Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
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John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
 
Elegies
II. The Anagram
 
MARRY, and love thy Flavia, for she
Hath all things, whereby others beauteous be;
For, though her eyes be small, her mouth is great;
Though they be ivory, 1 yet her teeth be jet;
Though they be dim, yet she is light enough;        5
And though her harsh hair fall, 2 her skin is tough; 3
What though her cheeks be yellow, her hair’s red,
Give her thine, and she hath a maidenhead.
These things are beauty’s elements; where these
Meet in one, that one must, as perfect, please.        10
If red and white, and each good quality
Be in thy wench, ne’er ask where it doth lie.
In buying things perfumed, we ask, if there
Be musk and amber in it, but not where.
Though all her parts be not in th’ usual place,        15
She hath yet an anagram 4 of a good face.
If we might put the letters but one way,
In that lean dearth of words, what could we say?
When by the gamut some musicians make
A perfect song, others will undertake,        20
By the same gamut changed, to equal it.
Things simply good can never be unfit;
She’s fair as any, if all be like her;
And if none be, then she is singular.
All love is wonder; if we justly do        25
Account her wonderful, why not lovely too?
Love built on beauty, soon as beauty, dies;
Choose this face, changed by no deformities.
Women are all like angels; the fair be
Like those which fell to worse; but such as she,        30
Like to good angels, nothing can impair:
’Tis less grief to be foul, than to have been fair.
For one night’s revels, silk and gold we choose,
But, in long journeys, cloth, and leather use.
Beauty is barren oft; best husbands say        35
There is best land, where there is foulest way.
Oh, what a sovereign plaster will she be,
If thy past sins have taught thee jealousy!
Here needs no spies, nor eunuchs; her commit
Safe to thy foes, yea, to a marmoset.        40
Like Belgia’s cities the round country drowns,
That dirty foulness guards and arms the towns, 5
So doth her face guard her; and so, for thee,
Which forced by business, absent oft must be,
She, whose face, like clouds, turns the day to night; 6        45
Who, mightier than the sea, 7 makes Moors seem white;
Who, though seven years she in the stews had laid,
A nunnery durst receive, and think a maid;
And though in childbed’s 8 labour she did lie,
Midwives would swear, ’twere but a tympany;        50
Whom, if she accuse herself, I credit less
Than witches, which impossibles confess;
One like none, and liked of none, fittest were;
For things in fashion every man will wear.
 
Note 1. l. 4. 1669, theirs be ivory [back]
Note 2. l. 6. 1669, hair’s foul [back]
Note 3. l. 16. 1669, the anagrams [back]
Note 4. l. 16. 1669, the anagrams [back]
Note 5. l. 41–2. 1633—
  When Belgia’s cities the round countries drown
That dirty foulness guards and arms the town
1669—
Like Belgia’s cities when the country is drowned,
That dirty foulness guards and arms the towns.
 [back]
Note 6. l. 45. St. MS., like the clouds, turns day to night. [back]
Note 7. l. 46. Farmer-Chetham MS. the sun, [back]
Note 8. l. 49. 1669, child-birth’s [back]
 
 
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