John Donne

W. Milgate (ed.), John Donne: The Satires, Epigrams and Verse Letters

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To the Countesse of Huntington

  • Critical Apparatus21  Yet neither will I vexe your eyes to see
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus22A sighing Ode, nor crosse-arm'd Elegie.
  • 23I come not to call pitty from your heart,
  • Editor’s Note24Like some white-liver'd dotard that would part
  • 25Else from his slipperie soule with a faint groane,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus26And faithfully, (without you smil'd) were gone.
  • Editor’s Note27I cannot feele the tempest of a frowne,
  • 28I may be rais'd by love, but not throwne down.
  • 29Though I can pittie those sigh twice a day,
  • Critical Apparatus30I hate that thing whispers it selfe away.
  • Critical Apparatus31Yet since all love is fever, who to trees
  • Critical Apparatus32Doth talke, doth yet in loves cold ague freeze.
  • 33'Tis love, but, with such fatall weaknesse made,
  • 34That it destroyes it selfe with its owne shade.
  • Critical Apparatus35Who first look'd sad, griev'd, pin'd, and shew'd his paine,
  • Critical Apparatus36Was he that first taught women, to disdaine.
  • 37  As all things were one nothing, dull and weake,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus38Untill this raw disorder'd heape did breake,
  • 39And severall desires led parts away,
  • Editor’s Note40Water declin'd with earth, the ayre did stay,
  • Critical Apparatus41Fire rose, and each from other but unty'd,
  • 42Themselves unprison'd were and purify'd:
  • 43So was love, first in vast confusion hid,
  • pg 8344An unripe willingnesse which nothing did,
  • 45A thirst, an Appetite which had no ease,
  • 46That found a want, but knew not what would please.
  • Critical Apparatus47What pretty innocence in those days mov'd!
  • Critical Apparatus48Man ignorantly walk'd by her he lov'd;
  • 49Both sigh'd and enterchang'd a speaking eye,
  • Critical Apparatus50Both trembled and were sick, both knew not why.
  • 51That naturall fearefulnesse that struck man dumbe,
  • Critical Apparatus52Might well (those times consider'd) man become.
  • Critical Apparatus53As all discoverers whose first assay
  • 54Findes but the place, after, the nearest way:
  • Editor’s Note55So passion is to womans love, about,
  • 56Nay, farther off, than when we first set out.
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus57It is not love that sueth, or doth contend;
  • 58Love either conquers, or but meets a friend.
  • Editor’s Note59Man's better part consists of purer fire,
  • 60And findes it selfe allow'd, ere it desire.
  • 61Love is wise here, keepes home, gives reason sway,
  • Editor’s Note62And journeys not till it finde summer-way.
  • Editor’s Note63A weather-beaten Lover but once knowne,
  • 64Is sport for every girle to practise on.
  • Critical Apparatus65Who strives, through womans scornes, women to know,
  • 66Is lost, and seekes his shadow to outgoe;
  • Critical Apparatus67It must bee sicknesse, after one disdaine,
  • 68Though he be call'd aloud, to looke againe.
  • Critical Apparatus69Let others sigh, and grieve; one cunning sleight
  • Critical Apparatus70Shall freeze my love to Christall in a night.
  • 71I can love first, and (if I winne) love still;
  • 72And cannot be remov'd, unlesse she will.
  • 73It is her fault if I unsure remaine,
  • Critical Apparatus74Shee onely can untie, and binde againe.
  • 75The honesties of love with ease I doe,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus76But am no porter for a tedious woo.

Notes Settings

Notes

Editor’s Note
To the Countesse of Huntington. Text from 1635. MSS.: TCD(2), P. Paragraphing supplemented. Title from 1635: Sr Walter Aston to the Countesse of Huntington. TCD: Sr Wal. Ashton to … P.
Editor’s Note
l. 1. heavy: humid, tropical.
