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John Donne



S a t i r e  II

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,
That hate, towards them, breeds pity towards the rest.
Though poetry indeed be such a sin
As I think that brings dearths, and Spaniards in,
Though like the pestilence and old fashioned love,
Riddlingly it catch men; and doth remove
Never, till it be starved out; yet their state
Is poor, disarmed, like papists, not worth hate.
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 laboured scenes;
As in some organ, puppets dance above
And bellows pant below, which them do move.
One would move love by rhymes; 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.
And they who write to lords, rewards to get,
Are they not like singers at doors for meat?
And they who write, because all write, have still
That excuse for writing, and for writing ill.
But he is worse, who (beggarly) doth chaw
Others' wits' fruits, and in his ravenous maw
Rankly digested, doth those things out spew,
As his own things; and they are his own, 'tis true,
For if one eat my meat, though it be known
The meat was mine, th' excrement is his own.
But these do me no harm, nor they which use
To outdo dildoes, and out-usure Jews;
To out-drink the sea, to outswear the Litany;
Who with sins' all kinds as familiar be
As confessors; and for whose sinful sake,
Schoolmen 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,
Whom time (which rots all, and makes botches pox,
And plodding on, must make a calf an ox)
Hath made a lawyer, which was alas of late
But a scarce poet; jollier of this state,
Than are new beneficed ministers, he throws
Like nets, or lime-twigs, wheresoe'er he goes,
His title of barrister, on every wench,
And woos in language of the Pleas, and Bench:
«A motion, Lady»; «Speak Coscus»; «I have been
In love, ever since tricesimo of the Queen,
Continual claims I have 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 returned next 'size in Lent,
I should be in remitter of your grace;
In th' interim my letters should take place
Of affidavits»; words, words, which would tear
The tender labyrinth of a soft maid's ear,
More, more, than ten Sclavonians scolding, more
Than when winds in our ruined abbeys roar.
When sick with poetry, and possessed with Muse
Thou wast, and mad, I hoped; but men which choose
Law practice for mere gain, bold soul, repute
Worse than embrothelled strumpets prostitute.
Now like an owl-like watchman, he must walk
His hand still at a bill, now he must talk
Idly, like prisoners, which whole months will swear
That only suretyship hath brought them there,
And to every suitor lie in everything,
Like a king's favourite, yea like a king;
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 abounds not in kings' titles, nor
Simony and sodomy in churchmen's lives,
As these things do in him; by these he thrives.
Shortly (as the sea) he will compass all our land;
From Scots, to Wight; from Mount, to Dover strand.
And spying heirs melting with luxury.
Satan will not joy at their sins, as he.
For as a thrifty wench scrapes kitchen stuff,
And barrelling the droppings, and the snuff,
Of wasting candles, which in thirty year
(Relic-like kept) perchance buys wedding gear;
Piecemeal he gets lands, and spends as much time
Wringing each acre, as men pulling prime.
In parchments then, large as his fields, he draws
Assurances, big, as glossed civil laws,
So huge, that men (in our time's forwardness)
Are Fathers of the Church for writing less.
These he writes not; nor for these written pays,
Therefore spares no length; as in those first days
When Luther was professed, he did desire
Short «Pater nosters», saying as a friar
Each day his beads, but having left those laws,
Adds to Christ's prayer, the power and glory clause.
But when he sells or changes land, he impairs
His writings, and (unwatched) leaves out, «ses heires»,
As slily as any commenter goes by
Hard words, or sense; or in Divinity
As controverters, in vouched 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's th' old landlord's troops, and alms? In great halls
Carthusian fasts, and fulsome bacchanals
Equally I hate; means bless; 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,
Like old rich wardrobes; but my words none draws
Within the vast reach of the huge statute laws.
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