John Donne

(24 January 1572 - 31 March 1631 / London, England)

Satire Iv - Poem by John Donne

Well; I may now receive, and die. My sin
Indeed is great, but yet I have been in
A purgatory, such as fear'd hell is
A recreation and scant map of this.
My mind, neither with pride's itch, nor yet hath been
Poison'd with love to see, or to be seen.
I had no suit there, nor new suit to show,
Yet went to court; but as Glaze which did go
To'a mass in jest, catch'd, was fain to disburse
The hundred marks, which is the statute's curse,
Before he 'scap'd; so'it pleas'd my destiny
(Guilty of my sin of going) to think me
As prone to all ill, and of good as forget{-}
Full, as proud, as lustful, and as much in debt,
As vain, as witless, and as false as they
Which dwell in court, for once going that way.
Therefore I suffered this; towards me did run
A thing more strange, than on Nile's slime the sun
E'er bred, or all which into Noah's ark came;
A thing which would have pos'd Adam to name;
Stranger than seven antiquaries' studies,
Than Afric's monsters, Guiana's rarities;
Stranger than strangers; one, who for a Dane,
In the Danes' massacre had sure been slain,
If he had liv'd then; and without help dies,
When next the 'prentices 'gainst strangers rise;
One, whom the watch, at noon, lets scarce go by;
One, to whom the examining justice sure would cry,
"Sir, by your priesthood, tell me what you are."
His clothes were strange, though coarse; and black, though bare;
Sleeveless his jerkin was, and it had been
Velvet, but 'twas now (so much ground was seen)
Become tufftaffaty; and our children shall
See it plain rash awhile, then nought at all.
This thing hath travell'd, and, saith, speaks all tongues,
And only knoweth what to all states belongs.
Made of th' accents and best phrase of all these,
He speaks one language. If strange meats displease,
Art can deceive, or hunger force my taste,
But pedants' motley tongue, soldiers' bombast,
Mountebanks' drug-tongue, nor the terms of law
Are strong enough preparatives, to draw
Me to bear this; yet I must be content
With his tongue, in his tongue, call'd compliment;
In which he can win widows, and pay scores,
Make men speak treason, cozen subtlest whores,
Out-flatter favourites, or outlie either
Jovius, or Surius, or both together.
He names me, and comes to me; I whisper, "God!
How have I sinn'd, that Thy wrath's furious rod,
This fellow, chooseth me?" He saith, "Sir,
I love your judgment; whom do you prefer,
For the best linguist?" And I seelily
Said, that I thought Calepine's dictionary.
"Nay, but of men, most sweet Sir?" Beza then,
Some Jesuits, and two reverend men
Of our two Academies, I named. There
He stopp'd me, and said; "Nay, your apostles were
Good pretty linguists, and so Panurge was;
Yet a poor gentleman all these may pass
By travel." Then, as if he would have sold
His tongue, he prais'd it, and such wonders told,
That I was fain to say, "If you'had liv'd, sir,
Time enough to have been interpreter
To Babel's bricklayers, sure the tower had stood."
He adds, "If of court life you knew the good,
You would leave loneness." I said, "Not alone
My loneness is; but Spartan's fashion,
To teach by painting drunkards, doth not last
Now; Aretine's pictures have made few chaste;
No more can princes' courts, though there be few
Better pictures of vice, teach me virtue."
He, like to a high-stretch'd lute-string, squeak'd, "O sir,
'Tis sweet to talk of kings." "At Westminster,"
Said I, "the man that keeps the abbey tombs,
And for his price doth with whoever comes
Of all our Harrys and our Edwards talk,
From king to king, and all their kin can walk.
Your ears shall hear nought, but kings; your eyes meet
Kings only; the way to it is King street."
He smack'd and cried, "He's base, mechanic, coarse,
So are all your Englishmen in their discourse.
Are not your Frenchmen neat?" "Mine? As you see,
I have but one Frenchman, look--he follows me."
"Certes they are neatly cloth'd. I of this mind am,
Your only wearing is your grogaram."
"Not so, sir, I have more." Under this pitch
He would not fly; I chaff'd him; but as itch
Scratch'd into smart, and as blunt iron ground
Into an edge, hurts worse; so I (fool) found
Crossing hurt me. To fit my sullenness,
He to another key his style doth dress,
And asks, "What news?" I tell him of new plays.
He takes my hand, and as a still which stays
A sembrief, 'twixt each drop, he niggardly,
As loth to enrich me, so tells many a lie,
More than ten Holinsheds, or Halls, or Stows,
Of trivial household trash, he knows. He knows
When the Queen frown'd, or smil'd, and he knows what
A subtle statesman may gather of that;
He knows who loves; whom; and who by poison
Hastes to an office's reversion;
He knows who'hath sold his land, and now doth beg
A licence, old iron, boots, shoes, and egg{-}
Shells to transport; shortly boys shall not play
At span-counter, or blow-point, but shall pay
Toll to some courtier; and wiser than all us,
He knows what lady is not painted. Thus
He with home meats tries me. I belch, spew, spit,
Look pale and sickly, like a patient, yet
He thrusts on more; and as if he'd undertook
To say Gallo-Belgicus without book,
Speaks of all states, and deeds, that have been since
The Spaniards came, to the loss of Amiens.
Like a big wife, at sight of loathed meat,
Ready to travail, so I sigh and sweat
To hear this Macaron talk. In vain; for yet,
Either my humour, or his own to fit,
He, like a privileg'd spy, whom nothing can
Discredit, libels now 'gainst each great man.
He names a price for every office paid;
He saith, our wars thrive ill, because delay'd;
That offices are entail'd, and that there are
Perpetuities of them, lasting as far
As the last day; and that great officers
Do with the pirates share, and Dunkirkers.
...
Toughly and stubbornly I bear this cross; but the' hour
Of mercy now was come; he tries to bring
Me to pay a fine to 'scape his torturing,
And says, "Sir, can you spare me"--I said, "Willingly";
"Nay, sir, can you spare me a crown"? Thankfully I
Gave it, as ransom; but as fiddlers, still,
Though they be paid to be gone, yet needs will
Thrust one more jig upon you; so did he
With his long complimental thanks vex me.
But he is gone, thanks to his needy want,
And the prerogative of my crown; scant
His thanks were ended, when I (which did see
All the court fill'd with more strange things than he)
Ran from thence with such, or more haste than one
Who fears more actions doth make from prison.


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Read poems about / on: thanks, smart, travel, justice, destiny, loss, pride, together, children, fear, home, child, rose, running, soldier



Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004



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