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

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Satyre III

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Critical Apparatus
Satyre III. MSS.:C 57, L 74 and TCD; H 49 and W; O'F and Q.
Editor’s Note
l. 1. Kinde pitty: the pity 'natural' to a well-disposed man (which chokes with grief the satirist's scornful laughter).
spleene. The spleen, in the physiology of the time, was thought to be the seat of laughter, but also of melancholy; hence it was associated with bitter laughter, scorn, ridicule. Cf. Persius, Sat. i. 11–12: '(nolo… sed sum petulanti splene) cachino', and Hall, virgidemiarum, iv. i. 74.
brave scorn: a 'fine show' of scorn (demanded of the satirist).
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2 Those] These H 49, W, Q
eye-lids;] eye-lids, 1633
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3 not] nor W, O'F
sinnes] sin H 49, W
Editor’s Note
l. 3. laugh: laugh to scorn (O.E.D., vb. 5).
weep: lament with tears (O.E.D., vb. II. 6).
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4 Can] May H 49, W, O'F, Q
Editor’s Note
l. 4. worne: stale and hackneyed.
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6 worthy'of] worthy of 1633
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7 to L 74, H 49, W, O'F, Q: in 1633, C 57, TCD
blinded] blinde H 49, W, Q
Editor’s Note
l. 7. blinded: denied the light of revelation. 'Æmulate those men, and be ashamed to be outgone by those men, who had no light but nature' (Sermons, ix. 85). Donne is referring to 'the virtuous heathen', on whom cf. Browne, Hydriotapghia, iv.
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9 honour] honors H 49, W
Editor’s Note
l. 9. them: those who lived in the 'first blinded age', whose spur to virtue was fame on earth.
Editor’s Note
l. 12. blinde: = 'blinded', l. 7.
Editor’s Note
ll. 12–13. blinde Philosophers in heaven, etc. The Scriptures seem to allow the possibility of salvation to men of virtue who have not heard of Christ (cf. Acts xvii. 30, Rom. ii, 14–15). Donne refers to the question on some ten occasions in the Sermons; for example: 'Almost in every one of the ancient Fathers, you shall find some passages, wherein they discover an inclination to that opinion, that before Christ came in the manifestation of his Gospel (for, since that coming, every man is bound to see him there) many Philosophers, men of knowledge, and learning, were sav'd without the knowledge of Christ' (iv. 119). Cf. also Burton, Anatomy, part, 3, sect 4, memb. 2, subsect. 6, and Browne, Religio Medici, i. 54.
Editor’s Note
ll. 12–13.
  • whose merit
  • Of strict life may bi'imputed faith,
Luther taught that Justification was granted by God to men in response to the disposition of faith alone (sola fides), and that it brought with it the imputation to the sinner of the merits of Christ. Donne is impudently using the key Lutheran concepts of 'imputation', and faith as the sine qua non of salvation, to suggest what would have horrified Luther: that men can be saved by their own 'merit of strict life' and that this can be imputed to them as justifying faith.
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13 be'imputed] be imputed 1633
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14 so easie wayes and] wayes easye and H 49, W, Q: wayes so easy and O'F
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15 this ;] this. 1633
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16 is.] is; 1633
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17 and dar'st] darest (or darst, durst) W, H 49, O'F, Q
Editor’s Note
l. 17. mutinous Dutch. The Low Countries had been in revolt against the Spanish conqueror since 1568, and the English had been giving them 'ayd' since 1586. Donne mentions the fact of their mutiny, but we cannot deduce that 'To the Catholic Donne the Dutch are still mutineers' (Grierson, Metaphysical Lyrics, 1921, p. 235). Official help to the Dutch was not accompanied by much lively sympathy with them on the part of the average Englishman; see notes to 'Love's War', ll. 5–6, in Gardner, Elegies etc., p. 129.
The insertion of 'and' in the last form of this line removes a dramatic effect employed by Donne in the earlier versions—the dropping of a syllable after a medial pause. For other examples cf. ll. 33 and 95 below; 'Satire IV', ll. 2, 56, 222, 223, 241; 'Satire V', ll. 11, 66, 73, 84; 'The Storm', l. 39; 'The Progress of the Soul', ll. 117, 273, 443.
