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John Donne

Evelyn Simpson, Helen Gardner, and T. S. Healy (eds), John Donne: Selected Prose

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pg 15535. To Sir Robert Ker [April, May, or June 1623]1


Your way into Spain was Eastward, and that is the way to the land of Perfumes and Spices; their way hither is Westward, and that is the way to the land of Gold, and of Mynes. The Wise men, who sought Christ, laid down both their Perfumes, and their Gold, at the feet of Christ, the Prince of Peace. If All confer all to his glory, and to the peace of his Church, Amen. But now I consider in Cosmography better; they and we differ not in East and West: we are much alike Easterlie. But yet, Oriens nomen ejus, the East is one of Christ's names, in one Prophet; And, Filius Orientis est Lucifer, the East is one of the Devill's names, in another: and these two differ diametrically. And so in things belonging to the worship of God, I think we shall, Amen. But the difference of our scituation is in North and South; and you know, that though the labour of any ordinary Artificer in that Trade, will bring East and West together, (for if a flat Map be but pasted upon a round Globe, the farthest East, and the farthest West meet, and are all one) yet all this brings not North and South a scruple of a degree the nearer. There are things in which we may [meet]; and in that wherein we should not, my hope is in God, and in Him, in whom God doth so evidently work, we shall not meet, Amen. They have hotter daies in Spain than we have here, but our daies are longer; and yet we are hotter in our businesse here, and they longer about it there. God is sometimes called a Gyant, running a race; and sometimes is so slow-paced, as that a thousand years make but a day with God; and yet still the same God. He hath his purposes upon our noble and vehement affections, and upon their warie and sober discretions; and will use both to his glory. Amen.

Sir, I took up this Paper to write a Letter; but my imaginations were full of a Sermon before, for I write but a few hours before I am pg 156to Preach, and so instead of a Letter I send you a Homily. Let it have thus much of a Letter, That I am confident in your love, and deliver my self over to your service. And thus much of a Homily, That you and I shall accompanie one another to the possession of Heaven, in the same way wherein God put us at first. Amen.

Your very humble and very thankfull servant in Christ, &c.

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Editor’s Note
1 Sir Robert Ker, later first Earl of Ancrum and ancestor of the present Marquis of Lothian, to whom Donne left in his will the Lothian portrait, accompanied Prince Charles and Buckingham on their misguided and romantic visit to Spain to woo the Infanta from March to September 1623. A sermon which echoes this letter closely is dated by Mrs. Simpson April, May, or June 1623. Excerpts from it are given in Sermon 24.
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