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John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
 
Letters to Several Personages
To Mr. Christopher Brooke: The Calm
 
OUR storm is past, and that storm’s tyrannous rage
A stupid calm, but nothing it, doth ’suage.
The fable is inverted, and far more
A block afflicts, now, than a stork 1 before.
Storms chafe, and soon wear out themselves, or us;        5
In calms, Heaven laughs to see us languish thus.
As steady as I could wish my thoughts were,
Smooth as thy mistress’ glass, or what shines there,
The sea is now, and, as these isles which we
Seek, when we can move, our ships rooted be.        10
As water did in storms, now pitch runs out;
As lead, when a fired church becomes one spout.
And all our beauty and our trim decays,
Like courts removing, or like ended 2 plays.
The fighting-place now seamen’s rags 3 supply;        15
And all the tackling is a frippery.
No 4 use of lanthorns; and in one place lay
Feathers and dust, to-day and yesterday.
Earth’s hollownesses, which the world’s lungs are,
Have no more wind than th’ upper vault of air.        20
We can nor lost friends nor sought foes recover,
But meteor-like, save that we move not, hover.
Only the calenture together draws
Dear friends, which meet dead in great fishes’ maws; 5
And on the hatches, as on altars, lies        25
Each one, his own priest and own sacrifice.
Who live, that miracle do multiply,
Where walkers in hot ovens do not die.
If in despite of these we swim, that hath
No more refreshing than a brimstone bath; 6        30
But from the sea into the ship we turn,
Like parboil’d wretches, on the coals to burn.
Like Bajazet encaged, the shepherds’ scoff,
Or like slack-sinew’d Samson, his hair off,
Languish our ships. Now as a myriad        35
Of ants durst th’ emperor’s loved snake invade,
The crawling gallies, sea-gulls, 7 finny chips,
Might brave our pinnaces, now 8 bed-rid ships.
Whether a rotten state, and hope of gain,
Or to disuse me from the queasy pain        40
Of being beloved and loving, or the thirst
Of honour or fair death, out-push’d me first,
I lose my end; for here, as well as I,
A desperate may live, and coward 9 die.
Stag, dog, and all which from or towards flies,        45
Is paid with life or prey, or doing dies.
Fate grudges us all, and doth subtly lay
A scourge, ’gainst which we all forget 10 to pray.
He that at sea prays for more wind, as well
Under the poles may beg cold, heat in hell.        50
What are we then? How little more, alas,
Is man now, than, before he was, he was?
Nothing for us, we are for nothing fit; 11
Chance, or ourselves, still disproportion it.
We have no power, no will, no sense; I lie,        55
I should not then thus feel this misery.
 
Note 1. l. 4. So 1633, 1650; 1639, a stroke [back]
Note 2. l. 14. 1669, ending [back]
Note 3. l. 15. 1669, rage [back]
Note 4. l. 17. 1669, Now [back]
Note 5. l. 24. So 1635; 1633, jaws [back]
Note 6. l. 30. So 1635; 1633, our brimstone bath [back]
Note 7. l. 37. So 1635; 1633, 1669, sea-goals [back]
Note 8. l. 38. So 1635; 1633, our venices, now; 1669, with Venice’s, our [back]
Note 9. l. 44. So 1635; 1633, and a coward [back]
Note 10. l. 48. 1669, forgot [back]
Note 11. ll. 52, 53. So 1669;
  1633
Is man now, than before he was? He was
Nothing; for us, we are for nothing fit.
1635
Is man now, than, before he was, he was?
Nothing; for us, we are for nothing fit.
 [back]
 
 
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