Editor’s Note
l. 18. Sepulchers. Cf. 'The Storm', l. 45 ('Some coffin'd in their cabbins lye'), and 'Love's War', ll. 26–27:
  • And ships are carts for executions,
  • Yea they are deaths .
Editor’s Note
l. 19. leaders rage. This may refer to the quarrels among the leaders of the Cadiz and Islands voyages, but, as Grierson says, it is too little to build on. The 'rage' of leaders is much more probably their 'warlike ardour'' or 'fury', which is one of the hazards their men have to face (cf. King John, 11. i. 265: 'shall we give the signal to our rage', and 'Satire V', l. 8, 'Officers rage').
Editor’s Note
l. 20. dungeons: mines, or caves.
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22–23 discoveries?… Salamanders, ] discoveries,… Salamanders? 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 22. frozen North discoveries. Attempts to find a north-west passage to the Pacific were made by the Cabots (in and after 1497), Martin Frobisher (1576–8), John Davis (in each of the three years 1585–7), and most recently by the Dutchman, Barents (1594).
Editor’s Note
l. 23. Colder then Salamanders. The salamander (a lizard-like creature) was thought to be so cold by nature that contact with it could extinguish fire (Aristotle, Hist. Animal, v. 19, 552b; Pliny, Nat. Hist. x. 86; etc.).
Editor’s Note
ll. 23–24. divine Children in th'oven. Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego, the three children of God ('divine'), or 'servants of the most high God', survived unharmed the burning fiery furnace into which Nebuchadnezzar cast them. See Daniel iii. 11–30; and cf. 'The Calm', l. 28, and T. Bastard, Chrestoleros, 1598, Bk. iv, epig. 23 (p. 92), 'De tribus pueris in fornace ignea', l. 8 of which reads: 'Were they three Salamanders in the fire?' The three 'Children' were, significantly, to be punished for refusing to accept a religion (worshipping the golden image) at the command of a King; cf. below, ll. 89 ff.
Critical Apparatus
24 'and] and 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 24. fires of Spaine,' and the line: the tropical heat of the regions of the Spanish Main and the equatorial line. Possibly by 'fires of Spaine' the fires of the Spanish Inquisition are intended: a danger attendant on being taken prisoner.
Editor’s Note
l.25. limbecks: alembics, or stills. Our bodies sweat in these climes, in a process like distillation.
Editor’s Note
ll. 27–28. draw, Or eate thy poysonous words: 'fight a duel with you or swallow your insults'.
Critical Apparatus
28 words?] words, 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 28. straw. The O.E.D. 7, says that this word is 'often used as a type of what is of trifling value or importance'. The words 'secme bold' however, shift the primary meaning to sense 2. e, 'counterfeit, sham, dummy', as in the phrase 'man of straw' (P. Legouis, S.N. xiv. 188–9).
Editor’s Note
l. 30. his: God's.
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31 Sentinell] Souldier H 49, W, O'F, Q
his] this O'F, Q
Editor’s Note
l. 31. Sentinell in his worlds garrison. 'Sentinell' is superior to the reading of earlier versions, catching up the idea of 'Soldier' and adding the idea of watchfulness. Grierson quotes John of Salisbury, Policrat. ii. 27 (Migne, P.L. cxcix. 471): 'Veteris quidem philosophiae principes Pythagoras et Plotinus prohibitionis huius non tam auctores sunt quam praecones, omnino illicitum esse dicentes, quempiam militiae servientem a praesidio et commissa sibi statione discedere, citra ducis vel principis iussionem. Plane eleganti exemplo usi sunt eo quod militia est vita hominis super terram' [Job vii. 1, V.].
Critical Apparatus
32 forbidden] forbid W, O'F
Editor’s Note
l. 32. Contention with one's fellows in battle, love, or exploration 'for gaine' is, in the moral sphere, forbidden because sinful; 'to expose ourselves to these perils we abandon the moral warfare to which we are appointed' (Grierson).
