Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
Appendix A. Doubtful Poems
To the Young Gentlewomen
BEWARE, fair maid, 1 of musky courtier’s oaths;
  Take heed what gifts and favours you receive;
Let not the fading gloss of silken clothes
  Dazzle thy virtues, or thy fame bereave.
For loose but once the hold thou hast of grace,        5
Who will respect thy favour or thy face?
Each greedy hand doth catch to spoil the flower,
  Where none regards the stalk it grew upon;
Each creature loves the fruit still to devour,
  And let the tree to fall or grow alone.        10
But this advice, fair creature, take from me;
Let none take fruit unless he take the tree.
Believe not oaths nor much protesting men,
  Credit no vows, nor no bewailing songs;
Let courtiers swear, forswear, and swear again,        15
  Their hearts do live ten regions from their tongues;
And when with oaths they make the heart to tremble
Believe them least, for then they most dissemble.
Beware, lest Caesar do corrupt thy mind,
  And foul ambition sell thy modesty;        20
Say tho’ a king thou ever courteous find,
  He cannot pardon thy impurity;
Begin with king, to subject you will fall,
From lord to lackey, and at last to all. 2
Note 1. l. 1. Sim. maids [back]
Note 2. ll. 23, 24. Simeon prints an alternative ending—
  Do with but one, with thousands thou’st turned whore:
Break you in one place, you will break in more.

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