John Donne Poems >>
The Character Of The Bore

 Well; I may now receive and die. My sin
 Indeed is great, but yet I have been in
 A purgatory, such as fear'd hell is
 A recreation, and scant map of this.
 My mind neither with pride's itch, nor yet hath been
 Poison'd with love to see or to be seen.
 I had no suit there, nor new suit to shew,
 Yet went to court: but as Glare, which did go
 To mass in jest, catch'd, was fain to disburse
 The hundred marks, which is the statute's curse,
 Before he 'scap'd; so't pleas'd my Destiny
 (Guilty of my sin of going) to think me
 As prone to all ill, and of good as forget-
 Ful, as proud, lustful, and as much in debt,
 As vain, as witless, and as false as they
 Which dwell in court, for once going that way,
 Therefore I suffer'd this: Towards me did run
 A thing more strange than on Nile's slime the sun
 E'er bred, or all which into Noah's ark came;
 A thing which would have pos'd Adam to name:
 Stranger than seven antiquaries' studies,
 Than Afric's monsters, Guiana's rarities;
 Stranger than strangers; one who for a Dane
 In the Danes' massacre had sure been slain,
 If he had liv'd then, and without help dies
 When next the 'prentices 'gainst strangers rise;
 One whom the watch at noon lets scarce go by;
 One t' whom th' examining justice sure would cry,
 Sir, by your priesthood, tell me what you are.
 His clothes were strange, though coarse, and black, though bare;
 Sleeveless his jerkin was, and it had been
 Velvet, but 'twas now (so much ground was seen)
 Become tufftaffaty; and our children shall
 See it plain rash a while, then nought at all.
 The thing hath travail'd, and, faith, speaks all tongues,
 And only knoweth what t' all states belongs.
 Made of th' accents and best phrase of all these,
 He speaks one language. If strange meats displease,
 Art can deceive, or hunger force my taste;
 But pedant's motley tongue, soldier's bombast,
 Mountebank's drug-tongue, nor the terms of law,
 Are strong enough preparatives to draw
 Me to hear this, yet I must be content
 With his tongue, in his tongue call'd Compliment;
 In which he can win widows, and pay scores,
 Make men speak treason, cozen subtlest whores,
 Outflatter favourites, or outlie either
 Jovius or Surius, or both together.
 He names me, and comes to me; I whisper, God!
 How have I sinn'd, that thy wrath's furious rod,
 This fellow, chooseth me? He saith, Sir,
 I love your judgment; whom do you prefer
 For the best linguist? and I sillily
 Said, that I thought Calepine's Dictionary.
 Nay, but of men? Most sweet Sir! Beza, then
 Some Jesuits, and two reverend men
 Of our two academies, I nam'd. Here
 He stopt me, and said; Nay, your apostles were
 Good pretty linguists; so Panurgus was,
 Yet a poor gentleman; all these may pass
 By travel. Then, as if he would have sold
 His tongue, he prais'd it, and such wonders told,
 That I was fain to say, If you had liv'd, Sir,
 Time enough to have been interpreter
 To Babel's bricklayers, sure the tower had stood.
 He adds, If of court-life you knew the good,
 You would leave loneness. I said, Not alone
 My loneness is, but Spartan's fashion,
 To teach by painting drunkards, doth not last
 Now; Aretine's pictures have made few chaste;
 No more can princes' courts, though there be few
 Better pictures of vice, teach me virtue.
 He, like to a high-stretch'd lute-string, squeakt, O, Sir!
 'Tis sweet to talk of kings! At Westminster,
 Said I, the man that keeps the Abbey-tombs,
 And for his price doth, with who ever comes,
 Of all our Harrys and our Edwards talk,
 From king to king, and all their kin can walk:
 Your ears shall hear naught but kings; your eyes meet
 Kings only; the way to it is King's street.
 He smack'd, and cry'd, He's base, mechanic coarse;
 So're all our Englishmen in their discourse.
 Are not your Frenchmen neat? Mine, eyes you see,
 I have but one, Sir; look, he follows me.
