Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
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John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
 
Appendix A. Doubtful Poems
Love and Reason
 
BASE Love, the stain of youth, the scorn of age,
The folly of a man, a woman’s rage;
The canker of a froward will thou art,
The business of an idle empty heart;
The rack of jealousy and sad Mistrust,        5
The smooth and justified excuse of lust;
The thief which wastes the taper of our life;
The quiet name of restless jars and strife;
The fly which dost corrupt and quite distaste
All happiness if thou therein be cast;        10
The greatest and the most conceal’d impostor
That ever vain credulity did foster;
A mountebank extolling trifles small,
A juggler playing loose, not fast with all;
An alchemist, whose promises are gold,        15
Payment but dross, and hope at highest sold.
This, this is Love, and worse than I can say.
When he a master is, and bears the sway,
He guides like Phaeton, burns and destroys,
Parches and stifles what would else be joys.        20
But when clear Reason, sitting in the throne,
Governs his beams—which otherwise are none
But darts and mischiefs—oh, then, sunlike, he
Doth actuate, produce, ripen and free
From grossness, those good seeds which in us lie        25
Till then as in a grave, and there would die.
All high perfections in a perfect lover
His warmth does cherish, and his light discover.
He gives an even temper of delight
Without a minute’s loss; nor fears affright        30
Nor interrupt the joys such love doth bring,
Nor no enjoying can dry up the spring.
Unto another he lends out our pleasure,
That—with the use—it may come home a treasure.
Pure link of bodies where no lust controls,        35
The fastness and security of souls!
Sweetest path of life, virtue in full sail,
Tree-budding hope whose fruit doth never fail!
To this dear love I do no rebel stand,
Though not employ’d, yet ready at command.        40
Wherefore, O Reason high, thou who art king
Of the world’s king, and dost in order bring
The wild affections, which so often swerve
From the just rule, and rebel passions serve;
Thou without whose light love’s fire is but smoke,        45
Which puts out eyes and mind’s true sense doth choke;
Restore this lover to himself again,
Send him a lively feeling of his pain,
Give him a healthy and discerning taste
Of food and rest, that he may rest at last,        50
By strength of thee, from his strange strong disease,
Wherein the danger is that it doth please.
Grant this, O Reason, at his deep’st request
Who never loved to see your power suppress’d.
And now to you, Sir Love, your love I crave;        55
Of you no mastery I desire to have.
But that we may, like honest friends, agree,
Let us to Reason fellow-servants be.
 
 
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