John Donne Poem

Upon Mr Thomas Coryat’s Crudities

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Oh to what height will love of greatness drive
Thy leavened spirit, sesqui-superlative?
Venice’ vast lake thou hadst seen, and wouldst seek then
Some vaster thing, and found’st a courtesan.
That inland sea having discovered well,
A cellar gulf, where one might sail to hell
From Heidelberg, thou longed’st to see; and thou
This book, greater than all, producest now.
Infinite work, which doth so far extend,
That none can study it to any end.
‘Tis no one thing, it is not fruit nor root;
Nor poorly limited with head or foot.
If man be therefore man, because he can
Reason, and laugh, thy book doth half make man.
One half being made, thy modesty was such,
That thou on th’ other half wouldst never touch.
When wilt thou be at full, great lunatic?
Not till thou exceed the world? Canst thou be like
A prosperous nose-born wen, which sometimes grows
To be far greater than the mother-nose?
Go then; and as to thee, when thou didst go,
Munster did towns, and Gesner authors show,
Mount now to Gallo-Belgicus ; appear
As deep a statesman, as a gazetteer.
Homely and familiarly, when thou com’st back,
Talk of Will Conqueror , and Prester Jack .
Go bashful man, lest here thou blush to look
Upon the progress of thy glorious book,
To which both Indies sacrifices send;
The West sent gold, which thou didst freely spend,
(Meaning to see ‘t no more) upon the press.
The East sends hither her deliciousness;
And thy leaves must embrace what comes from thence,
The myrrh, the pepper, and the frankincense.
This magnifies thy leaves; but if they stoop
To neighbour wares, when merchants do unhoop
Voluminous barrels; if thy leaves do then
Convey these wares in parcels unto men;
If for vast tons of currants, and of figs,
Of medicinal and aromatic twigs,
Thy leaves a better method do provide,
Divide to pounds, and ounces sub-divide;
If they stoop lower yet, and vent our wares,
Home-manufactures, to thick popular fairs;
If omni-pregnant there, upon warm stalls,
They hatch all wares for which the buyer calls;
Then thus thy leaves we justly may commend,
That they all kind of matter comprehend.
Thus thou, by means which th’Ancients never took,
A pandect makest, and universal book.
The bravest heroes, for public good
Scattered in divers lands their limbs and blood.
Worst malefactors, to whom men are prize,
Do public good, cut in anatomies;
So will thy book in pieces; for a lord
Which casts at portescues, and all the board,
Provide whole books; each leaf enough will be
For friends to pass time, and keep company.
Can all carouse up thee? no, thou must fit
Measures; and fill out for the half-pint wit.
Some shall wrap pills, and save a friend’s life so,
Some shall stop muskets, and so kill a foe.
Thou shalt not ease the critics of next age
So much, at once their hunger to assuage.
Nor shall wit-pirates hope to find thee lie
All in one bottom, in one library.
Some leaves may paste strings there in other books,
And so one may, which on another looks,
Pilfer, alas, a little wit from you,
But hardly* much; and yet I think this true;
As Sibyl’s was, your book is mystical,
For every piece is as much worth as all.
Therefore mine impotency I confess,
The healths which my brain bears must be far less;
Thy giant wit o’erthrows me, I am gone;
And rather than read all, I would read none.

Elegy upon the Untimely Death of the Incomparable Prince Henry
To Sir Tho. Rowe, 1603.


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