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out, yet it contributes, though not to the being, yet to the verdure, and freshness thereof. Letters have truly the same office, as oaths. As these amongst light and empty men, are but fillings, and pauses, and interjections; but with weightier, they are sad attestations ; so are letters to some, compliment, and obligation to others. For mine, as I never authorised my servant to lie in my behalf, (for if it were officious in him, it might be worse in me) so I allow my letters much less that civil dishonesty, both because they go from me more considerately, and because they are permanent; for in them I may speak to you in your chamber a year hence, before I know not whom, and not hear myself. They shall therefore ever keep the sincerity and intemerateness of the fountain, whence they are derived. And as wheresoever these leaves fall, the root is in my heart, so shall they, as that sucks good affections towards you there, have ever true impressions thereof. Thus much information is in very leaves, that they can tell what the tree is, and these can tell you I am a friend, and an honest man. Of what general use, the fruit should speak, and I have none: and of what particular profit to you, your application and experimenting should tell you, and you can make none of such a nothing; yet even of barren sycamores, such as I, there were use, if either any light flashings, or scorching vehemencies, or sudden showers made you need so shadowy an example or remembrancer. But (sir) your fortune and mind do you this happy injury, that they make all kind of fruits useless unto you; therefore I have placed my love wisely where I need communicate nothing. All this, though perchance you read it not till Michaelmas, was told you at Micham, 15th August, 1607.
To the Gallant Knight, Sir Thomas Lucy.
Because in your last letter, I have an invitation to come to you, though I never thought myself so fallen from my interest, which, by your favour, I prescribe in, in you, and therefore when
in the spring I hoped to have strength enough, to come into those parts, upon another occasion, I always resolved to put myself into your presence too, yet now I ask you more particularly how you dispose of yourself; for though I have heard, that you purpose a journey to the Bath, and from thence hither, yet I can hope, that my service at Lincoln's Inn being ended for next term, I may have intermission enough to wait upon you at Polesworth, before the season call you to Bath. I was no easy apprehender of the fear of your departing from us; neither am I easy in the hope of seeing you entirely over suddenly. God loves your soul, if he be loth to let it go inchmeal, and not by swallowings; and he loves it too, if he build it up again stone after stone; his will is not done except his way and his leisure be observed. "In my particular, I am sorry, if my ingenuity and candour in delivering myself in those points, of which you spake to me, have defaced those impressions which were in you before : if my freedom have occasioned your captivity, I am miserably sorry. I went unprofitably and improvidently, to the utmost end of truth, because I would go as far as I could to meet peace; if my going so far in declaring myself, brought you where you could not stop. But I was as confident in your strength, as in mine own, so am I still, in him who strengthens all our infirmities, and will, I doubt nou, bring you and me together, in all those particulars, so as we shall not part in this world, nor the next. Sir, your own soul cannot be more zealous of your peace, than I am: and God, who loves that zeal in me, will not suffer you to suspect it. I am surprised with a necessity of writing now, in a minute; for I sent to Beford-house to inform myself of means to write, and your daughter sent me word, of a present messenger, and therefore the rest of this, I shall make up in my prayers to our blessed Saviour, for all happinesses to you.
Your poor servant in Christ Jesus, Drury-house, the 22d of
J. DONNE. December, 1607.
To Sir Thomas Roe. Sir,
I have bespoke you a new-year's-gift, that is, a good new year, for I have offered your name with my soul heartily to God in my morning's best sacrifice : if for custom you will do a particular office in recompense, deliver this letter to your lady,, now, or when the rage of the mask is past. If you make any haste into the country, I pray let me know it. I would kiss your hands before you go, which I do now, and continue
Your affectionate servant and lover, Mitcham, the last of 1607, as I remember. J. Donne.
