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"Woman's Constancy," by John Donne

Now thou hast loved me one whole day.

Tomorrow when thou leav’st, what wilt thou say?

Wilt thou then antedate some new-made vow?

    Or say that now

We are not just those persons which we were?

Or, that oaths made in reverential fear

Of love, and his wrath, any may forswear?

Or, as true deaths, true marriages untie,

So lovers’ contracts, images of those,

Bind but till sleep, death’s image, them unloose?

    Or your own end to justify,

For having purposed change, and falsehood, you

Can have no way but falsehood to be true?

Vain lunatic, against these ’scapes I could

    Dispute, and conquer, if I would,

    Which I abstain to do,

For by tomorrow, I may think so too.


John Donne (1572–1631) grew up in London, a wealthy young Roman Catholic man about town in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. But when he secretly married the 17-year-old Anne More, daughter of the lieutenant of the Tower, he ended up imprisoned for several weeks in Fleet Prison and the next several years were difficult for Donne and his young wife. Donne eventually renounced his Catholicism, arguing in an influential essay that Catholics should give their allegiance to King James, and partially in gratitude for that, he was restored to the court’s favor on the condition that he enter the Anglican ministry. When she was 33, Anne died after giving birth to their 12th child. Donne’s poetry, both the roguish satires and love poems of his younger years — of which “On Woman’s Constancy” is a well-known example — and the more religious poetry of his later years remain to this day greatly admired.

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Now thou hast loved me one whole day.

Tomorrow when thou leav’st, what wilt thou say?

Wilt thou then antedate some new-made vow?

    Or say that now

We are not just those persons which we were?

Or, that oaths made in reverential fear

Of love, and his wrath, any may forswear?

Or, as true deaths, true marriages untie,

So lovers’ contracts, images of those,

Bind but till sleep, death’s image, them unloose?

    Or your own end to justify,

For having purposed change, and falsehood, you

Can have no way but falsehood to be true?

Vain lunatic, against these ’scapes I could

    Dispute, and conquer, if I would,

    Which I abstain to do,

For by tomorrow, I may think so too.


John Donne (1572–1631) grew up in London, a wealthy young Roman Catholic man about town in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. But when he secretly married the 17-year-old Anne More, daughter of the lieutenant of the Tower, he ended up imprisoned for several weeks in Fleet Prison and the next several years were difficult for Donne and his young wife. Donne eventually renounced his Catholicism, arguing in an influential essay that Catholics should give their allegiance to King James, and partially in gratitude for that, he was restored to the court’s favor on the condition that he enter the Anglican ministry. When she was 33, Anne died after giving birth to their 12th child. Donne’s poetry, both the roguish satires and love poems of his younger years — of which “On Woman’s Constancy” is a well-known example — and the more religious poetry of his later years remain to this day greatly admired.

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