On His Mistress (Elegy XVI)
by John Donne (1572-1631)
By our first strange and fatal interview,
By all desires which thereof did ensue,
By our long starving hopes, by that remorse
Which my words’ masculine persuasive force
Begot in thee, and by the memory
Of hurts which spies and rivals threatened me,
I calmly beg; but by thy parents’ wrath,
By all pains which want and divorcement hath,
I conjure thee; and all those oaths which I
And thou have sworn, to seal joint constancy,
Here I unswear, and overswear them thus:
Thou shalt not love by means so dangerous.
Temper, O fair Love, love’s impetuous rage,
Be my true mistress still, not my feigned page.
I’ll go, and, by thy kind leave, leave behind
Thee, only worthy to nurse in my mind
Thirst to come back; O, if thou die before,
From other lands my soul towards thee shall soar.
Thy (else almighty) beauty cannot move
Rage from the seas, nor thy love teach them love,
Nor tame wild Boreas’ harshness: thou hast read
How roughly he in pieces shivered
Fair Orithea, whom he swore he loved.
Fall ill or good, ’tis madness to have proved
Dangers unurged; feed on this flattery,
That adsent lovers one in the other be.
Dissemble nothing, not a boy, nor change
Thy body’s habit, nor mind’s; be not strange
To thyself only; all will spy in thy face
A blushing womanly discovering grace.
Richly clothed apes are called apes, and as soon
Eclipsed as bright, we call the moon the moon.
Men of France, changeable chameleons,
Spittles of diseases, shops of fashions,
Love’s fuellers, and the rightest company
Of players, which upon the world’s stage be,
Will quickly know thee, and know thee; and alas,
The indifferent Italian, as we pass
His warm land, well content to think thee page,
Will haunt thee, with such lust and hideous rage
As Lot’s fair guests were vexed: but none of these,
Nor spongy hydroptic Dutch, shall thee displease,
If thou stay here. O stay here, for, for thee
England is only a worthy gallery,
To walk in expectation, till from thence
Our great King call thee into his presence.
When I am gone, dream me some happiness,
Nor let thy looks our long-hid love confess,
Nor praise, nor dispraise me, bless, nor curse
Openly love’s force; nor in bed fright thy nurse
With midnight’s startings, crying out, ‘Oh, Oh,
Nurse, Oh, my love is slain; I saw him go
O’er the white Alps, alone; I saw him, I,
Assailed, fight, taked, stabbed, bleed, fall, and die.’
Augur me better chance, except dread Jove
Think it enough for me to have had thy love.