Critical Apparatus
2 man] men P
Editor’s Note
l. 2. like Adams time. In A Treatise of Brazil we read of the Indians that 'All of them goe naked as well men as women, and have no kind of apparrell, and are nothing ashamed', etc. (Purchas his Pilgrims, edition of 1906, xvi. 422). Cf. Gen. ii. 25.
Editor’s Note
l. 3. Before he ate: i.e. of the fruit of the Forbidden Tree.
Editor’s Note
ll. 3–6. mans shape, etc. 'Creatures in the shape of man, who would still be (if they did not know their nakedness and shun the company of animals) as naked to this day as though they were so far from Paradise', etc.
The aborigines are distinguished from Paradisal Man by knowing they are naked and by being afraid of the animals; whereas it was only after the Fall that Adam knew that he was naked (Gen. iii. 7) and felt fear of the beasts, which had hitherto been friendly to man.
Editor’s Note
l. 6. Paradise: Eden.
Editor’s Note
l. 9. If there could have been those in 'mans shape' who had not heard of the Fall, their state of apparent freedom from sin would be illusory, since in Adam they 'beare the sinne'.
Editor’s Note
l. 10. wanting the reward. Not having heard of Christ, they lack redemption ('the reward'), and know nothing of it. 'This people hath not any knowledge of their Creator, nor of any thing of heaven … but they know that they have soules, and that they dye not' (A Treatise of Brazil, in Purchas his Pilgrims, 1906, xvi. 419).
Critical Apparatus
11 downward] downewards P: inward TCD
Editor’s Note
l. 12. at: as, as occupying the position or status of.
Editor’s Note
l. 13. younger: smaller (before they have 'grown' older and hence bigger, whether children or brooks).
Editor’s Note
ll. 14–18. People unacquainted with the Countess are in their ordinary lives ('at home') mere atoms in size, measured by their 'wit' or abilities; so that when she sees them from her elevation they look like mist or nothing at all. The poet, having risen half-way to the Countess's level by her friendship and patronage, is still able to see these lesser folk as discrete tiny beings in motion or at rest ('move and stay').
Editor’s Note
l. 16. Atomi: the usual plural, from atomus or atomos.
Critical Apparatus
17 who] that MSS.
Critical Apparatus
20 you.] you, 1635
Editor’s Note
l. 20. sick: hence 'wasted', 'diminished'.
must I to you. A transition is made to the idea of the love-'sick' swain suing for the pity of a remote ('distant') mistress.
Critical Apparatus
21 neither] never TCD
Critical Apparatus
22 nor] or MSS.
Editor’s Note
l. 22. crosse-arm'd. Folded arms were the conventional sign of the sorrow of a lover or mourner, of discontent and melancholy: see L. Babb, The Elizabethan Malady, 1951, pp. 76 ff., 156 ff. The Lothian portrait shows Donne in this posture of the pining lover; cf. Gardner, Elegies etc., pp. 267–8.
Editor’s Note
l. 24. white-liver'd. The four humours tended to dominate in the body each at a different stage: blood in youth, then choler, then melancholy, and, in old age, phlegm (hence white hair, watery eyes, and a liver lacking a proper degree of blood).
Critical Apparatus
26 faithfully] finially P you smil'd] your smile MSS.
Editor’s Note
l. 26. faithfully: still the faithful lover.
Editor’s Note
l. 27. tempest of a frowne. Anger in the microcosm corresponded to a storm in the macrocosm. Cf. Zepheria, 1594, Canzon. 27:
  • Neare from the deepe, when winds declare a tempest,
  • Posts with more haste the little Halcion,
  • Nor faster hyes him to some safer rest,
  • Then I have fled from thy death-threatening frown.
Critical Apparatus
30 whispers] whispered P: vapours TCD
Critical Apparatus
31 love is] love's a P
Critical Apparatus
32 ague] Feaver P
Critical Apparatus
35 paine,] paine. 1635
Critical Apparatus
36 women] woman TCD
Critical Apparatus
38 disorder'd] disordered 1635
Editor’s Note
l. 38. heape: Chaos.
