Satire II of Dr. John Donne, Versified

Yes; thank my stars! as early as I knew
This Town, I had the sense to hate it too:
Yet here, as ev'n in Hell, there must be still
One Giant-Vice, so excellently ill,
That all beside, one pities, not abhors;
As who knows Sapho, smiles at other whores.
I grant that Poetry's a crying sin;
It brought (no doubt) th' Excise and Army in:
Catch'd like the Plague, or Love, the Lord knows how,
But that the cure is starving, all allow.
Yet like the Papist's, is the Poet's state,
Poor and disarm'd, and hardly worth your hate!
Here a lean Bard, whose wit could never give
Himself a dinner, makes an Actor live:
The Thief condemn'd, in law already dead,
So prompts, and saves a rogue who cannot read.
Thus as the pipes of some carv'd Organ move,
The gilded puppets dance and mount above.
Heav'd by the breath th' inspiring bellows blow:
Th' inspiring bellows lie and pant below.
One sings the Fair; but songs no longer move;
No rat is rhym'd to death, nor maid to love:
In love's, in nature's spite, the siege they hold,
And scorn the flesh, the dev'l, and all but gold.
These write to Lords, some mean reward to get,
As needy beggars sing at doors for meat.
Those write because all write, and so have still
Excuse for writing, and for writing ill.
Wretched indeed! but far more wretched yet
Is he who makes his meal on others wit:
'Tis chang'd, no doubt, from what it was before,
His rank digestion makes it wit no more:
Sense, past thro' him, no longer is the same;
For food digested takes another name.
I pass o'er all those Confessors and Martyrs,
Who live like Sutton, or who die like Chartres,
Out-cant old Esdras, or out-drink his heir,
Out-usure Jews, or Irishmen out-swear;
Wicked as Pages, who in early years
Act sins which Prisca's Confessor scarce hears.
Ev'n those I pardon, for whose sinful sake
Schoolmen new tenements in hell must make;
Of whose strange crimes no Canonist can tell
In what Commandment's large contents they dwell.
One, one man only breeds my just offence;
Whom crimes gave wealth, and wealth gave Impudence:
Time, that at last matures a clap to pox,
Whose gentle progress makes a calf an ox,
And brings all natural events to pass,
Hath made him an Attorney of an Ass.
No young divine, new-benefic'd, can be
More pert, more proud, more positive than he.
What further could I wish the fop to do,
But turn a wit, and scribble verses too;
Pierce the soft lab'rinth of a Lady's ear
With rhymes of this per cent . and that per year?
Or court a Wife, spread out his wily parts,
Like nets or lime-twigs, for rich Widows' hearts?
Call himself Barrister to ev'ry wench,
And wooe in language of the Pleas and Bench?
Language, which Boreas might to Auster hold
More rough than forty Germans when they scold.
Curs'd be the wretch! so venal and so vain;
Paltry and proud, as drabs in Drury-lane.
'Tis such a bounty as was never known,
If Peter deigns to help you to your own:
What thanks, what praise, if Peter but supplies,
And what a solemn face if he denies!
Grave, as when pris'ners shake the head and swear
'Twas only Suretyship that brought 'em there.
His Office keeps your Parchment fates entire,
He starves with cold to save them from the fire;
For you he walks the streets thro' rain or dust,
For not in Chariots Peter puts his trust;
For you he sweats and labours at the laws,
Takes God to witness he affects your cause,
And lies to ev'ry Lord in ev'ry thing.
Like a King's Favourite — or like a King.
These are the talents that adorn them all,
From wicked Waters ev'n to godly **
Not more of Simony beneath black gowns,
Nor more of bastardy in heirs to Crowns.
In shillings and in pence at first they deal;
And steal so little, few perceive they steal;
Till, like the Sea, they compass all the land,
From Scots to Wight, from Mount to Dover strand:
And when rank Widows purchase luscious nights,
Or when a Duke to Jansen punts at White's,
Or City-heir in mortgage melts away;
Satan himself feels far less joy than they.
Piecemeal they win this acre first, then that,
Glean on, and gather up the whole estate.
Then strongly fencing ill-got wealth by law,
Indentures, Cov'nants, Articles they draw,
Large as the fields themselves, and larger far
Than Civil Codes, with all their Glosses, are;
So vast, our new Divines, we must confess,
Are Fathers of the Church for writing less.
First turn plain rash, then vanish quite away.
This thing has travell'd, speaks each language too,
And knows what's fit for every state to do;
Of whose best phrase and courtly accent join'd,
He forms one tongue, exotic and refin'd.
Talkers I've learn'd to bear; Motteux I knew,
Henley himself I've heard, and Budgel too.
The Doctor's Wormwood style, the Hash of tongues
A Pedant makes, the storm of Gonson's lungs,
The whole Artill'ry of the terms of War,
And (all those plague in one) the bawling Bar:
These I cou'd bear; but not a rogue so civil,
Whose tongue will compliment you to the devil.
A tongue, that can cheat widows, cancel scores,
Make Scots speak treason, cozen subtlest whores,
With royal Favourites in flatt'ry vie,
And Oldmixon and Burnet both out-lie.
