Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
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John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
 
To The Right Honourable William Lord Craven
 
Baron of Hampsted-Marsham. 1
  MY LORD,
      Many of these poems have, for several impressions, wandered up and down, trusting (as well they might) upon the author’s reputation; neither do they now complain of any injury but what may proceed either from the kindness of the printer, or the courtesy of the reader; the one by adding something too much, lest any spark of this sacred fire might perish undiscerned, the other by putting such an estimation upon the wit and fancy they find here, that they are content to use it as their own: as if a man should dig out the stones of a royal amphitheatre to build a stage for a country show. Amongst all the monsters this unlucky age has teemed with, I find none so prodigious as the poets of these later times, wherein men, as if they would level understandings too as well as estates, acknowledging no inequality of parts and judgments, pretend as indifferently to the chair of wit as to the pulpit, and conceive themselves no less inspired with the spirit of poetry than with that of religion: so it is not only the noise of drums and trumpets which have drowned the Muses’ harmony, or the fear that the Church’s ruin will destroy their priests likewise, that now frights them from this country, where they have been so ingenuously received; but these rude pretenders to excellencies they unjustly own, who profanely rushing into Minerva’s temple, with noisome airs blast the laurel which thunder cannot hurt. In this sad condition these learned sisters are fled over to beg your lordship’s protection, who have been so certain a patron both to arts and arms, and who in this general confusion have so entirely preserved your honour, that in your lordship we may still read a most perfect character of what England was in all her pomp and greatness, so that although these poems were formerly written upon several occasions, and to several persons, they now unite themselves, and are become one pyramid to set your lordship’s statue upon, where you may stand like armed Apollo the defender of the Muses, encouraging the poets now alive to celebrate your great acts by affording your countenance to his poems that wanted only so noble a subject.
My Lord,
Your most humble servant,        
JOHN DONNE.    
  1
 
Note 1. From the edition of 1650. [back]
 
 
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