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Elegy VI

John Donne 1572 (London) – 1631 (London)

Oh, let me not serve so, as those men serve
Whom honour's smokes at once fatten and starve;
Poorly enrich't with great men's words or looks;
Nor so write my name in thy loving books
As those idolatrous flatterers, which still
Their Prince's styles, with many realms fulfil
Whence they no tribute have, and where no sway.
Such services I offer as shall pay
Themselves, I hate dead names: Oh then let me
Favourite in Ordinary, or no favourite be.
When my soul was in her own body sheathed,
Nor yet by oaths betrothed, nor kisses breathed
Into my Purgatory, faithless thee,
Thy heart seemed wax, and steel thy constancy:
So, careless flowers strowed on the waters face
The curled whirlpools suck, smack, and embrace,
Yet drown them; so, the taper's beamy eye
Amorously twinkling beckons the giddy fly,
Yet burns his wings; and such the devil is,
Scarce visiting them who are entirely his.
When I behold a stream which, from the spring,
Doth with doubtful melodious murmuring,
Or in a speechless slumber, calmly ride
Her wedded channels' bosom, and then chide
And bend her brows, and swell if any bough
Do but stoop down, or kiss her upmost brow:
Yet, if her often gnawing kisses win
The traiterous bank to gape, and let her in,
She rusheth violently, and doth divorce
Her from her native, and her long-kept course,
And roars, and braves it, and in gallant scorn,
In flattering eddies promising retorn,
She flouts the channel, who thenceforth is dry;
Then say I, That is she, and this am I.
Yet let not thy deep bitterness beget
Careless despair in me, for that will whet
My mind to scorn; and Oh, love dulled with pain
Was ne'er so wise, nor well armed as disdain.
Then with new eyes I shall survey thee, and spy
Death in thy cheeks, and darkness in thine eye.
Though hope bred faith and love: thus taught, I shall,
As nations do from Rome, from thy love fall.
My hate shall outgrow thine, and utterly
I will renounce thy dalliance: and when I
Am the recusant, in that resolute state,
What hurts it me to be excommunicate?

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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John Donne

John Donne was an English poet, satirist, lawyer and a cleric in the Church of England. more…

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