He spies me out. I whisper, Gracious God!
What sin of mine could merit such a rod?
That all the shot of dulness now must be
From this thy blunderbuss discharg'd on me!
Permit (he cries) no stranger to your fame
To crave your sentiment, if — 's your name.
What Speech esteem you most? " The King's ," said I.
But the best words? — " O Sir, the Dictionary ."
You miss my aim; I mean the most acute
And perfect Speaker? — " Onslow, past dispute."
But, Sir, of writers? " Swift, for closer style,
But Hoadly for a period of a mile."
Why yes, 'tis granted, these indeed may pass
Good common linguists, and so Panurge was;
Nay troth, th' Apostles (tho' perhaps too rough)
Had once a pretty gift of Tongues enough:
Yet these were all poor Gentlemen! I dare
Affirm, 'twas Travel made them what they were.
Thus others talents having nicely shown,
He came by sure transition to his own:
Till I cry'd out, You prove yourself so able,
Pity! you was not Druggerman at Babel;
For had they found a linguist half so good,
I make no question but the Tow'r had stood.
" Obliging Sir! for Courts you sure were made:
Why then for ever bury'd in the shade?
Spirits like you, should see and should be seen,
The King would smile on you — at least the Queen."
Ah gentle Sir! you Courtiers so cajol us —
But Tully has it, Nunquam minus solus:
And as for Courts, forgive me, if I say
No lessons now are taught the Spartan way:
Tho' in his pictures Lust be full display'd,
Few are the Converts Aretine has made;
And tho' the Court show Vice exceeding clear,
None should, by my advice, learn Virtue there.
At this entranc'd, he lifts his hands and eyes,
Squeaks like a high-stretch'd lutestring, and replies:
" Oh 'tis the sweetest of all earthly things
To gaze on Princes, and to talk of Kings!"
Then, happy Man who shows the Tombs! said I,
He dwells amidst the royal Family;
He ev'ry day, from King to King can walk,
Of all our Harries, all our Edwards talk,
And get by speaking truth of monarchs dead,
What few can of the living, Ease and Bread.
" Lord, Sir, a meer Mechanic! strangely low,
And coarse of phrase, — your English all are so.
How elegant your Frenchmen?" Mine, d'ye mean?
I have but one, I hope the fellow's clean.
" Oh! Sir, politely so! nay, let me die,
Your only wearing is your Padua-soy."
Not, Sir, my only, I have better still,
And this you see is but my dishabille —
Wild to get loose, his Patience I provoke,
Mistake, confound, object at all he spoke.
But as coarse iron, sharpen'd, mangles more,
And itch most hurts when anger'd to a sore;
So when you plague a fool, 'tis still the curse,
You only make the matter worse and worse.
He past it o'er; affects an easy smile
At all my peevishness, and turns his style.
He asks, " What News?" I tell him of new Plays,
New Eunuchs, Harlequins, and Operas.
He hears, and as a Still with simples in it,
Between each drop it gives, stays half a minute,
Loth to enrich me with too quick replies,
By little, and by little, drops his lies.
Meer houshold trash! of birth-nights, balls, and shows,
More than ten Holingsheds, or Halls, or Stows.
When the Queen frown'd, or smil'd, he knows; and what
A subtle Minister may make of that:
Who sins with whom: who got his Pension rug.
Or quicken'd a Reversion by a drug:
Whose place is quarter'd out, three parts in four,
And whether to a Bishop, or a Whore:
Who having lost his credit, pawn'd his rent,
Is therefore fit to have a Government:
Who in the secret, deals in Stocks secure,
And cheats th' unknowing Widow and the Poor:
Who makes a Trust or Charity a Job,
And gets an Act of Parliament to rob:
Why Turnpikes rise, and now no Cit nor clown
Can gratis see the country, or the town:
Shortly no lad shall chuck, or lady vole,
But some excising Courtier will have toll.
He tells what strumpet places sells for life,
What 'Squire his lands, what citizen his wife:
And last (which proves him wiser still than all)
What Lady's face is not a whited wall.
As one of Woodward's patients, sick, and sore,
I puke, I nauseate, — yet he thrusts in more:
Trims Europe's balance, tops the statesman's part,
And talks Gazettes and Post-boys o'er by heart.
Like a big wife at sight of loathsome meat,
Ready to cast, I yawn, I sigh, and sweat.
Then as a licens'd spy, whom nothing can
Silence or hurt, he libels the great Man;
Swears ev'ry place entail'd for years to come,
In sure succession to the day of doom:
He names the price for ev'ry office paid,
And says our wars thrive ill, because delay'd:
Nay hints, 'tis by connivance of the Court,
That Spain robs on, and Dunkirk's still a Port.
Not more amazement seiz'd on Circe's guests,
To see themselves fall endlong into beasts,
Than mine, to find a subject stay'd and wise
Already half turn'd traytor by surprize.
I felt th' infection slide from him to me,
As in the pox, some give it to get free;
And quick to swallow me, methought I saw
One of our Giant Statutes ope its jaw.
In that nice moment, as another Lye
Stood just a-tilt, the Minister came by.
