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
To a Lady of a Dark Complexion
 
IF shadows be the picture’s excellence
And make it seem more lively to the sense;
If stars in the bright day are lost from sight
And seem most glorious in the mask of Night;
Why should you think, rare creature, that you lack        5
Perfection, ’cause your eyes and hair are black,
Or that your heavenly beauty, which exceeds
The new sprung lilies in their maidenheads,
The damask colour of your cheeks and lips,
Should suffer by their darkness and eclipse?        10
Rich diamonds shine brightest being set
And compassed within a field of jet;
Nor were it fit that Nature should have made
So bright a sun to shine without some shade.
It seems that Nature, when she first did fancy        15
Your rare composure, studied necromancy;
That when to you this gift she did impart
She usèd altogether the black art,
By which infusèd powers from magic book
You do command, like spirits, with a look.        20
She drew those magic circles in your eyes,
And made your hair the chains with which she ties
Rebelling hearts. Those blue veins, which appear
Winding meanders about either sphere,
Mysterious figures are; and when you list,        25
Your voice commandeth as the exorcist.
O, if in magic you have power so far,
Vouchsafe to make me your familiar.
Nor hath dame Nature her black art reveal’d
To outward parts alone, some lie conceal’d.        30
For as by heads of springs men often know
The nature of the streams which run below,
So your black hair and eyes do give direction
To think the rest to be of like complexion;
That rest where all rest lies that blesseth man,        35
That Indian mine, that strait of Magellan,
That world-dividing gulf, where he who ventures
With swelling sails and ravish’d senses, enters
To a new world of bliss. Pardon, I pray,
If my rude Muse presumeth to display        40
Secrets unknown, or hath her bounds o’er pass’d
In praising sweetness which I ne’er did taste.
Starved men do know there’s meat, and blind men may,
Though hid from light, presume there is a day.
The rover in the mark his arrow strikes        45
Sometimes as well as he that shoots at pricks;
And if that I might aim my shaft aright,
The black mark I would hit and not the white.
 
 
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