Critical Apparatus
33 foes: W: foes H 49, O'F, Q: foe, 1633, C 57, TCD; foe; L 74
Devill W, H 49, Q: devill h'is 1633, C 57: divell is L 74: Devill, his TCD: Divell, hee O'F
Editor’s Note
l. 33. Know thy foes. The reading 'foe' must be wrong, since there are three foes, and the plural in l. 30 should be matched here. (Having made this mistake, the writer of the archetype of the final version further misunderstood his copy and inserted 'h'is' [he is]; L 74, 'is', and TCD, 'his', make things worse.)
'We are sent as so many soldiers into this world, to strive with it, the flesh, the devil; our life is a warfare, and who knows it not?'(Burton, Anatomy, part. 2, sect. 3, memb. 2). Donne deals with each in turn: 'The foule Devill' (ll. 33– 35), the world (ll. 36–39), and 'last, Flesh' (ll. 39–42).
For the metre, see the note on l. 17 above.
Editor’s Note
ll. 33–35. 'The foul Devil, whom you strive to please, would be only too willing, out of hate not love, to grant you the whole of his kingdom of Hell to satisfy you.' The sentence is tangled and the sense of 'to be quit' is obscure. But the main sense is clear: Donne is expanding the injunction 'Know thy foes'. He presents the Devil sardonically as a monarch only too willing to grant favour in return for service, but doing it from hate, not love, 'To be quit' might mean 'to be rid of your importunity', or 'in full discharge of what he owes you'. In the same way, Donne goes on to anatomize the world and the flesh. The world is a strumpet, and the flesh has of itself no power to taste joy but owes all its power to the soul,
Critical Apparatus
34 Strivest] Strivest 1633
please,] please: 1633
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35 quit] ridde H 49, W, O'F, Q
Editor’s Note
l. 36. The worlds all parts wither away. 'There is no certain future: for the things of this world pass from us; we pass from them; the world it self passes a way to nothing' (Sermons, ix. 185).
Editor’s Note
l. 38. In her decrepit wayne. Donne often recurs to the contemporary belief that the world was in decay, the main theme of The First Anniversary. For a full account of the seventeenth-century controversy on the decay of nature, see Victor Harris, All Coberence Gone, University of Chicago, 1949.
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39 wither'd] withered 1633
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40 omit H 49 selfes Σ: selfe 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 40. Flesh (it selfes death). The joys of the flesh bring destruction to the flesh— es in gluttony, drunkenness, lechery; even the exercise of the functions of the body impairs it.
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41 lov'st] lovest 1633
Editor’s Note
ll. 41–42. soule, which doth Give this flesh power. Cf. Donne's statements of the function of the oul in the body in 'The Ecstasy', ll. 50 ff., and in 'The Progress of the Soul', l. 131.
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42 loath.] loath; 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 43. Seeke true religion. Donne everywhere insists that 'in all Christian professions there is way to salvation' (Letters, p. 100). The point of the satire in the succeeding lines is that the search for true religion (and salvation) will fail, wherever it is directed, if it is prosecuted with superficial, irresponsible, or cowardly motives.
Mirreus. The proper names seem to have little special appropriateness.
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44 here] her 1633
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45 Rome;] Rome, 1633
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47 her Σ: the 1633, C 57, L 74, TCD
Editor’s Note
l. 47. ragges: ceremonial trappings (which are 'brave', resplendent, l.49). They are her trappings, nevertheless; religion was once to be found beneath them, 'The'; seems to be an error in manuscripts with the 1633 version rather than a revised reading.
Editor’s Note
l. 47–48. as wee here obey The statecloth, etc. The state-cloth was the canopy over the chair of state. Fynes Moryson (Itinerary, ed, 1907–8, iv. 253) speaks of 'our English manner, who give reverence to that Chaire [of Estate], though our Princes be absent'. Donne writes to Mrs. Herbert: 'your memory is a State-cloth and Presence; which I reverence, though you be away' (Walton, Lives, p. 335); cf. Simpson, Estays, p. 6.
