Elegie II

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Elegie II
by John Donne

This elegy is a parody of Jacobean love poetry. Donne composes metaphors out of the traditional elements, however he arranges comparisons that would have been unappealing to his contemporaries. The effect is that the elegy uses the style of love poetry to seemingly offer praise, while actually meaning the opposite.

This trancription is of the 1633 printing of Poems and duplicates the use of the long s. A modernized edition is availble at Elegy II (1896).

Marry, and love thy Flavia, for, ſhee
Hath all things, whereby others beautious bee,
For, though her eyes be ſmall, her mouth is great,
Though they be Ivory, yet her teeth be jeat,
Though they be dimme, yet ſhe is light enough,
And though her harſh haire fall, her skinne is rough;
What though her cheeks be yellow, her haire's red,
Give her thine, and ſhe hath a maydenhead.
Theſe things are beauties elements, where theſe
Meet in one, that one muſt, as perfect, pleaſe.
If red and white and each good quality
Be in thy wench, ne'r aske where it doth lye.
In buying things perfum'd, we aske; if there
Be muske and amber in it, but not where.
Though all her parts be not in th'uſuall place,
She'hath yet an Anagram of a good face.
If we might put the letters but one way,
In the leane dearth of words, what could wee ſay?
When by the Gamut ſome Muſitions make
A perfect ſong, others will undertake,
By the ſame Gamut chang'd, to equall it.
Things ſimply good, can never be unfit;
She's faire as any, if all be like her,
And if none bee, then ſhe is ſingular.
All love is wonder; if wee juſtly doe
Account her wonderfull, why not lovely too?
Love built on beauty, ſoone as beauty, dies,
Chuſe this face, chang'd by no deformities;
Women are like Angels; the faire be
Like thoſe which fell to worſe; but ſuch as ſhee,
Like to good Angels, nothing can impaire:
'Tis leſſe griefe to be foule, then to'have beene faire.
For one nights revels, ſilke and gold we chuſe,
But, in long journeyes, cloth, and leather uſe.
Beauty is barren oft; beſt huſbands ſay
There is beſt land, where there is fouleſt way.
Oh what a ſoveraigne Plaiſter will ſhee bee
If thy paſt ſinnes have taught thee jealouſie!
Here needs no ſpies, nor eunuches; her commit
Safe to thy foes; yea, to a Marmoſit.
When Belgiaes citties, the round countries drowne,
That durty fouleneſſe guards, and armes the towne:
So doth her face guard her; and ſo, for thee,
Which, forc'd by buſineſſe, abſent oft muſt bee,
Shee, whoſe face, like clouds, turnes the day to night,
Who, mightier thē the ſea, makes Moores ſeem white,
Who, though ſeaven yeares, ſhe in the Stews had laid,
A Nunnery durſt receive, and thinke a maid,
And though in childbeds labour ſhe did lie,
Midwifes would ſweare, 'twere but a tympanie,
Whom, if ſhee accuſe her ſelfe, I credit leſſe
Then witches, which impoſſibles confeſſe.
One like none, and lik'd of none, fitteſt were,
For, things in faſhion every man will weare.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.