Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
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John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
 
The Progress of the Soul
Epistle
 
Infinitati Sacrum,
16 Augusti, 1601.
Metempsychosis.
Poëma Satyricon.

  OTHERS at the porches and entries of their buildings set their arms; I, my picture; if any colours can deliver a mind so plain, and flat, and through-light as mine. Naturally, at a new author I doubt, and stick, and do not say quickly “Good.” I censure much and tax; and this liberty costs me more than others, by how much my own things are worse than others. Yet I would not be so rebellious against myself, as not to do it, since I love it; nor so unjust to others, to do it sine talione. As long as I give them as good hold upon me, they must pardon me my bitings. I forbid no reprehender, but him that like the Trent Council forbids not books, but authors, damning whatever such a name hath or shall write. None writes so ill, that he gives not something exemplary to follow, or fly. Now when I begin this book, I have no purpose to come into any man’s debt; how my stock will hold out I know not; perchance waste, perchance increase in use. If I do borrow anything of antiquity, besides that I make account that I pay it to posterity, with as much, and as good, you shall still find me to acknowledge it, and to thank not him only that hath digged out treasure for me, but that hath lighted me a candle to the place. All which I will bid you remember (for I will have no such readers as I can teach) is, that the Pythagorean doctrine doth not only carry one soul from man to man, nor man to beast, but indifferently to plants also: and therefore you must not grudge to find the same soul in an Emperor, in a Post-horse, and in a Macaron, since no unreadiness in the soul, but an indisposition in the organs works this. And therefore though this soul could not move when it was a Melon, yet it may remember, and can now tell me, at what lascivious banquet it was served. And though it could not speak, when it was a Spider, yet it can remember, and now tell me, who used it for poison to attain dignity. However the bodies have dulled her other faculties, her memory hath ever been her own, which makes me so seriously deliver you by her relation all her passages from her first making when she was that apple which Eve eat, to this time when she is he, 1 whose life you shall find in the end of this book.
  1
 
Note 1. 1635, She (cf. Note). [back]
 
 
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