Critical Apparatus
49 inthrall'd] inthralled 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 49. Crants. There seems to be no need to adopt the spelling 'Crantz' to 'emphasize the Dutch character of the name' (Grierson) or to restrict the reference to the 'Schismaticks of Amsterdam' 'The Will', ll. 20–21). Calvin's work in Geneva inspired Presbyterianism, and some copyists of all groups write 'Grants' or 'Grant', the latter presumably to give a Scottish reference to the lines. In q the name appears as 'Crates' (Greek, 'kratos' = strength)—an attempt to match this name with the others, which are of classical origin. 'Crants', however, seems to be what Donne wrote.
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50 who'at Geneva's] who at Geneva is 1633
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51 sullen] solemne O'F, Q
Editor’s Note
l. 51–52.The contrast of the 'brave' religion of Rome and the 'plaine' religion of Geneva is drawn in several places in the Sermons, e.g., 'in a painted Church, on one side, or in a naked Church, on another' (vi. 284).
Editor’s Note
l. 51. Religion. Four syllables. sullen: drab, dismal.
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52 unhansome;]unhansome. 1633
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53 that] which H 49, W, O'F, Q
Editor’s Note
l. 53. Lecherous humors: the whims of the lecher.
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54 drudges.] drudges; 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 55. Graius: 'a Greek'. I cannot see any particular point in the choice of this name, or of 'Phrygius' (l. 62), 'a Phrygian'.
Editor’s Note
l. 56. ambitious bauds. They are 'bawds' presumably because they procure adherents, or prostitute their office, by making false claims for the English Church (i.e. that it is the only perfect Church), in order to curry favour with, and win promotion from, high officers in Church and State.
Critical Apparatus
57 bid Σ: bids 1633, C 57, L 74, TCD
Editor’s Note
l. 57. Still new like fashions. A comment on the rapid succession of laws regulating beliefs, ceremonies, and penalties for recusancy, etc., that marked the growth of the English Church.
Editor’s Note
l. 60. tender … tender. The word-play heightens the contempt; 'offer to him while he is of tender years and insufficient judgement'.
Editor’s Note
l. 62. Pay valewes. A ward who refused a marriage arranged on his or her behalf had to pay the guardian a fine known as 'the value of the marriage'; cf. O.E.D., 'value', sb. I. 1. c, and 'valour', 3. d. Graius accepts the English Church because his godfathers (the legislators, as well as his actual sponsors at baptism) so decide; then (like a ward refusing a pre-arranged marriage) he must pay a fine (under the Act of Uniformity, 1559) if he refuses to attend his parish church.
Editor’s Note
ll. 62–64. 'Never say, There is no Church without error: therefore I will be bound by none' (Sermons, ix. 75). Cf. Burton's remarks on those who 'infer, that if there be so many religious sects, and denied by the rest, why may they not all be false?' (Anatomy, part. 3, sect. 4, memb. 2, subsect. 1).
Editor’s Note
1.65. all as one: all alike. The Gracchi were champions of democracy; there may be some faint appropriateness in giving the name to one who finds religions (as they did men) 'of equal worth',
Critical Apparatus
67 kinde,] kinde; 1633
Editor’s Note
ll. 68–69. 'Too much light causes this blindness.' Finding the light of truth everywhere (in every sect), Graccus is blinded to true religion when he actually comes across it. Jonson seems to borrow Donne's phrase in Volpon, v. ii. 23 ('Too much light blinds 'hem, I thinke') and in A Tale of a Tub, 1. i 56–57.
blind-nesse. For other examples of violent enjambment cf. 'Satire IV', ll. 13–14, 104–5.
Editor’s Note
l. 69. unmoved: unswayed (by such frivolous considerations as move Phrygius and Graccus).
Editor’s Note
l. 70. Of force mutt one, and forc'd but one allow. Man must, of necessity, approve and follow one form of religion and, if forced, must approve as true one and one only. It is not easy to give an exact sense to 'fore'd', which probably includes the notion of being 'forc'd' by the law to declare oneself. The sense appears to be that one cannot be religious without 'having a religion', and that in the last resort one must give one's allegiance to one religion and only to one.
Editor’s Note
l. 71. aske thy father. Cf. Deut, xxxii. 7: 'Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee'; and Jer. vi. 16: 'Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein.' Donne seems to be taking the Protestant point of view, that the primitive purity of the Church must be restored; but, as he well knew, all parties in religious disputes of the time appealed to such texts, and the Roman was called 'the old religion'. Cf. Dryden, The Hind and the Panther, ii. 164–7.