Editor’s Note
ll. 40–42. Water declin'd with earth, etc. This is the conventional account of the Creation. For ancient sources cf. W. C. Curry, 'The Genesis of Milton's World', Anglia (Zeitschrift, etc.), lxx, 1951. Paracelsus (Hermetic and Alchemical Writings, translated by A. E. Waite, ii. 256) writes that 'the four elements of things were in the beginning severally separated from one single matter, in which, however, their complexion and essence were not present—those complexions and natures emerged by that process of separation. The warm and dry withdrew to the heavens and the firmament. … The warm and moist withdrew to the air' … etc. (also p. 253). Cf. Sylvester, Bartas his Divine Weeks and Works, the Second day of the first Week (1605, p. 41):
  • Earth, as the Lees, and heavie drosse of All,
  • After his kind did to the bottome fall:
  • Contrariwise, the Light and nimble Fire
  • Did through the crannies of th'old Heape aspire
  • Unto the top …
Critical Apparatus
41 but] once P
Critical Apparatus
47 mov'd I] mov'd? 1635
Critical Apparatus
48 by] wth P
Critical Apparatus
50 both] but MSS.
Critical Apparatus
52 consider'd] considered 1635
Critical Apparatus
53–54 whose … Findes ] who … find P
Editor’s Note
l. 55. about: too circuitous a way.
Critical Apparatus
57 sueth, or] sues and P
Editor’s Note
l. 57. sueth, or doth contend. The metaphors are of 'love's war'.
Editor’s Note
l. 59. better part: i.e. than passion; 'reason'.
Editor’s Note
l. 62. summer-way: free passage, as for a ship with the thawing of ice in northern seas.
Editor’s Note
l. 63. weather-beaten. Continuing the image of a voyage of discovery, Donne refers to the conventional lover as 'buffeted' by the lady's disdain ('scornes', l. 65).
Critical Apparatus
65 strives,] strives 1635
womans] womens P
scornes, women] scorne woman TCD
know,] know.1635
Critical Apparatus
67 sicknesse,] sickness 1635
Critical Apparatus
69 sigh MSS.: sinne 1635
Critical Apparatus
70 love] Love 1635
Critical Apparatus
74 and P: I 1635, TCD
Critical Apparatus
76 woo TCD: wooe P: woe 1635
Editor’s Note
l. 76. porter: at the gate of a mansion (as the lover pining for entry to his mistress's favour).
Critical Apparatus
77 I now] now I TCD
Critical Apparatus
78 hights] height TCD
Editor’s Note
ll. 78–80. When we are at our highest point of brilliance you are merely just appearing above the horizon; we are only the clouds you rise from; our noon-beams are like a foul shadow, not even equivalent to your dawn.
Critical Apparatus
79 clouds … from, ] clouds, … from 1635
noone-ray] noone-ray, 1635
Critical Apparatus
81 right] bright P
Critical Apparatus
83 a perfectnesse] all perfectnes TCD: all perfections P
Editor’s Note
l. 83. so curious hit: so exquisitely and accurately attained.
Critical Apparatus
84 youngest] the quaintest TCD
flatteries] flatterers MSS.
doe]omit TCD
Editor’s Note
l. 84. Even small and delicate flatteries are so inadequate to express your perfection as to be like a scandal or blot on your character.
Editor’s Note
ll. 85–86. 'What is beyond the truth concerning you, no less than what falls short of it, misses and limits what you are, and in going beyond, instead of staying at the summit of truth, goes down, as it were, on the other side' (Grolier).
Critical Apparatus
86 though] whats P
Critical Apparatus
87 to'it] to it 1635
Editor’s Note
l. 87. 'There is no direct, short way to you; we have to go cross country.'
Critical Apparatus
88 attribute;] attribute, 1635
Editor’s Note
l. 88. straight line, thing prais'd, attribute. The thing praised is virtue; but she is virtue (the 'attribute' in question); its symbol is a straight line (rectitude), and she is that too.
