From John Donne’s To Mr. Tilman After He Had Taken Orders, with Helen Gardner’s readings from her edition of The Divine Poems. ‘Mistressing’ is a verbal form of the noun ‘mistress’ and ‘complement’ here is an obsolete spelling on ‘compliment’ (OED 8.b – ‘observance of ceremony in social relations; ceremoniousness; formal civility, politeness, or courtesy. to keep complement: to observe ceremony’).
Why doth the foolish world scorn that profession,
Whose joyes pass speech? Why do they think unfit
That Gentry should join families with it?
Would they thinke it well if the day were spent
In dressing, mistressing and complement.
Alas poor joyes, but poorer men, whose trust
Seemes richly placed in refined dust,
(For such are clothes and beauties, which though gay,
Are, at the best, but of sublimed clay)
Let then the world thy calling disrespect,
But go thou on, and pity their neglect.