"To Be Constant, In Nature Were Inconstancy"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: "Inconstancy" is a defense of fickle love, and it is a poem which, in both its abruptness and extended figure of speech, is reminiscent of the earlier "metaphysical" poems of John Donne. To the woman who accuses the man of inconstancy because he loved her five years before, the "I" of the poem replies that he must not be labeled inconstant. He points out that he simply is not the same man he was, that the body, as well as the mind, has changed. He further construes that, since the old members of his body were father to the present members, to be constant were to commit incest, forbidden by nature. He also states that all nature is a state of flux; change is the rule of existence: no one, nor anything, can be blamed for following its nature. The days, the seasons, all in nature must move on blamelessly. He ends by saying that it is as senseless to expect deathless love as to expect beauty and color found in the living person to remain with the corpse.

You might as well this day inconstant name,
Because the weather is not still the same
That it was yesterday; or blame the year,
'Cause the spring, flowers, and autumn, fruit does bear.
The world's a scene of changes, and to be
Constant, in nature were inconstancy;
For 'twere to break the laws herself has made:
Our substances themselves do fleet and fade;
The most fixed being still does move and fly,
Swift as the wings of time 'tis measured by.