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JOHN DONNE (1573-1631)


A lily of a day,

Is fairer far, in May;
Although it fall and die that night,

It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.



I can love both fair and brown;
Her whom abundance melts, and her whom

want betrays; Her who loves loneness best, and her who

masks and plays; Her whom the country form’d, and whom the

town; Her who believes, and her who tries; Her who still weeps with spongy eyes, And her who is dry cork and never cries. I can love her, and her, and you, and you; I can love any, so she be not true.


Weep with me, all you that read

This little story:
And know, for whom a tear you shed

Death's self is sorry.
'Twas a child that so did thrive

In grace and feature, As heaven and nature seem'd to strive

Which owned the creature.
Years he numbered scarce thirteen

When fates turned cruel,
Yet three filled zodiacs 2 had he been

The stage's jewel;
And did act, what now we moan,

Old men so duly,
As, sooth, the Parcæ 3 thought him one,

He played so truly.
So, by error, to his fate

They all consented;
But viewing him since, alas, too late!

They have repented;
And have sought, to give new birth,

In baths to steep him ;
But being so much too good for earth,

Heaven vows to keep him.

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Venus heard me sigh this song ;
And by love's sweetest part, variety, she

swore, She heard not this till now; it should be so no


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Sure, they which made him god, meant not so

much, Nor he in his young godhead practiced it. But when an even flame two hearts did touch,

His office was indulgently to fit Actives to passives. Correspondency Only his subject was; it cannot be Love till I love her who loves me.


Love's martyr, it might breed idolatry
If into other hands these reliques came.

As 'twas humility
T'afford to it all that a soul can do,

So 'tis some bravery That, since you would have none of me, I bury some of you.



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If poisonous minerals, and if that tree
Whose fruit threw death on else immortal us,
If lecherous goats, if serpents envious
Cannot be damn'd, alas ! why should I be?
Why should intent or reason, born in me,
Make sins, else equal, in me more heinous ?
And, mercy being easy and glorious
To God, in His stern wrath why threatens He?

But who am I, that dare dispute with Thee?
O God, O! of Thine only worthy blood
And my tears make a heavenly Lethean flood,
And drown in it my sin's black memory.
That Thou remember them, some claim as

debt; I think it mercy if Thou wilt forget.

Rebel and atheist too, why murmur I,
As though I felt the worst that love could

do? Love may make me leave loving, or might try

A deeper plague, to make her love me too; Which, since she loves before, I'm loth to see. Falsehood is worse than hate; and that must

be, If she whom I love, should love me. 28

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JOHN FLETCHER (1579-1625)



Beauty clear and fair,

Where the air
Rather like a perfume dwells;

Where the violet and the rose

Their blue veins and blush disclose, And come to honour nothing else.

Hence, all you vain delights,
As short as are the nights

Wherein you spend your folly!
There's nought in this life sweet,
If man were wise to see't,

5 But only melancholy;

O sweetest melancholy ! Welcome, folded arms and fixed eyes, A sigh that piercing mortifies, A look that's fastened to the ground, A tongue chained up without a sound ! Fountain heads and pathless groves, Places which pale passion loves ! Moonlight walks, when all the fowls Are warmly housed save bats and owls ! 15

Where to live near,

And planted there,
Is to live, and still live new;

Where to gain a favour is

More than light, perpetual bliss, — Make me live by serving you.


I 2

Dear, again back recall

To this light
A stranger to himself and all;

Both the wonder and the story

Shall be yours, and eke the glory: I am your servant, and your thrall.



