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Poem by John Donne

To the Countess of Bedford, on New Years Day

THIS twilight of two years, not past, nor next,	
  Some emblem is of me, or I of this;	
Whometeor-like, of stuff and form perplexd,	
  Whose what and where in disputation is	
  If I should call me anything, should miss.	        
I sum the years, and me, and find me not	
  Debtor to th old, nor creditor to th new.	
That cannot say, My thanks I have forgot,	
  Nor trust I this with hopes; and yet scarce true	
  This bravery is, since these times showd me you.	        
In recompense I would show future times	
  What you were, and teach them to urge towards such.	
Verse embalms virtue; and tombs, or thrones, of rhymes	
  Preserve frail transitory fame, as much	
  As spice doth bodies from corrupt airs touch.	        
Mine are short-lived; the tincture of your name	
  Creates in them, but dissipates as fast,	
New spirits; 1 for strong agents with the same	
  Force, that doth warm and cherish us, do waste; 	
  Kept hot with strong extracts, no bodies last.	        
So, my verse, built of your just praise, might want	
  Reason and likelihood, the firmest base;	
And made of miracle, now faith is scant,	
  Will vanish soon, and so possess no place;	
  And you, and it, too much grace might disgrace.	        
When allas truth commands assentconfess	
  All truth of you, yet they will doubt how I	
One corn of one low ant-hills dust, and less	
  Should name, know, or express a thing so high,	
  Andnot an inchmeasure infinity.	        
I cannot tell them, nor myself, nor you,	
  But leave, lest truth be endangerd by my praise,	
And turn to God, who knows I think this true,	
  And useth oft, when such a heart mis-says,	
  To make it good, for such a praiser prays. 	        
He will best teach you, how you should lay out	
  His stock of beauty, learning, favour, blood;	
He will perplex security with doubt,	
  And clear those doubts; hide from you, and show you good;	
  And so increase your appetite and food.	        
He will teach you, that good and bad have not	
  One latitude in cloisters, and in court;	
Indifferent there the greatest space hath got;	
  Some pity s not good there; some vain disport,	
  On this side sin, with that place may comport.	        
Yet He, as He bounds seas, will fix your hours,	
  Which pleasure and delight may not ingress;	
And, though what none else lost be truliest yours,	
  He will make you, what you did not, possess,	
  By using others (not vice, but) weakness.	        
He will make you speak truths, and credibly,	
  And make you doubt that others do not so;	
He will provide you keys, and locks, to spy,	
  And scape spies, to good ends, and He will show	
  What you may not acknowledge, what not know.	        
For your own conscience, He gives innocence,	
  But, for your fame, a discreet wariness;	
Andthough to scape, than to revenge offence	
  Be betterHe shows both, and to repress	
  Joy, when your state swells, sadness, when tis less.	        
From need of tears He will defend your soul,	
  Or make a re-baptizing of one tear;	
He cannotthat s, He will notdis-enroll	
  Your name; and when with active joy we hear	
  This private gospel, then tis our New Year.

John Donne

John Donne's other poems:
  1. Fall of a Wall
  2. Break of Day
  3. Nativity
  4. Crucifying
  5. The Soule

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