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To the Countess of Bedford. Madam,

I have learned by those laws wherein I am a little conversant, that he which bestows any cost upon the dead, obliges him which is dead, but not the heir; I do not therefore send this paper to your ladyship, that you should thank me for it, or think that I thank you in it; your favours and benefits to me are so much above my merits, that they are even above my gratitude, if that were to be judged by words which must express it : But, madam, since your noble brother's fortune being yours, the evidences also concerning it are yours, so his virtue being yours, the evidences concerning it, belong also to you, of which by your acceptance this may be one piece, in which quality I humbly present it, and as a testimony how entirely your family possesseth Your ladyship’s most humble and thankful servant,

Joux Donne.

Fair soul, which wast, not only, as all souls be,
Then when thou wast infused, harmony,
But did'st continue so; and now dost bear
Apart in God's great organ, this whole sphere:
If looking up to God, or down to us,
Thou find that any way is pervious,
'Twixt heaven and earth, and that man's actions do
Come to your knowledge, and affections too,
See, and with joy, me to that good degree
Of goodness grown, that I can study thee,
And, by these meditations refin'd,
Can unapparel and enlarge my mind,
And so can make by this soft extasy,
This place a map of heaven, myself of thee.
Thou seest me here at midnight, now all rest;
Time's dead low water; when all minds divest
To-morrow's business, when the labourers have
Such rest in bed, that their last church-yard grave,
Subject to change, will scarce be a type of this,
Now when the client, whose last hearing is
To-morrow, sleeps, when the condemned man,
(Who when he opes his eyes, must shut them than
Again by death,) although sad watch he keep,
Doth practise dying by a little sleep,

Thou at this midnight see'st me, and as soon As that sun rises to me, midnight's noon, All the world grows transparent, and I see Through all, both church and state, in seeing thee; And I discern by favour of this light, Myself, the hardest object of the sight. God is the glass; as thou when thou dost see Him who sees all, see'st all concerning thee, So, yet unglorified, I comprehend All, in these mirrors of thy ways, and end; Though God be our true glass, through which we see All, since the being of all things is he, Yet are the trunks which do to us derive Things, in proportion fit by perspective, Deeds of good men, for by their living here, Virtues, indeed remote, seem to be near; But where can I affirm, or where arrest My thoughts on his deeds ? which shall I call best? For fluid virtue cannot be look'd on, Nor can endure a contemplation; As bodies change, and as I do not wear Those spirits, humours, blood I did last year; And, as if on a stream I fix mine eye, That drop, which I looked on, is presently Pushed with more waters from my sight, and gone, So in this sea of virtues, can no one Be insisted on; virtues, as rivers, pass, Yet still remains that virtuous man there was; And as if man feeds on man's flesh, and so Part of his body to another owe, Yet at the last two perfect bodies rise, Because God knows where every atom lies; So, if one knowledge were made of all those, Who knew his minutes well, he might dispose His virtues into names, and ranks; but I Should injure nature, virtue, and destiny, Should I divide and discontinue so, Virtue, which did in one entireness grow. For as he that would say, spirits are fram'd Of all the purest parts that can be nam'd, Honours not spirits half so much, as he Which says, they have no parts, but simple be ;

So is it of virtue ; for a point and one Are much entirer than a million. And had fate meant to have his virtues told, It would have let him live to have been old, So then, that virtue in season, and then this, We might have seen, and said, that now he is Witty, now wise, now temperate, now just : In good short lives, virtues are fain to thrust, And to be sure betimes to get a place, When they would exercise, lack time, and space. So was it in this person, forced to be For lack of time, his own epitome. So to exhibit in few years as much, As all the long breath'd chronicles can touch ; As when an angel down from heaven doth fly, Our quick thought cannot keep him company, We cannot think, now he is at the sun, Now through the moon, now he through the air doth run, Yet when he's come, we know he did repair To all twixt heaven and earth, sun, moon and air. And as this angel in an instant, knows, And yet we know, this sudden knowledge grows By quick amassing several forms of things, Which he successively to order brings; When they, whose slow-paced lame thoughts cannot go So fast as he, think that he doth not so ; Just as a perfect reader doth not dwell, On every syllable, nor stay to spell, Yet without doubt he doth distinctly see And lay together every A, and B; So, in short lived good men, is not understood Each several virtue, but the compound good. For, they all virtue's paths in that pace tread, As angels go, and know, and as men read. O why should then these men, these lumps of balm Sent thither, the world's tempest to becalm, Before by deeds they are diffused and spread, And so make us alive, themselves be dead? O soul, O circle, why so quickly be Thy ends, thy birth and death, closed up in thee? Since one foot of thy compass still was placed In heaven, the other might securely have paced