To him he flies, and bows, and bows again,
Then, close as Umbra, joins the dirty train.
Not Fannius' self more impudently near,
When half his nose is in his Prince's ear.
I quak'd at heart; and still afraid to see
All the Court fill'd with stranger things than he,
Ran out as fast, as one that pays his bail
And dreads more actions, hurries from a jail.
Bear me, some God, oh quickly bear me hence
To wholsome Solitude, the nurse of sense:
Where Contemplation prunes her ruffled wings,
And the free soul looks down to pity Kings!
There sober thought pursu'd th' amusing theme,
Till Fancy colour'd it, and form'd a Dream.
A Vision hermits can to Hell transport,
And forc'd ev'n me to see the damn'd at Court.
Not Dante dreaming all th' infernal state,
Beheld such scenes of envy, sin, and hate.
Base Fear becomes the guilty, not the free;
Suits Tyrants, Plunderers, but suits not me:
Shall I, the Terror of this sinful town,
Care, if a liv'ry'd Lord or smile or frown?
Who cannot flatter, and detest who can,
Tremble before a noble Serving-man?
O my fair mistress, Truth! shall I quit thee
For huffing, braggart, puft Nobility?
Thou, who since yesterday hast roll'd o'er all
The busy, idle blockheads of the ball,
Hast thou, oh Sun! beheld an emptier sort,
Than such as swell this bladder of a court?
Now pox on those who shew a Court in wax!
It ought to bring all courtiers on their backs:
Such painted puppets! such a varnish'd race
Of hollow gew-gaws, only dress and face!
Such waxen noses, stately, staring things —
No wonder some folks bow, and think them Kings.
See! where the British youth, engag'd no more
At Fig's, at White's, with felons, or a whore,
Pay their last duty to the Court, and come
All fresh and fragrant, to the Drawing-room;
In hues as gay, and odours as divine,
As the fair fields they sold to look so fine.
" That's velvet for a King!" the flatt'rer swears;
'Tis true, for ten days hence 'twill be King Lear's.
Our Court may justly to our stage give rules,
That helps it both to fools-coats and to fools.
And why not players strut in courtiers cloaths?
For these are actors too, as well as those:
Wants reach all states; they beg but better drest,
And all is splendid poverty at best.
Painted for sight, and essenc'd for the smell,
Like frigates fraught with spice and cochine'l,
Sail in the Ladies: how each pyrate eyes
So weak a vessel, and so rich a prize!
Top-gallant he, and she in all her trim,
He boarding her, she striking sail to him:
" Dear Countess! you have charms all hearts to hit!"
And " Sweet Sir Fopling! you have so much wit!"
Such wits and beauties are not prais'd for nought,
For both the beauty and the wit are bought.
'Twou'd burst ev'n Heraclitus with the spleen,
To see those anticks, Fopling and Courtin:
The Presence seems, with things so richly odd,
The mosque of Mahound, or some queer Pa-god.
See them survey their limbs by Durer's rules,
Of all beau-kind the best proportion'd fools!
Adjust their cloaths, and to confession draw
Those venial sins, an atom, or a straw;
But oh! what terrors must distract the soul
Convicted of that mortal crime, a hole;
Or should one pound of powder less bespread
Those monkey tails that wag behind their head.
Thus finish'd, and corrected to a hair,
They march, to prate their hour before the Fair.
So first to preach a white-glov'd Chaplain goes,
With band of Lilly, and with cheek of Rose,
Sweeter than Sharon, in immac'late trim,
Neatness itself impertinent in him.
Let but the Ladies smile, and they are blest:
Prodigious! how the things protest, protest:
Peace, fools, or Gonson will for Papists seize you,
If once he catch you at your Jesu! Jesu!
Nature made ev'ry Fop to plague his brother,
Just as one Beauty mortifies another.
But here's the Captain that will plague them both,
Whose air cries Arm! whose very look's an oath:
The Captain's honest, Sirs, and that's enough,
Tho' his soul's bullet, and his body buff.
He spits fore-right; his haughty chest before,
Like batt'ring rams, beats open ev'ry door
And with a face as red, and as awry,
As Herod's hang-dogs in old Tapestry,
Scarecrow to boys, the breeding woman's curse,
Has yet a strange ambition to look worse;
Confounds the civil, keeps the rude in awe,
Jests like a licens'd fool, commands like law.
Frighted, I quit the room, but leave it so
As men from Jayls to execution go;
For hung with deadly sins I see the wall,
And lin'd with Giants deadlier than 'em all:
Each man an Askapart , of strength to toss
For Quoits, both Temple-bar and Charing-cross.
Scar'd at the grizly forms, I sweat, I fly,
And shake all o'er, like a discover'd spy.
Courts are too much for wits so weak as mine:
Charge them with Heav'n's Artill'ry, bold Divine!
From such alone the Great rebukes endure,
Whose Satire's sacred, and whose rage secure:
'Tis mine to wash a few light stains, but theirs
To deluge sin, and drown a Court in tears.
Howe'er what's now Apocrypha , my Wit,
In time to come, may pass for Holy Writ.
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