Elegy VII: Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love

By John Donne 1572–1631 John Donne
Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love,
And in that sophistry, oh, thou dost prove
Too subtle: Fool, thou didst not understand
The mystic language of the eye nor hand:
Nor couldst thou judge the difference of the air
Of sighs, and say, this lies, this sounds despair:
Nor by the’eye’s water call a malady
Desperately hot, or changing feverously.
I had not taught thee then, the alphabet
Of flowers, how they devicefully being set
And bound up, might with speechless secrecy
Deliver errands mutely, and mutually.
Remember since all thy words used to be
To every suitor, “I, ’if my friends agree”;
Since, household charms, thy husband’s name to teach,
Were all the love-tricks, that thy wit could reach;
And since, an hour’s discourse could scarce have made
One answer in thee, and that ill arrayed   
In broken proverbs, and torn sentences.
Thou art not by so many duties his,
That from the’world’s common having severed thee,
Inlaid thee, neither to be seen, nor see,
As mine: who have with amorous delicacies
Refined thee’into a blissful paradise.
Thy graces and good words my creatures be;
I planted knowledge and life’s tree in thee,
Which oh, shall strangers taste? Must I alas   
Frame and enamel plate, and drink in glass?
Chafe wax for others’ seals? break a colt’s force
And leave him then, being made a ready horse?

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Poet John Donne 1572–1631

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Renaissance

 John  Donne

Biography

John Donne's standing as a great English poet, and one of the greatest writers of English prose, is now assured. However, it has been confirmed only in the early 20th century. The history of Donne's reputation is the most remarkable of any major writer in English; no other body of great poetry has fallen so far from favor for so long and been generally condemned as inept and crude. In Donne's own day his poetry was highly prized . . .

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POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Renaissance

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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