Witchcrafte by a Picture

In a brief post for Halloween, we highlight a poem by John Donne from manuscript R.3.12 which was given to the College by Sir Henry Puckering. Witches were believed to bring about the mutilation or death of their victims by making a likeness of them and then destroying it. This is alluded to in line 6 of  Donne’s poem ‘Witchcrafte by a Picture’.

R.3.12, p. 98

WITCHCRAFT BY A PICTURE
by John Donne

I fix mine eye on thine, and there
Pity my picture burning in thine eye;
My picture drown’d in a transparent tear,
When I look lower I espy;
Hadst thou the wicked skill
By pictures made and marr’d, to kill,
How many ways mightst thou perform thy will?

But now I’ve drunk thy sweet salt tears,
And though thou pour more, I’ll depart;
My picture vanished, vanish all fears
That I can be endamaged by that art;
Though thou retain of me
One picture more, yet that will be,
Being in thine own heart, from all malice free.

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