Editor’s Note
ll. 72–73. though truth and falshood bee Neare twins, etc. Cf. Tertullian, Adv. Praxeam ii (Migne, P.L. ii. 157): 'Quo peraeque adverses universas haereses iam hinc praejudicatum sit, id esse verum, quodcumque primum; id esse adulterum, quodcumque posterius.' Quoting this, Samuel Bochart (Opera, 1712, ii, p. 2) adds: 'Necesse enim est ut veritas sit prior mendacio, cum mendacium nihil aliud sit quam corruptio veritatis.' I owe these references to D. C Allen (M.L.N. lx, 1945). Contrast Butler, Satires &c, ed. R. Lamar, 1928, p. 184:
  • Truth can be no older then
  • The first original of men
  • But Lying is much Antienter …
Critical Apparatus
75 that] which H 49, W
Editor’s Note
l. 75. best: best religion.
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76 To'adore] To adore 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 76. protest: be a Protestant.
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77 wisely;] wisely, 1633
Editor’s Note
I. 77. Cf.
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78 stray] stay H 49, Q
Editor’s Note
l. 78. Cf. 'a man may stand upon the way, and inquire, and then proceed in the way, if he be right, or to the way, if he be wrong; But when he is fallen, and lies still, he proceeds no farther, inquires no farther' (Sermons, vi, 69).
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79 is. On] is: on 1633 huge] high H 49, W, O'F, Q
Editor’s Note
ll. 79–81. For the ancestry of this passage, on which Donne bestowed so much care in revision, see Appendix C.
Critical Apparatus
80 Cragged L 74, TCD: Cragg'd 1633, C 57: Ragged H 49, W, O'F: Rugged Q stands] dwells H 49 W, O'F, Q
Editor’s Note
l. 80. Cragged. The 'ragged' of earlier versions (of which 'rugged' in Q is probably a mis-reading) seems authentic. Donne writes, 'He shall… rectifie thee in all ragged wayes' (Sermons, v. 373); Shakespeare uses the word several times, e.g. The Two Gentlemen of Verona, I, ii, 121 ('a ragged, fearful, hanging rock'); and in The French Academy, 1594 (i, p. 12) we have, 'the ragged and uneven waie',
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81 her] it H 49, W, Q about must goe] MSS.; see note
Editor’s Note
l. 81. about must, and about must got. The omission of the second 'must' from all manuscripts but JC (and D 17) and Lut, though explicable, is rather surprising. Both the Group I and the Group II manuscripts used by the editor of 1633 were probably defective, and he appears to have made here an obvious emendation.
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82 th'hills] the hills 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 82. 'And by this means gain what the unexpected abruptness of the hill prevents (you from obtaining).' The sense is clear—when the climber comes to a sudden towering crag, he must contour it—but the expression is elliptical.
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84 Soule] mynde H 49, W, O'F, Q night.] night, 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 84. Cf. John ix. 4: 'the night cometh, when no man can work'. The change of 'mind' to 'Soule' in revision was made in the light of a distinction which Donne draws in a letter of the Mitcham period: 'though our souls would goe to one end, Heaven, and all our bodies must go to one end, the earth: yet our third part, the minde, which is our naturall guide here, chooses to every man a severall way' (Letters, p. 72).
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85 doe:]doe 1633
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86 too] to 1633
Editor’s Note
ll. 86–87. Grierson paraphrases: 'Act now, for the night cometh. Hard deeds are achieved by the body's pains (i.e. toil, effort), and hard knowledge is attained by the mind's efforts.' The spelling 'too' (for the 'to' in 1633) in l. 86 is found in Dob, H 51, JC (D 17), P, and S.
Editor’s Note
ll. 87–88. 'No endeavours of the mind will enable us to comprehend mysteries, but all eyes can apprehend them, dazzle as they may' (Grierson).
