Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
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John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
 
Letters to Several Personages
To Sir Henry Wotton, at his going Ambassador to Venice
 
AFTER those reverend papers, whose soul is
  Our good and great king’s loved hand and fear’d name;
By which to you he derives much of his,
  And, how he may, makes you almost the same,
 
A taper of his torch, a copy writ        5
  From his original, and a fair beam
Of the same warm and dazzling sun, though it
  Must in another sphere his virtue stream;
 
After those learned papers which your hand
  Hath stored with notes of use and pleasures 1 too,        10
From which rich treasury you may command
  Fit matter whether you will write or do;
 
After those loving papers where friends send,
  With glad grief to your sea-ward steps, farewell,
Which thicken on you now, as prayers ascend        15
  To heaven in troops, 2 at a good man’s passing-bell;
 
Admit this honest paper, and allow
  It such an audience as yourself would ask;
What you must say at Venice, this means now, 3
  And hath 4 for nature, what you have for task.        20
 
To swear much love, not to be changed 5 before
  Honour, alone will to your fortune fit;
Nor shall I then honour your fortune, more
  Than I have done your honour, wanting it. 6
 
But ’tis an easier load, though both oppress,        25
  To want, than govern greatness, for we are
In that, our own and only business,
  In this, we must for others’ vices care.
 
’Tis therefore well your spirits now are placed
  In their last furnace, in activity;        30
Which fits them—schools and courts and wars o’erpast—
  To touch and test 7 in any best degree.
 
For me—if there be such a thing as I—
  Fortune—if there be such a thing as she—
Spies 8 that I bear so well her tyranny,        35
  That she thinks nothing else so fit for me.
 
But, though she part us, to hear my oft prayers
  For your increase, God is as near me here;
And to send you what I shall beg, His stairs
  In length and ease are alike everywhere.        40
 
Note 1. l. 10. 1635, pleasure [back]
Note 2. l. 16. Walton (1670), on troops [back]
Note 3. l. 19. Walton, What you would … says now [back]
Note 4. l. 20. Walton, And has [back]
Note 5. l. 21. Walton, nor to be changed [back]
Note 6. l. 24. 1635, noble-wanting-wit; Walton, honour-wanting-wit [back]
Note 7. l. 32. 1669, and Walton, taste [back]
Note 8. l. 35. Walton, Finds [back]
 
 
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