Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
Satire III. Of Religion
KIND pity chokes 1 my spleen; brave scorn forbids
Those 2 tears to issue, which swell my eyelids.
I must not laugh, nor weep sins, and be wise. 3
Can railing, then, cure these worn maladies?
Is not our mistress, fair Religion,        5
As worthy of all our souls’ devotion,
As virtue was in the first 4 blinded 5 age?
Are not heaven’s joys as valiant to assuage
Lusts, as earth’s honour was to them? Alas,
As we do them in means, shall they surpass        10
Us in the end? and shall thy father’s spirit
Meet blind philosophers in heaven, whose merit
Of strict life may be imputed faith, and hear
Thee, whom he taught so easy ways, and near
To follow, damn’d? Oh, if thou darest, fear this;        15
This fear great courage and high valour is.
Darest thou aid mutinous Dutch; and 6 darest thou lay
Thee in ships, wooden sepulchres, a prey
To leaders’ rage, to storms, to shot, to dearth?
Darest thou dive seas, and dungeons of the earth? 7        20
Hast thou courageous fire to thaw the ice
Of frozen North discoveries; and thrice
Colder than salamanders, like divine
Children in th’ oven, fires of Spain and the line,
Whose countries limbecs to our bodies be,        25
Canst thou for gain bear? and must every he
Which cries not, ‘Goddess!’ to thy mistress, draw,
Or eat thy poisonous words? courage of straw!
O desperate coward, wilt thou seem bold, and
To thy foes, and his, who made thee to stand        30
Sentinel 8 in his world’s garrison, thus yield,
And for forbid 9 wars leave th’ appointed field?
Know thy foes; the foul devil, he 10 whom thou
Strivest to please, for hate, not love, would allow
Thee fain his whole realm to be quit; and as        35
The world’s all parts wither away and pass,
So the world’s self, thy other loved foe, is
In her decrepit wane, and thou loving this,
Dost love a wither’d and worn strumpet; last,
Flesh, itself’s death, 11 and joys which flesh can taste,        40
Thou lovest; and thy fair goodly soul, which doth
Give this flesh power to taste joy, thou dost loathe.
Seek true religion, O where? Mirreus,
Thinking her unhoused here and fled from us,
Seeks her at Rome, there, because he doth know        45
That she was there a thousand years ago;
And loves 12 the rags so, as we here obey
The state-cloth where the prince sate yesterday.
Crants 13 to such brave loves will not be enthrall’d,
But loves her only who at Geneva ’s call’d        50
Religion, plain, simple, sullen, young,
Contemptuous yet unhandsome; as among
Lecherous humours, there is one that judges 14
No wenches wholesome, but coarse country drudges.
Graius stays still at home here, and because        55
Some preachers, vile ambitious bawds, and laws,
Still new, like fashions, bid him think that she
Which dwells with us, is only perfect, he
Embraceth her, whom his godfathers will
Tender to him, being tender; as wards still        60
Take such wives as their guardians offer, or
Pay values. Careless Phrygius 15 doth abhor
All, because all cannot be good; as one,
Knowing some women whores, dares marry 16 none.
Gracchus loves all as one, and thinks that so        65
As women do in divers countries 17 go
In divers habits, yet are still one kind,
So doth, so is religion; and this blind—
Ness too much light breeds. But unmoved thou
Of force must one, and forced but one allow;        70
And the right. Ask thy father which is she;
Let him ask his. Though Truth and Falsehood be
Near twins, yet Truth a little elder is.
Be busy to seek her; believe me this,
He’s not of none, nor worst, that seeks the best.        75
To adore, or scom an image, or protest,
May all be bad. Doubt wisely; in strange way,
To stand inquiring right, is not to stray; 18
To sleep, or run wrong, is. On a huge 19 hill,
Cragged 20 and steep, Truth stands, and he that will        80
Reach her, about must and about 21 must go,
And what th’ hill’s suddenness resists, 22 win so.
Yet strive so, that before age, death’s twilight,
Thy soul 23 rest, for none can work in that night. 24
To will implies delay, therefore now do        85
Hard deeds, the body’s pains; hard knowledge to
The mind’s endeavours reach; and mysteries
Are like the sun, dazzling, yet plain to all eyes.
Keep the truth which thou hast found; men do not stand
In so ill 25 case, that God hath with His hand        90
Signed kings blank-charters, 26 to kill whom they hate;
Nor are they vicars, but hangmen to fate.
Fool and wretch, wilt thou let thy soul be tied
To man’s laws, by which she shall not be tried
At the last day? or 27 will it then boot thee 28        95
To say a Philip or a Gregory,
A Harry or a Martin, taught thee 29 this?
Is not this excuse for mere contraries
Equally strong? cannot both sides say so?
That thou mayst rightly obey power, her bounds know;        100
Those past, her nature and name is changed; 30 to be
Then humble to her is idolatry.
As streams are, power is; those blest flowers, that dwell 31
At the rough stream’s calm head, thrive and do well, 32
But having left their roots, and themselves given        105
To the stream’s tyrannous rage, alas, are driven
Through mills, rocks, 33 and woods, and at last, almost
Consumed in going, in the sea are lost.
So perish souls, which more choose men’s unjust
Power from God claim’d, than God Himself to trust.        110
Note 1. l. 1. 1635, checks; 1669, cheeks [back]
Note 2. l. 2. Harl., These [back]
Note 3. l. 3. 1669, but be wise [back]
Note 4. l. 7. 1635, to the first [back]
Note 5. l. 7. Harl., blind [back]
Note 6. l. 17. Harl., omits and [back]
Note 7. l. 20. Harl., dangers of the earth [back]
Note 8. l. 31. Harl., Soldier [back]
Note 9. l. 32. So 1635; 1633, forbidden [back]
Note 10. l. 33. So 1635; 1633, he’s; Harl., omits he [back]
Note 11. l. 40. So 1635; 1633, itself death [back]
Note 12. l. 47. So 1635; 1669, He loves [back]
Note 13. l. 49. 1669, Grants [back]
Note 14. l. 53. Harl., which judges [back]
Note 15. l. 62. Harl., Prigas [back]
Note 16. l. 64. Harl., will marry [back]
Note 17. l. 66. Harl., has divers fashions, and line 67 is written as an interlineation. [back]
Note 18. l. 78. Harl., stay [back]
Note 19. l. 79. Harl., high [back]
Note 20. l. 80. Harl., Rugged [back]
Note 21. l. 81. 1669, and about it; Harl., and about [back]
Note 22. l. 82. Harl., resist [back]
Note 23. l. 84. Harl., mind [back]
Note 24. l. 84. So 1633, 1669; 1635, the night [back]
Note 25. l. 90. Harl., evil [back]
Note 26. l. 91. Harl., blank charts [back]
Note 27. l. 95. So 1635; 1633 omits Or; Harl., Oh [back]
Note 28. l. 95. Harl., serve thee [back]
Note 29. l. 97. 1669, taught me [back]
Note 30. l. 101. 1669, are changed [back]
Note 31. l. 103. Harl., which dwell [back]
Note 32. l. 104. Harl., prove well [back]
Note 33. l. 107. So 1635; 1633, and rocks; in Harl. and has been erased. [back]

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