Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
Satire II. “Sir, though—I thank God for it—I do hate”
SIR, though—I thank God for it—I do hate
Perfectly all this town, yet there’s one state
In all ill things so excellently best, 1
That hate toward them breeds pity towards 2 the rest.
Though poetry indeed be such a sin        5
As I think that brings dearth 3 and Spaniards in;
Though like the pestilence and old-fashion’d love,
Riddlingly it 4 catch men, and doth remove
Never, till it be starved out, yet their state
Is poor, disarm’d, like Papists, not worth hate.        10
One—like a wretch, which at bar judged as dead
Yet prompts him, which stands next and cannot read,
And saves his life—gives idiot actors means,
Starving himself, to live by his labour’d scenes.
As in some organ, puppets dance above        15
And bellows pant below, which them do move,
One would move love by rhythms; 5 but witchcraft’s charms
Bring not now their old fears, nor their old harms.
Rams and slings now are silly battery;
Pistolets are the best artillery.        20
And they who write to lords, rewards to get,
Are they not like singers at doors 6 for meat?
And they who write, because all write, have still
That excuse for writing, and for writing ill.
But he is worst, who (beggarly) doth chaw        25
Others’ wits’ fruits, and in his ravenous maw
Rankly digested, doth those things out-spew,
As his own things; and they’re his own, ’tis true;
For if one eat my meat, though it be known
The meat was mine, th’ excrement is his own.        30
But these do me no harm, nor they which use
To out-do ——, and out-usure Jews,
To out-drink the sea, to out-swear the ——; 7
Who with sins of 8 all kinds as familiar be
As confessors, and for whose sinful sake        35
School-men new tenements in hell must make;
Whose strange sins canonists could hardly tell
In which commandment’s large receipt they dwell;
But these punish themselves. The insolence
Of Coscus only breeds my just offence, 9        40
Whom time—which rots all, and makes botches pox,
And plodding on, must make a calf an ox—
Hath made a lawyer; which was, 10 alas, of late
But scarce a poet; jollier of this state,
Than are new beneficed ministers, he throws,        45
Like nets or lime-twigs, wheresoe’er he goes,
His title of barrister on every wench,
And wooes in language of the pleas and bench.
‘A motion, lady’—speak Coscus—‘I have been
In love e’er since tricesimo of the Queen,        50
Continual claims I’ve made, injunctions got,
To stay my rival’s suit, that he should not
Proceed.’—Spare me.—‘In Hilary term I went,
You said, if I return’d next ’size in Lent,
I should be in remitter of your grace;        55
In th’ interim my letters should take place
Of affidavits.’ Words, words, which would tear
The tender labyrinth of a soft maid’s 11 ear,
More, more than ten Sclavonians scolding, 12 more
Than when winds in our ruin’d abbeys roar.        60
When sick with poetry, and possess’d with Muse
Thou wast, and mad, I hoped; but men, which choose
Law-practice for mere gain, bold soul[s] 13 repute
Worse than embrothell’d strumpets, prostitute.
Now like an owl-like watchman, he must walk        65
His hand still at a bill, now he must talk
Idly, like prisoners, which whole months will swear,
The only suretyship hath brought them there,
And to every suitor lie in everything,
Like a king’s favourite, or like a king; 14        70
Like a wedge in a block, wring to the bar,
Bearing like asses, and more shameless far
Than carted whores; lie to the grave judge, for
Bastardy ’bounds not in king’s titles, nor
Simony and sodomy in churchmen’s lives, 15        75
As these things do in him; by these he thrives.
Shortly, as the sea, he’ll compass all the land, 16
From Scots to Wight, from Mount to Dover strand;
And spying heirs melting with luxury, 17
Satan will not joy at their sins, as he.        80
For as a thrifty wench scrapes kitchen stuff,
And barrelling the droppings, and the snuff
Of wasting candles, which in thirty year
(Relicly kept) 18 perchance buys wedding-gear; 19
Piecemeal he gets lands, and spends as much time        85
Wringing each acre, as men 20 pulling prime.
In parchment then, large as his fields, 21 he draws
Assurances, big as gloss’d civil laws,
So huge, that men, in our time’s forwardness,
Are Fathers of the church for writing less.        90
These he writes not, nor for these written 22 pays;
Therefore spares no length—as in those first days
When Luther was profess’d, he did desire
Short paternosters, saying as a friar
Each day his beads, but having left those laws,        95
Adds to Christ’s prayer the Power and Glory clause.
But when he sells or changes land, he impairs
His writings, and, unwatch’d, leaves out, ses heires,
As slyly as any commenter goes by
Hard words, or sense; or, in divinity,        100
As controverters in vouch’d texts leave out
Shrewd words, which might against them clear the doubt.
Where are those spread woods which clothed heretofore
Those bought lands? not built, nor burnt within door.
Where the old landlord’s troops, and alms? In halls 23        105
Carthusian fasts, and fulsome Bacchanals
Equally I hate. Mean’s blest; 24 in rich men’s homes
I bid kill some beasts, but no hecatombs;
None starve, none surfeit so. But oh, we allow
Good works, as good, but out of fashion now,        110
Like old rich wardrobes. But my words none draws
Within the vast reach of th’ huge statute’s jaws. 25
Note 1. l. 3. Harl., has a double version—
  Sir, though (I thank God for it) I do hate
                    there is one
All this town perfectly, yet in every state
  In all ill things so excellently best
There are some found so villanously best.
Note 2. l. 4. 1635, toward … toward; 1669, towards … towards [back]
Note 3. l. 6. Harl., I’m afraid brings dearths [back]
Note 4. l. 8. Harl., It riddlingly [back]
Note 5. l. 17. Harl., rimes [back]
Note 6. l. 22. Harl., boys singing at door [back]
Note 7. l. 33. 1635, the Litany [back]
Note 8. l. 34. 1635, omits of [back]
Note 9. l. 40. Harl., my great offence [back]
Note 10. l. 43. 1635 omits was [back]
Note 11. l. 58. 1669, maid’s soft [back]
Note 12. l. 59. 1669, scolding’s [back]
Note 13. l. 63. All edd., soule [back]
Note 14. l. 70. Harl., yea, like a king [back]
Note 15. ll. 69, 70, 74, 75. In 1633 these lines are represented by dashes. They are inserted in 1635. [back]
Note 16. l. 77. Harl., our land [back]
Note 17. l. 79. Harl., gluttony [back]
Note 18. l. 84. Harl., Relic-like kept [back]
Note 19. l. 84. 1669, wedding-cheer [back]
Note 20. l. 86. 1669, maids [back]
Note 21. l. 87. 1669, the fields [back]
Note 22. l. 91. Harl., these writings [back]
Note 23. l. 105. So 1635; 1633, Where’s … great halls; Harl., In great halls [back]
Note 24. l. 107. So 1635; 1633 and Harl., bless [back]
Note 25. l. 112. So 1669; 1633, statute laws [back]

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