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Two Poems by John Donne

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Love’s Exchange

Love, any devil else but you
Would for a given soul give something too.
At court your fellows every day
Give th’ art of rhyming, huntsmanship, or play,
For them which were their own before;
Only I have nothing, which gave more,
But am, alas! by being lowly, lower.

I ask no dispensation now,
To falsify a tear, or sigh, or vow;
I do not sue from thee to draw
A non obstante on nature’s law;
These are prerogatives, they inhere
In thee and thine; none should forswear
Except that he Love’s minion were.

Give me thy weakness, make me blind,
Both ways, as thou and thine, in eyes and mind;
Love, let me never know that this
Is love, or, that love childish is;
Let me not know that others know
That she knows my paines, lest that so
A tender shame make me mine own new woe.

If thou give nothing, yet thou ‘rt just,
Because I would not thy first motions trust;
Small towns which stand stiff, till great shot
Enforce them, by war’s law condition not;
Such in Love’s warfare is my case;
I may not article for grace,
Having put Love at last to show this face.

This face, by which he could command
And change th’ idolatry of any land,
This face, which, wheresoe’er it comes,
Can call vow’d men from cloisters, dead from tombs,
And melt both poles at once, and store
Deserts with cities, and make more
Mines in the earth, than quarries were before.

For this Love is enraged with me,
Yet kills not; if I must example be
To future rebels, if th’ unborn
Must learn by my being cut up and torn,
Kill, and dissect me, Love; for this
Torture against thine own end is;
Rack’d carcasses make ill anatomies.

Break of Day

‘Tis true, ’tis day; what though it be?
O, wilt thou therefore rise from me?
Why should we rise because ’tis light?
Did we lie down because ’twas night?
Love, which in spite of darkness brought us hither,
Should in despite of light keep us together.

Light hath no tongue, but is all eye;
If it could speak as well as spy,
This were the worst that it could say,
That being well I fain would stay,
And that I loved my heart and honour so
That I would not from him, that had them, go.

Must business thee from hence remove?
O ! that’s the worst disease of love,
The poor, the foul, the false, love can
Admit, but not the busied man.
He which hath business, and makes love, doth do
Such wrong, as when a married man doth woo.

John Donne, from: Songs and Sonets (ca. 1605-10)

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