Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
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John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
 
Letters to Several Personages
To Mr. Rowland Woodward
 
LIKE one who in her third widowhood doth profess
Herself a nun, tied to retiredness,
So affects my Muse, now, a chaste fallowness.
 
Since she to few, yet to too many hath shown, 1
How love-song weeds 2 and satiric thorns are grown,        5
Where seeds of better arts were early sown;
 
Though to use and love poetry, to me,
Betroth’d to no one art, be no adultery;
Omissions of good, ill, as ill deeds be.
 
For though to us it seem but 3 light and thin,        10
Yet in those faithful scales, where God throws in
Men’s works, vanity weighs as much as sin.
 
If our souls have stain’d their first white, yet we
May clothe them with faith, and dear honesty,
Which God imputes as native purity.        15
 
There is no virtue but religion.
Wise, valiant, sober, just, are names which none
Want, which want not vice-covering discretion.
 
Seek we then ourselves in ourselves; for as
Men force the sun with much more force to pass,        20
By gathering his beams with a crystal glass,
 
So we—if we into ourselves will turn,
Blowing our spark 4 of virtue—may out-burn
The straw which doth about our hearts sojourn.
 
You know physicians, when they would infuse        25
Into any oil the souls of simples, use
Places, where they may lie still warm, to choose.
 
So works retiredness in us. To roam
Giddily and be everywhere, but at home,
Such freedom doth a banishment become.        30
 
We are but farmers 5 of ourselves, yet may,
If we can stock ourselves, and thrive, uplay
Much, much dear treasure 6 for the great rent day.
 
Manure thyself then, to thyself be improved; 7
And with vain outward things be no more moved,        35
But to know that I love thee and would be loved.
 
Note 1. l. 4. So 1633, 1669; 1635, flown [back]
Note 2. l. 5. So 1633, 1669; 1635, How long Love’s weeds [back]
Note 3. l. 10. So 1635; 1633, seem and be but [back]
Note 4. l. 23. So 1669; 1633, sparks [back]
Note 5. l. 31. So 1635; 1633, termers [back]
Note 6. l. 33. 1635, good treasure [back]
Note 7. l. 34. So 1669; 1633, approved [back]
 
 
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