re but her clothes, thou shalt not err,
   If thou her shape, and beauty, and grace commend.

Who knows thy destiny? when thou hast done,
   Perchance her cabinet may harbour thee,
Whither all noble ambitious wits do run,
   A nest almost as full of good as she.

When thou art there, if any, whom we know,
   Were saved before, and did that heaven partake;
When she revolves his papers, mark what show
   Of favour, she, alone, to them doth make.

Mark if, to get them, she o’erskip the rest;
   Mark if she read them twice, or kiss the name;
Mark if she do the same that they protest;
   Mark if she mark whether her woman came.

Mark if slight things be objected, and o’erblown;
   Mark if her oaths against him be not still
Reserved, and that she grieves she’s not her own,
   And chides the doctrine that denies freewill.

I bid thee not do this to be my spy,
   Nor to make myself her familiar;
But so much I do love her choice, that I
   Would fain love him that shall be loved of her.

To the Countess of Bedford ('Honour is so sublime perfection')
To Sir Henry Wotton at His Going Ambassador to Venice


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