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Elegy VIII: The Comparison

John Donne 1572 (London) – 1631 (London)



As the sweet sweat of roses in a still,
As that which from chafed musk-cats' pores doth trill,
As the almighty balm of th' early East,
Such are the sweat drops of my mistress' breast,
And on her brow her skin such lustre sets,
They seem no sweat drops, but pearl coronets.
Rank sweaty froth thy Mistress's brow defiles,
Like spermatic issue of ripe menstruous boils,
Or like the scum, which, by need's lawless law
Enforced, Sanserra's starved men did draw
From parboiled shoes and boots, and all the rest
Which were with any sovereigne fatness blest,
And like vile lying stones in saffroned tin,
Or warts, or weals, they hang upon her skin.
Round as the world's her head, on every side,
Like to the fatal ball which fell on Ide,

Or that whereof God had such jealousy,
As, for the ravishing thereof we die.
Thy head is like a rough-hewn statue of jet,
Where marks for eyes, nose, mouth, are yet scarce set;
Like the first Chaos, or flat-seeming face
Of Cynthia, when th' earth's shadows her embrace.
Like Proserpine's white beauty-keeping chest,
Or Jove's best fortunes urn, is her fair breast.
Thine's like worm-eaten trunks, clothed in seals' skin,
Or grave, that's dust without, and stink within.
And like that slender stalk, at whose end stands
The woodbine quivering, are her arms and hands.
Like rough barked elm-boughs, or the russet skin
Of men late scourged for madness, or for sin,
Like sun-parched quarters on the city gate,
Such is thy tanned skin's lamentable state.
And like a bunch of ragged carrots stand
The short swol'n fingers of thy gouty hand.
Then like the Chimic's masculine equal fire,
Which in the Lymbecks warm womb doth inspire
Into th' earth's worthless dirt a soul of gold,
Such cherishing heat her best loved part doth hold.
Thine's like the dread mouth of a fired gun,
Or like hot liquid metals newly run
Into clay moulds, or like to that Etna
Where round about the grass is burnt away.
Are not your kisses then as filthy, and more,
As a worm sucking an envenomed sore?
Doth not thy feareful hand in feeling quake,
As one which gath'ring flowers still fears a snake?
Is not your last act harsh, and violent,
As when a plough a stony ground doth rent?
So kiss good turtles, so devoutly nice
Are priests in handling reverent sacrifice,
And such in searching wounds the surgeon is
As we, when we embrace, or touch, or kiss.
Leave her, and I will leave comparing thus,
She, and comparisons are odious.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:14 min read
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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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