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 M[r]. I[zaak] W[alton]
 
ALL hail, sweet poet, more full 1 of more strong fire,
  Than hath or shall enkindle my dull spirit; 2
  I loved what nature gave thee, but thy merit
Of wit and art I love not, but admire.
Who have before or shall write after thee,        5
Their works, though toughly laboured, will be
  Like infancy or age to man’s firm stay,
  Or early and late twilights to mid-day.
 
Men say, and truly, that they better be
  Which be envied than pitied; therefore I,        10
  Because I wish thee best, do thee envy; 3
O, wouldst thou, by like reason, pity me.
But care not for me; I, that ever was
In nature’s, and in fortune’s gifts, alas
  —But for thy grace, 4 got in the Muses’ school—        15
  A monster and a beggar, am a fool.
 
Oh, how I grieve that late-born modesty
  Hath got such root in easy waxen hearts,
  That men may not themselves their own good parts
Extol, without suspect of surquedry.        20
For, but thyself, no subject can be found
Worthy thy quill, nor any quill resound
  Thy worth 5 but thine; how good it were to see
  A poem in thy praise, and writ by thee.
 
Now if this song be too harsh for rhyme, yet, as        25
  The painters’ bad god made a good devil,
  ’Twill be good prose, although the verse be evil.
If thou forget the rhyme as thou dost pass,
Then write; then I 6 may follow, and so be
Thy debtor, thy echo, 7 thy foil, thy zany;        30
  I shall be thought—if mine like thine I shape—
  All the world’s lion, though I be thy ape.
 
Note 1. l. 1. 1669, and full [back]
Note 2. l. 2. So 1635; 1633, any spirit [back]
Note 3. l. 11. 1669, I wish the best, do the envy [back]
Note 4. l. 15. So 1635; 1633, Before by thy grace [back]
Note 5. l. 23. So 1669; 1633, Thy work [back]
Note 6. l. 29. 1669, that I [back]
Note 7. l. 30. 1669, Thy echo, thy debtor [back]
 
 
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