Verse > Anthologies > Herbert J.C. Grierson, ed. > Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th c.
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Herbert J.C. Grierson, ed. (1886–1960). Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th C.  1921.
 
John Donne
 
125. To the Countesse of Bedford
 
HONOUR is so sublime perfection, 
And so refinde; that when God was alone 
And creaturelesse at first, himselfe had none; 
  
But as of the elements, these which wee tread, 
Produce all things with which wee'are joy'd or fed,         5
And, those are barren both above our head: 
  
So from low persons doth all honour flow; 
Kings, whom they would have honoured, to us show, 
And but direct our honour, not bestow. 
  
For when from herbs the pure part must be wonne  10
From grosse, by Stilling, this is better done 
By despis'd dung, then by the fire or Sunne. 
  
Care not then, Madame,'how low your praysers lye; 
In labourers balads oft more piety 
God findes, then in Te Deums melodie.  15
  
And, ordinance rais'd on Towers, so many mile 
Send not their voice, nor last so long a while 
As fires from th'earths low vaults in Sicil Isle. 
  
Should I say I liv'd darker then were true, 
Your radiation can all clouds subdue;  20
But one, 'tis best light to contemplate you. 
  
You, for whose body God made better clay, 
Or tooke Soules stuffe such as shall late decay, 
Or such as needs small change at the last day. 
  
This, as an Amber drop enwraps a Bee,  25
Covering discovers your quicke Soule; that we 
May in your through-shine front your hearts thoughts see. 
  
You teach (though wee learne not) a thing unknowne 
To our late times, the use of specular stone, 
Through which all things within without were shown.  30
  
Of such were Temples; so and of such you are; 
Beeing and seeming is your equall care, 
And vertues whole summe is but know and dare. 
  
But as our Soules of growth and Soules of sense 
Have birthright of our reasons Soule, yet hence  35
They fly not from that, nor seeke presidence: 
  
Natures first lesson, so, discretion, 
Must not grudge zeale a place, nor yet keepe none, 
Not banish it selfe, nor religion. 
  
Discretion is a wisemans Soule, and so  40
Religion is a Christians, and you know 
How these are one; her yea, is not her no. 
  
Nor may we hope to sodder still and knit 
These two, and dare to breake them; nor must wit 
Be colleague to religion, but be it.  45
  
In those poor types of God (round circles) so 
Religions tipes the peeclesse centers flow, 
And are in all the lines which all wayes goe. 
  
If either ever wrought in you alone 
Or principally, then religion  50
Wrought your ends, and your wayes discretion. 
  
Goe thither stil, goe the same way you went, 
Who so would change, do covet or repent; 
Neither can reach you, great and innocent. 
 
 
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