In the most large extent, through every path,
Which the whole world, or man, the abridgment hath.
Thou know'st, that though the tropic circles have
(Yea and those small ones whieh the poles engrave,)
All the same roundness, evenness, and all
The endlessness of the equinoctial;
Yet, when we come to measure distances,
How here, how there, the sun affected is,
When he doth faintly work, and when prevail,
Only great circles then can be our scale :
So, though thy circle to thyself express
All, tending to thy endless happiness,
And we by our good use of it may try,
Both how to live well young, and how to die,
Yet since we must be old, and age endures
His torrid zone at court, and calentures
Of hot ambitions, irreligion's ice,
Zeal's agues; and hydroptic avarice,
Infirmities which need the scale of truth,
As well, as lust and ignorance of youth;
Why did’st thou not for these give medicines too,
And by thy doing tell us what to do?
Though as small pocket-clocks, whose every wheel
Doth each mismotion and distemper feel,
Whose hands get shaking palsies, and whose string
(His sinews) slackens, and whose soul, the spring,
Expires, or languishes, whose pulse, the fly,
Either beats not, or beats unevenly,
Whose voice, the bell, doth rattle, or grow dumb,
Or idle, as men, which to their last hours come,
If these clocks be not wound, or be wound still,
Or be not set, or set at every will ;
So, youth is easiest to destruction,
If then we follow all, or follow none;
Yet, as in great clocks, which in steeples chime,
Placed to inform whole towns, to employ their time,
An error doth more harm, being general,
When small clocks' faults, only on the wearer fall.
So work the faults of age, on which the eye
Of children, servants, or the state rely.
Why would'st not thou then, which had'st such a soul,
A clock so true, as might the sun controul,

And daily hadst from him, who gave it thee,
Instructions, such as it could never be
Disordered, stay here, as a general
And great sun-dial, to have set us all ?
O why would'st thou be any instrument '
To this unnatural course, or why consent
To this, not miracle, but prodigy,
That when the ebbs longer than flowings be,
Virtue, whose flood did with his youth begin,
Should so much faster ebb out, than flow in?
Though her flood was blown in, by thy first breath,
All is at once sunk in the whirlpool death.
Which word I would not name, but that I see
Death, else a desert, grown a court by thee.
Now I grow sure, that if a man would have
Good company, his entry is a grave.
Methinks all cities, now, but ant-hills be,
Where when the several labourers I see,
For children, house, provision, taking pain,
They are all but ants, carrying eggs, straw, and grain*;
And church-yards are our cities, unto which
The most repair, that are in goodness rich.
There is the best concourse, and confluence,
There are the holy suburbs, and from thence
Begins God's city, New Jerusalem,
Which doth extend her utmost gates to them ;
At that gate then, triumphant soul, dost thou
Begin thy triumph ; but since laws allow
That at the triumph day, the people may,
All that they will, 'gainst the triumpher say,
Let me here use that freedom, and express
My grief, though not to make thy triumph less.
By law, to triumphs none admitted be,
Till they as magistrates get victory,
Though then to thy force, all youth's foes did yield,
Yet till fit time had brought thee to that field
To which thy rank in this state destined thee,
That there thy counsels might get victory,

* Speaking of the consternation at Queen Elizabeth's death, he says, “When every one of you in the city were running up and down like ants with their eggs bigger than themselves, every man with his bags, Almighty God sent down his spirit of unity.” -SERM. cliv.

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