 Certes, they're neatly cloth'd. I of this mind am,
 Your only wearing is your grogaram.
 Not so, Sir; I have more. Under this pitch
 He would not fly. I chaf'd him; but as itch
 Scratch'd into smart, and as blunt iron ground
 Into an edge, hurts worse; so I (fool!) found
 Crossing hurt me. To fit my sullenness,
 He to another key his style doth dress,
 And asks, What news? I tell him of new plays:
 He takes my hand, and, as a still which stays
 A semibrief 'twixt each drop, he niggardly
 As loth to enrich me, so tells many a lie,
 More than ten Hollensheads, or Halls, or Stows,
 Of trivial household trash he knows. He knows
 When the queen frown'd or smil'd; and he knows what
 A subtile statesman may gather of that:
 He knows who loves whom, and who by poison
 Hastes to an office's reversion;
 He knows who hath sold his land, and now doth beg
 A license old iron, boots, shoes, and egg-
 Shells to transport. Shortly boys shall not play
 At span-counter, or blow-point, but shall play
 Toll to some courtier; and, wiser than us all,
 He knows what lady is not painted. Thus
 He with home-meats cloys me. I belch, spue, spit,
 Look pale and sickly, like a patient, yet
 He thrusts on more; and as he had undertook
 To say Gallo-Belgicus without book,
 Speaks of all states and deeds that have been since
 The Spaniards came to th' loss of Amyens.
 Like a big wife, at sight of loathed meat,
 Ready to travail, so I sigh and sweat
 To hear this makaron talk in vain; for yet,
 Either my humour or his own to fit,
 He, like a privileg'd spy, whom nothing can
 Discredit, libels now 'gainst each great man:
 He names a price for every office paid:
 He saith, Our wars thrive ill, because delay'd;
 That offices are entail'd, and that there are
 Perpetuities of them lasting as far
 As the last day; and that great officers
 Do with the pirates share and Dunkirkers.
 Who wastes in meat, in clothes, in horse, he notes;
 Who loves whores, who boys, and who goats.
 I, more amaz'd than Circe's prisoners, when
 They felt themselves turn beasts, felt myself then
 Becoming traitor, and methought I saw
 One of our giant statues ope his jaw
 To suck me in for hearing him: I found
 That as burnt venomous leachers do grow sound
 By giving others their sores, I might grow
 Guilty, and be free; therefore I did show
 All signs of loathing; but since I am in,
 I must pay mine and my forefathers' sin
 To the last farthing: therefore to my power
 Toughly and stubbornly I bear this cross; but th' hour
 Of mercy now was come: he tries to bring
 Me to pay a fine to 'scape his torturing,
 And says, Sir, can you spare me? I said, Willingly.
 Nay, Sir, can you spare me a crown? Thankfully I
 Gave it as ransom. But as fiddlers still,
 Though they be paid to be gone, yet needs will
 Thrust one more jigg upon you; so did he
 With his long complimented thanks vex me.
 But he is gone, thanks to his needy want,
 And the prerogative of my crown. Scant
 His thanks were ended when I (which did see
 All the court fill'd with such strange things as he)
 Ran from thence with such or more haste than one
 Who fears more actions doth haste from prison.
 At home in wholesome solitariness
 My piteous soul began the wretchedness
 Of suitors at court to mourn, and a trance
 Like his who dreamt he saw hell did advance
 Itself o'er me: such men as he saw there
 I saw at court, and worse, and more. Low fear
 Becomes the guilty, not th' accuser; then
 Shall I, none's slave, of high born or rais'd men
 Fear frowns, and my mistress, Truth! betray thee
 To th' huffing braggart, puft nobility?
 No, no; thou which since yesterday hast been
 Almost about the whole world, hast thou seen,
 O Sun! in all thy journey vanity
 Such as swells the bladder of our court? I
 Think he which made your waxen garden, and
 Transported it from Italy, to stand
 With us at London, flouts our courtiers; for
 Just such gay painted things, which no sap nor
 Taste have in them, ours are!