In all Philosophy there is not so darke a thing as light; As the sunne, which fons lucis naturalis, the beginning of naturall light, is the most evident thing to bee seen, and yet the hardest to be looked upon, so is naturall light to our reason and understanding. Nothing clearer, for it is clearnesse it selfe, nothing darker, it is enwrapped in so many scruples. Nothing nearer, for it is round about us, nothing more remote, for wee know neither entrance, nor limits of it. Nothing more easie, for a child discerns it, nothing more hard, for no man understands it. It is apprehensible by sense, and not comprehensible by reason. If wee winke, wee cannot chuse but see it, if we stare, wee know it never the better (Sermons, iii, 356),
Critical Apparatus
88 like] as H 49, W, O'F, Q to'all] to all 1633 eyes.] eyes; 1633
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89 thou'hast] thou hast 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 89. Keepe the truth, etc. Cf. 2 Tim, i. 14: 'That good thing which was committed unto thee, keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us'; on which Donne says: 'Depart not from thy old gold; leave not thy Catechism-divinity, for all the School-divinity in the world; when we have all, what would we have more?' (Sermons, v. 124).
Critical Apparatus
90 so'ill] so ill 1633 case here Σ: case 1633, C 57, TCD
Editor’s Note
l. 90. so'ill case: such evil circumstances.
here: 'on earth', or (as Professor J. C. Maxwell has suggested to me) 'in religion', or 'in matters of the soul'. The omission of 'here' in C 57, Lec, and and TCD seems to be an error, which the scribe of L 74 also made, but corrected as he was copying.
Editor’s Note
l. 91. blanck-charters. These were originally papers which the wealthy were forced to sign as promises to pay, a space being left blank for the amount, which was filled in at the pleasure of the King's (Richard II's) officers. Cf. Richard II, 1. iv, 48, 11. i. 250. God has not given earthly kings a signed warrant to kill, the names of victims being filled in at the king's will.
Editor’s Note
l. 92. Kings who do kill 'whom they hate' for differing from them are not the responsible agents of Fate, but her hangmen. D. C. Allen (M.L.N. lxv, 1950) points out a resemblance in Luther's Von weltlicher Oberkeit, 1523 (Latin version, 1525). I quote the words as translated by W. I. Brandt, Luther's Works, xlv (The Christian in Society), 1962: 'where the temporal authority presumes to prescribe laws for the soul, it encroaches upon God's government, and only misleads souls and destroys them' (p. 105); bad princes 'are God's executioners and hangmen', but we should be subject humbly to them as long as they do not try 'to become shepherds instead of hangmen' (p. 113).
Critical Apparatus
93 ty'd] tyed 1633
Editor’s Note
ll. 93–95. wilt thou let thy Soule be ty'd, etc. St. Augustine says: 'Ad fidem quidem nullus est cogendus invitus' (Migne, P. L. xliii. 315). Compare Christopher Goodman, How Superior Powers ought to be Obeyed, 1558: 'God will not regarde by what means, or by whose commandement we transgresse his lawes. For that can be no excuse for us, thoghe he be Kinge, Quene, or Emperour that commandeth or threatneth us…. Is the punishment of earthe, ashes, of vile man … more to be feared then the plages of God, who hath power both of body and soule to destroy them everlastingly?' (Facsimile Text Society, 1931, p, 46; see C, H. McIlwain's Introduction).
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94 mans] mens H 49, W try'd] tryed 1633
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95 Will] Oh will H 49, W, Q, Gr: Or will O'F boot] serve H 49, W, O'F, Q
Editor’s Note
ll. 96–97. Philip … Gregory … Harry … Martin: Philip II of Spain, Pope Gregory XIII (d. 1585) or Gregory XIV, Henry VIII, and Martin Luther. A Roman Catholic King (defender of the faith) and religious leader are balanced against a Protestant King (defender of the faith) and Protestant religious leader.
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97 thee] me W
Editor’s Note
l. 98. mere: absolute, complete.
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99 strong?] strong 1633
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100 may'st rightly'obey] mayest rightly obey 1633
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101 name's changed; to be] name is chang'd to be, 1633
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103 is;] is, 1633 that] which H 49, W, Q
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104 prove Σ: do 1633, C 57, TCD, Gr
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106 alas,] alas 1633
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107 and rockes] Rockes H 49, W, O'F, Q
'and at] and at 1633
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