Critical Apparatus
89 many'a] many a 1635
Editor’s Note
ll. 89–92. Each good quality in the Countess throws a light, and as she lives and moves in these lights each throws a shadow which accurately delineates her; there are many such 'shadows' or pictures of her, for each virtue shows up a new facet of her character. Her distant admirers see her moving in the light of these virtues and imitate her.
Critical Apparatus
91 These] Those TCD
Editor’s Note
l. 92. Zani's: clownish imitators. Cf. note (p. 212) to 'To Mr. T. W.' ('All haile sweet Poët'), l. 30.
Editor’s Note
l. 94. shew: appear.
Editor’s Note
l. 96. Love is the 'shade' (l. 89) corresponding to the purest light in which she walks; it exemplifies her highest virtue.
Editor’s Note
ll. 97–98. A familiar part of the theory of man as microcosm. The soul is, however, more intimately associated with the body (for man's greater convenience and welfare) than the heaven with the earth.
Editor’s Note
ll. 99–100. 'If nevertheless we understand the thoughts in our souls to be like stars in the heavens, then, as with the stars, we do not comprehend their full meaning, their entire nature, but we recognize and admit their authority.' As the stars influence ('command') us, so do our thoughts, though we do not fully understand the concepts, such as 'virtue', by which we live. So with 'love' (l.101), as it streams inexhaustibly from the Countess.
Editor’s Note
ll. 101–6. Love in the Countess is like the sun, that bountiful source of light, shining on all, but inexhaustible. As the sun causes vapour to rise towards it so the Countess's love attracts our souls, which we find, however, to be too clogged with earthly dross to rise to that height, till slow approach to this perfection of love gradually purifies the soul completely, and makes it able to endure the sight of the deathless purity of her love.
Critical Apparatus
102 infinite;] infinite. 1635
Critical Apparatus
105 wholy] holy MSS.
Critical Apparatus
107 dare] dares MSS.
Critical Apparatus
108 waight] weights MSS.
Critical Apparatus
109 impure] unpure P
Editor’s Note
l. 109. retaine: keep himself.
Critical Apparatus
110 love] love: 1635
Editor’s Note
l. 111. unforc'd: 'unrefined'; a technical term in alchemy. Cf. 'To the Lady Bedford', l. 37.
Editor’s Note
l. 112. converse: keep company with (O.E.D. 2); 'mingle'.
Critical Apparatus
113 eye, and hand] eyes and hands MSS.
Critical Apparatus
114 they'are] they are 1635
high'st they] highest MSS.
break.] break 1635
Critical Apparatus
115 Paragraph at 113 in 1635
Though far removed] Through far remotenesse P
fleets] Iles TCD
Critical Apparatus
116 comfort;] comfort* 1635
Critical Apparatus
119 ayre … the ] ye aire … all P
Editor’s Note
l. 119. ayre takes the Sunne-beames equall bright. Cf. Kepler, Ad Vitellionem Paralipomena, 1604, p. 22: 'Cum Sol aerem undique aequaliter collustret'.
Critical Apparatus
120 first Rayes] rayes first TCD; rise first P
Critical Apparatus
121 men P: man 1635, TCD
Critical Apparatus
123 Their P: There 1635, TCD
Critical Apparatus
125 violent MSS.: valiant 1635
Critical Apparatus
126 Love:] Love. 1635
Critical Apparatus
127 imparts] imports TCD
Editor’s Note
l. 127. Love that imparts: i.e. 'Love which, when it is genuine, imparts'.
Critical Apparatus
128 Is fain'd, which onely tempts mans appetite P (no comma): Is thought the Mansion of sweet appetite TCD: Is fancied (rest of line blank) 1635
Editor’s Note
l. 129. the vertues: the cardinal virtues of the pagan philosophers (cf. 'To Mr Rowland Woodward', ll. 16–17, and notes, p. 224). In l. 130, however, the thought reverts to the Christian virtues, all subsumed in love.
Critical Apparatus
130 Is, that] Is; 'cause TCD contract in P: contracted 1635, TCD
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