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John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
 
Letters to Several Personages
To Sir Henry Wotton
 
HERE’S no more news than virtue; I may as well
Tell you Calais, or Saint Michael’s tales, as tell 1
That vice doth here habitually dwell.
 
Yet as, to get stomachs, we walk up and down,
And toil to sweeten rest; so, may God frown,        5
If, but to loathe both, I haunt court or town.
 
For, here, no one is from th’ extremity
Of vice by any other reason free,
But that the next to him still ’s worse than he.
 
In this world’s warfare, they whom rugged Fate        10
(God’s commissary) doth so throughly hate,
As in the court’s squadron to marshal their state;
 
If they stand arm’d with silly honesty,
With wishes, prayers, 2 and neat integrity,
Like Indians ’gainst Spanish hosts they be.        15
 
Suspicious boldness to this place belongs,
And to have as many ears as all have tongues;
Tender to know, tough to acknowledge wrongs.
 
Believe me, sir, in my youth’s giddiest days,
When to be like the court was a play’s 3 praise,        20
Plays were not so like courts, as courts like plays. 4
 
Then let us at these mimic antics jest,
Whose deepest projects and egregious gests
Are but dull morals of 5 a game at chests.
 
But now ’tis 6 incongruity to smile,        25
Therefore I end; and bid farewell awhile;
“At court,”—though “from court” were the better style.
 
Note 1. l. 2. So 1635; 1633, tale for news, as tell; 1669, Tell Calais, or Saint Michael’s mount [back]
Note 2. l. 14. So 1635; 1633, wishing prayers [back]
Note 3. l. 20. 1669, a player’s [back]
Note 4. l. 21. So 1635; 1633, are like plays [back]
Note 5. l. 23. 1669.
      are egregious guests
And but dull Morals at
 [back]
Note 6. l. 25. 1669, But ’tis an [back]
 
 
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