John Donne

Helen Gardner (ed.), John Donne: The Divine Poems (Second Edition)

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IIIThe Holy Ghost

  • 19  O Holy Ghost, whose temple I
  • 20Am, but of mudde walls, and condensed dust,
  • 21  And being sacrilegiously
  • 22Halfe wasted with youths fires, of pride and lust,
  • 23      Must with new stormes be weatherbeat;
  • Critical Apparatus24      Double'in my heart thy flame,
  • Editor’s Note25Which let devout sad teares intend; and let
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus26(Though this glasse lanthorne, flesh, do suffer maime)
  • Editor’s Note27Fire, Sacrifice, Priest, Altar be the same.

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
24 Double'] Double 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 25. intend: intensify. Paradoxically, the tears of repentance do not quench but increase the 'flame'.
Critical Apparatus
26 glasse] darke Dob
Editor’s Note
l. 26. this glasse lanthorne, flesh. B, Dob, S 96 read 'darke lanterne'; but Lut, O'F read with Groups I and II and 1633. The stanza contrasts the impermanence of the body with the eternal sameness of the Spirit. It is only of 'mudde walls', a phrase Donne used in his Devotions (Sparrow, p. 109); it has been profaned by the fires of lust and must suffer the storms of sickness in age. Its fragility, not its darkness, needs emphasis. It seems likely that 'darke' is an error and not an early reading, as Lut and O'F have 'glasse'. I do not believe Donne wrote 'darke' but, as a possible reading, it is recorded.
Cf. 'Epitaph on Himselfe':
  • Parents make us earth, and soules dignifie
  • Us to be glasse. …
The comparison of the body of man to a glass is not unusual in Elizabethan literature; cf. Spenser, Ruins of Time, l. 50, and Chapman, Byron's Tragedy, v. iv. 37.
'Glasse lanthorne' unites two commonplaces: the body is both a glass vessel, containing the breath of life, and a lantern containing the candle of the soul.
Editor’s Note
l. 27. be the same: be unchanged. The Fire is the flame of the Spirit, which burns on the Altar of his heart; the Priest is his soul, which offers the Sacrifice of a troubled spirit. The prayer is for perseverance.
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