By John Donne
Elegy on His Mistress
The heavens rejoice in motion ; why should I
Abjure my so much loved variety,
And not with many youth and love divide ?
Pleasure is none, if not diversified.
The sun that, sitting in the chair of light,
Sheds flame into what else so ever doth seem bright,
Is not contented at one sign to inn,
But ends his year, and with a new begin.
All things do willingly in change delight,
The fruitful mother of our appetite ;
Rivers the clearer and more pleasing are,
Where their fair-spreading streams run wide and clear ;
And a dead lake, that no strange bark doth greet,
Corrupts itself, and what doth live in it.
Let no man tell me such a one is fair,
And worthy all alone my love to share.
Nature in her hath done the liberal part
Of a kind mistress, and employed her art,
To make her loveable, and I aver
Him not humane, that would turn back from her.
I love her well, and would, if need were, die,
To do her service. But follows it that I
Must serve her only, when I may have choice ?
The law is hard, and shall not have my voice.
The last I saw in all extremes is fair,
And holds me in the sunbeams of her hair ;
Her nymph-like features such agreements have,
That I could venture with her to the grave.
Another's brown ; I like her not the worse ;
Her tongue is soft and takes me with discourse.
Others, for that they well descended were,
Do in my love obtain as large a share ;
And though they be not fair, 'tis much with me
To win their love only for their degree.
And though I fail of my required ends,
The attempt is glorious and itself commends.
How happy were our sires in ancient time,
Who held plurality of loves no crime.
With them it was accounted charity
To stir up race of all indifferently ;
Kindred were not exempted from the bands,
Which with the Persian still in usage stands.
Women were then no sooner ask'd than won,
And what they did was honest and well done.
But since this little Honour hath been used,
Our weak credulity hath been abused ;
The golden laws of nature are repeal'd,
Which our first fathers in such reverence held ;
Our liberty reversed and charters gone ;
And we made servants to Opinion ;
A monster in no certain shape attired,
And whose original is much desired,
Formless at first, but growing on its fashions,
And doth prescribe manners and laws to nations.
Here love received immedicable harms,
And was despoiled of his daring arms ;
A greater want than is his daring eyes,
He lost those awful wings with which he flies,
His sinewy bow and those immortal darts,
With which he is wont to bruise resisting hearts.
Only some few, strong in themselves and free,
Retain the seeds of ancient liberty,
Following that part of love although depress'd,
Yet make a throne for him within their breast,
In spite of modern censures him avowing
Their sovereign, all service him allowing.
Amongst which troop although I am the least,
Yet equal in perfection with the best,
I glory in subjection of his hand,
Nor ever did decline his least command ;
For in whatever form the message came
My heart did open and receive the same,
But time will in his course a point descry
When I this lovèd service must deny ;
For our allegiance temporary is ;
With firmer age returns our liberties.
What time in years and judgment we reposed,
Shall not so easily be to change disposed,
Nor to the art of several eyes obeying,
But beauty with true worth securely weighing ;
Which being found assembled in some one
We'll leave her ever, and love her alone.