To Sir I. H. Sir,
I would not omit this, not commodity, but advantage of writing to you. This emptiness in London, dignifies any letter from hence, as in the seasons, earliness and lateness, make the sourness, and after, the sweetness of fruits, acceptable and gracious. We often excuse and advance mean authors, by the age in which they lived, so will your love do this letter; and you will tell yourself, that if he which writ it knew wherein he might express his affection, or anything which might have made his letter 'welcomer, he would have done it. As it is, you may accept it so, as we do many china manufactures, of which when we know no use, yet we satisfy our curiosity in considering them, because we know not how, nor of what matter they were made. Near great woods and quarries it is no wonder to see fair houses, but in Holland which wants both, it is. So were it for me who am as far removed from court, and knowledge of foreign passages, as this city is now from the face and furniture of a city, to build up a long letter and to write of myself, were but to inclose a poor handful of straw for a token in a letter: yet I will tell you, that I am at London only to provide for Monday, when I shall use that favour which my Lady Bedford hath afforded me, of giving her
* Probably Sir James Harrington.-Ed.
name to my daughter; which I mention to you, as well to show that I covet any occasion of a greatful speaking of her favours, as that, because I have thought the day is likely to bring you to London, I might tell you, that my poor house is in your way and you shall there find such company, as (I think) you will not be loth to accompany to London. Your very true friend, August 6, 1608.
To Sir Henry Goodyere. Sir,
This letter hath more merit, than one of more diligence, for I wrote it in my bed, and with much pain. I have occasion to sit late some nights in my study (which your books make a pretty library), and now I find that that room hath a wholesome emblematic use: for having under it a vault, I make that promise me, that I shall die reading, since my book and a grave are so near.
But it hath another as unwholesome, that by raw vapours rising from thence (for I can impute it to nothing else), I have contracted a sickness which I cannot name nor describe. For it hath so much of a continual cramp, that wrests the sinews, so much of a tetane, that it withdraws and pulls the mouth, and so much of the gout (which they whose counsel I use, say it is), that it is not like to be cured, though I am too hasty in three days to pronounce it. If it be the gout, I am miserable; for that affects dangerous parts, as my neck and breast, and (I think fearfully) my stomach, but it will not kill me yet; I shall be in this world, like a porter in a great house, ever nearest the door, but seldomest abroad: I shall have many things to make me weary, and yet not get leave to be gone. If I go, I will provide by my best means that
bonds. The estate which I should leave behind me of any estimation, is my poor fame, in the memory of my friends, and therefore I would be curious of it, and provide that they repent not to have loved me. Since my imprisonment in my bed, I have made a meditation in
verse, which I call a Litany*; the word you know imports no other than supplication, but all churches have one form of supplication, by that name. Amongst ancient annals, I mean some eight hundred years, I have met two Litanies in Latin verse, which gave me not the reason of my meditations, for in good faith I thought not upon them then, but they give me a defence, if any man, to a layman, and a private, impute it as a fault, to take such divine and public names, to his own little thoughts. The first of these was made by Ratpetus, a monk of Suevia ; and the other by St. Notker, of whom I will give you this note by the way, that he is a private saint, for a few parishes; they were both but monks, and the Litanies poor and barbarous enough; yet Pope Nicholas V. valued their devotion so much, that he canonized both their poems, and commanded them for public service in their churches : mine is for lesser chapels, which are my friends, and though a copy of it were due to you, now, yet I am so unable to serve myself with writing it for you at this time (being some thirty staves of nine lines), that I must entreat you to take a promise that you shall have the first, for a testimony of that duty which I owe to your love, and to myself, who am bound to cherish it by my best offices. That by which it will deserve best acceptation, is, that neither the Roman church need call it defective, because it abhors not the particular mention of the blessed triumphers in heaven ; nor the Reformed can discreetly accuse it, of attributing more than a rectified devotion ought to do. The day before I lay down, I was at London, where I delivered your letter for Sir Edward Conway, and received another for you, with the copy of my book, of which it is impossible for me to give you a copy so soon, for it is not of much less than three hundred pages. If I die, it shall come to you in that fashion that your letter desires it. If I warm again (as I have often seen such beggars as my indisposition is, end themselves soon, and the patient as soon), you and I shall speak together of that, before it be too late to serve you in that commandment. At this time I only assure you, that I have not appointed it upon any person, nor ever purposed to print it: which latter perchance you thought, and grounded your request
* See Poems.