A midnight bell, a parting groan,

These are the sounds we feed upon. Then stretch our bones in a still gloomy valley; Nothing's so dainty sweet as lovely melan




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1 the god of relaxation





LETTER TO BEN JONSON The sun (which doth the greatest comfort

bring To absent friends, because the selssame thing They know they see, however absent) is Here our best haymaker! Forgive me this; It is our country's style! In this warm shine I lie and dream of your full Mermaid Wine! 6

Only strong Destiny, which all controls, 70 I hope hath left a better fate in store For me, thy friend, than to live ever poor, Banished unto this home! Fate, once again, Bring me to thee, who canst make smooth and

plain The way of knowledge for me; and then I, Who have no good but in thy company, Protest it will my greatest comfort be To acknowledge all I have to flow from thee! Ben, when these scenes are perfect, we'll

taste wine ! I'll drink thy Muse's health ! thou shalt quaff mine!


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Methinks the little wit I had is lost

40 Since I saw you! For wit is like a rest Held ? up at tennis, which men do the best With the best gamesters. What things have

we seen Done at the Mermaid ! hcard words that have

been So nimble and so full of subtle flame, As if that every one from whence they came Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest And had resolved to live a fool the rest Of his dull life! Then, when there hath been

thrown Wit able enough to just the town

50 For three days past ! Wit, that might war

rant be For the whole city to talk foolishly Till that were cancelled! And, when we were

gone, We left an air behind us, which alone Was able to make the two next companies Right witty! though but downright fools,

more wise ! When I remember this, and see that now The country gentlemen begin to allow My wit for dry bobs ; 3 then I needs must cry, “I see my days of ballading grow nigh!” 60

I can already riddle; and can sing Catches, sell bargains; and I fear shall bring Myself to speak the hardest words I find Over as oft as any, with one wind, That takes no medicines ! But one thought

of thee
Makes me remember all these things to be
The wit of our young men, fellows that show
No part of good, yet utter all they know !
Who, like trees of the guard, have growing

1 rally 2 kept 3 smart quips or hits

A passing glance, a lightning 'long the skies, That, ush'ring thunder, dies straight to our

sight; A spark, of contraries which doth arise, Then drowns in the huge depths of day and

night : Is this small Small call'd life, held in such price Of blinded wights, who nothing judge aright. Of Parthian shaft so swift is not the flight As life, that wastes itself, and living dies. ( ! what is human greatness, valour, wit ? What fading beauty, riches, honour, praise? 10 To what doth serve in golden thrones to sit, Thrall earth's vast round, triumphal arches

raise? All is a dream, learn in this prince's fall, In whom, save death, nought mortal was at all.

MADRIGAL I This life, which seems so fair, Is like a bubble blown up in the air By sporting children's breath, Who chase it everywhere, And strive who can most motion it bequeath; And though it sometime seem of its own might, Like to an eye of gold, to be fix'd there, 7 And firm to hover in that empty height, That only is because it is so light. But in that pomp it doth not long appear; 10 For even when most admir'd, it in a

thought, As swell’d from nothing, doth dissolve in


JOHN FORD (fl. 1639)

GEORGE WITHER (1588-1667)








Can you paint a thought? or number
Every fancy in a slumber?
Can you count soft minutes roving
From a dial's point by moving?
Can you grasp a sigh? or, lastly,
Rob a virgin's honour chastely?

No, 0, no! yet you may
Sooner do both that and this,
This and that, and never miss,

Than by any praise display Beauty's beauty; such a glory, As beyond all fate, all story,

All arms, all arts,

All loves, all hearts, Greater than those or they, Do, shall, and must obey.

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CHOR. Glories, pleasures, pomps, de

lights, and ease, Can but please The outward senses, when the

mind Is or untroubled or by peace

refined. IST VOICE. Crowns may flourish and decay, 5

Beauties shine, but fade away. 2ND VOICE. Youth may revel, yet it must

Lie down in a bed of dust. 3RD VOICE. Earthly honours flow and waste,

Time alone doth change and

last. CHOR. Sorrows mingled with contents

prepare Rest for care; Love only reigns in death;

though art Can find no comfort for a broken


'Cause her fortune seems too high,
Shall I play the fool, and die?
Those that bear a noble mind,
Where they want of riches find;
Think “What, with them, they would do
That, without them, dare to woo !”

And unless that mind I see,
What care I though great she be? 32



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