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 Ben Jonson
 
9 Novembris, 1603

IF great men wrong me, I will spare myself;
If mean I will spare them. I know the pelf
Which is ill-got the owner doth upbraid;
It may corrupt a judge, make me afraid,
And a jury; but ’twill revenge in this,        5
That, though himself be judge, he guilty is.
What care I though of weakness men tax me?
I had rather sufferer than doer be.
That I did trust it was my nature’s praise,
For breach of word I knew but as a phrase.        10
That judgment is, that surely can comprise
The world in precepts, most happy and most wise.
What though? Though less, yet some of both have we,
Who have learn’d it by use and misery.
Poor I, whom every petty cross doth trouble,        15
Who apprehend each hurt that’s done me, double,
Am of this, though it should sink me, careless;
It would but force me to a stricter goodness.
They have great gain of me, who gain do win,
If such gain be not loss, from every sin.        20
The standing of great men’s lives would afford
A pretty sum, if God would sell His word.
He cannot; they can theirs, and break them too;
How unlike they are that they’re liken’d to.
Yet I conclude, they are amidst my evils;        25
If good, like Gods; the naught are so like devils.
 
 
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