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Elegy XVIII: Love's Progress Analysis

Author: poem of John Donne Type: poem Views: 49

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Who ever loves, if he do not propose

The right true end of love, he's one that goes

To sea for nothing but to make him sick.

Love is a bear-whelp born: if we o'erlick

Our love, and force it new strange shapes to take,

We err, and of a lump a monster make.

Were not a calf a monster that were grown

Faced like a man, though better than his own?

Perfection is in unity: prefer

One woman first, and then one thing in her.

I, when I value gold, may think upon

The ductileness, the application,

The wholsomeness, the ingenuity,

From rust, from soil, from fire ever free;

But if I love it, 'tis because 'tis made

By our new nature (Use) the soul of trade.

All these in women we might think upon

(If women had them) and yet love but one.

Can men more injure women than to say

They love them for that by which they're not they?

Makes virtue woman? Must I cool my blood

Till I both be, and find one, wise and good?

May barren angels love so! But if we

Make love to woman, virtue is not she,

As beauty's not, nor wealth. He that strays thus

From her to hers is more adulterous

Than if he took her maid. Search every sphere

And firmament, our Cupid is not there;

He's an infernal god, and under ground

With Pluto dwells, where gold and fire abound:

Men to such gods their sacrificing coals

Did not in altars lay, but pits and holes.

Although we see celestial bodies move

Above the earth, the earth we till and love:

So we her airs contemplate, words and heart

And virtues, but we love the centric part.

Nor is the soul more worthy, or more fit,

For love than this, as infinite is it.

But in attaining this desired place

How much they err that set out at the face.

The hair a forest is of ambushes,

Of springs, snares, fetters and manacles;

The brow becalms us when 'tis smooth and plain,

And when 'tis wrinkled shipwrecks us again—

Smooth, 'tis a paradise where we would have

Immortal stay, and wrinkled 'tis our grave.

The nose (like to the first meridian) runs

Not 'twixt an East and West, but 'twixt two suns;

It leaves a cheek, a rosy hemisphere,

On either side, and then directs us where

Upon the Islands Fortunate we fall,

(Not faint Canaries, but Ambrosial)

Her swelling lips; to which when we are come,

We anchor there, and think ourselves at home,

For they seem all: there Sirens' songs, and there

Wise Delphic oracles do fill the ear;

There in a creek where chosen pearls do swell,

The remora, her cleaving tongue doth dwell.

These, and the glorious promontory, her chin,

O'erpassed, and the straight Hellespont between

The Sestos and Abydos of her breasts,

(Not of two lovers, but two loves the nests)

Succeeds a boundless sea, but yet thine eye

Some island moles may scattered there descry;

And sailing towards her India, in that way

Shall at her fair Atlantic navel stay;

Though thence the current be thy pilot made,

Yet ere thou be where thou wouldst be embayed

Thou shalt upon another forest set,

Where many shipwreck and no further get.

When thou art there, consider what this chase

Misspent by thy beginning at the face.

Rather set out below; practise my art.

Some symetry the foot hath with that part

Which thou dost seek, and is thy map for that,

Lovely enough to stop, but not stay at;

Least subject to disguise and change it is—

Men say the devil never can change his.

It is the emblem that hath figured

Firmness; 'tis the first part that comes to bed.

Civility we see refined; the kiss

Which at the face began, transplanted is,

Since to the hand, since to the imperial knee,

Now at the papal foot delights to be:

If kings think that the nearer way, and do

Rise from the foot, lovers may do so too;

For as free spheres move faster far than can

Birds, whom the air resists, so may that man

Which goes this empty and ethereal way,

Than if at beauty's elements he stay.

Rich nature hath in women wisely made

Two purses, and their mouths aversely laid:

They then which to the lower tribute owe

That way which that exchequer looks must go:

He which doth not, his error is as great

As who by clyster gave the stomach meat.


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