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John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
 
Appendix A. Doubtful Poems
To a Painted Lady
 
NOT kiss! By Jove I will, and make impression!
As long as Cupid dares to hold his session
Within my flesh and blood, our kisses shall
Out-minute time, and without number fall.
Do I not know these balls of white and red        5
That on thy cheeks so amorously are spread,
Thy snowy neck, those veins upon thy brow,
Which with their azure wrinkles sweetly bow,
Are artificial and no more thine own,
Than chains which on S. George’s day are shown        10
Are proper to the wearers; yet for this
I idol thee, and beg a luscious kiss.
The fucus and ceruse which on thy face
Thy cunning hand lays on to add new grace
[Deceive me with such pleasing fraud, that I        15
Find in thy art, what can in Nature lie.] 1
Much like a painter that upon some wall,
On which the cadent sunbeams use to fall,
Paints with such gilded art a butterfly,
That silly maids with slow-moved fingers try        20
To catch at it, and blush at their mistake,
Yet of this painted fly more reckoning make.
Such is our state, since what we look upon
Is nought but colour and proportion.
Take we a face as full of fraud and lies        25
As gypsies in their cunning’st flatteries,
That is more false and more sophisticate
Than are saints’ relics, or a man of state;
Yet this being glossed by the sleight of art
Gains admiration, winning many a heart.        30
[But case there be a difference in the mould,
Yet may thy Venus be more choice, and hold
A dearer treasure. Often times we see
Rich Candian wines in wooden bowls to be;] 2
The odoriferous civet doth not lie        35
Within the precious musk-cat’s ear or eye,
But in a baser place; for prudent Nature,
In drawing use of various forms and feature,
Gives unto them the shop of her large treasure,
To fair parts comeliness, to baser pleasure.        40
The fairest flowers, which in the Spring do grow,
Are not so much for use as for the show;
As lilies, hyacinths, and the gorgeous birth
Of all pied flowers which diaper the earth,
Please more with their discolour’d purple train        45
Than wholesome pot herbs which for use remain.
Shall I a gaudy-speckled serpent kiss
For that the colours which he wears be his?
A perfumed cordevant who will not wear
Because the scent is borrow’d otherwhere?        50
The robes and vestments which do grace us all
Are not our own, but adventitial.
Time rifles Nature’s beauty, but sly Art
Repairs by cunning this decaying part;
Fills here a wrinkle and there pearls a vein,        55
And with a nimble hand runs o’er again
The breaches dented in by th’ arm of Time,
Making deformity to be no crime.
As, when great men be gripp’d by sickness’ hand,
Industrious physic pregnantly doth stand        60
To patch up old diseases, and doth strive
To keep their tottering carcases alive.
Beauty’s a candle-light, which every puff
Blows out, and leaves naught but a stinking snuff
To fill our nostrils with. This boldly think;        65
The clearest candle makes the foulest stink;
As your pure food and finest nourishment
Gets the most hot and most strong excrement.
Why hang we then on things so apt to vary,
So fleeting, brittle, and so temporary,        70
That agues, coughs, the toothache, or catarrh
(Slight houses of diseases) spoil and mar?
But when old age their beauties hath in chase,
And ploughs up wrinkles in their once smooth face,
Then they become forsaken, and do show        75
Like stately abbeys ruin’d long ago.
Nature but gives the model or first draft
Of fair perfection, which by Art is taught
To make itself a complete form and birth;
So stands a copy to those shapes on earth.        80
Jove grant me you a reparable face,
Which, whilst that colours last, can want no grace.
Pygmalion’s painted image I could love,
So it were warm, and soft, and could but move.
 
Note 1. ll. 15, 16. These lines, necessary to the sense, are added from Pembroke and Ruddier’s Poems (1660). [back]
Note 2. ll. 31–34. From Pembroke and Ruddier’s Poems. [back]
 
 
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