John Donne

Helen Peters (ed.), John Donne: Paradoxes and Problems

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problem xvi

Critical Apparatus Why are Statesmen most Incredible?

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Critical Apparatus
Title: Incredible] Incredulous O'F (b.c.), TC, S 962, S, 1652; see note
Critical Apparatus
1 all Σ‎: omit O'F, Dob
Editor’s Note
ll. 1–5. Are they all wise … to bee beleeved. 'Are statesmen wise enough to imitate Tiberius, who brought the Senate to be diligent and industrious to believe him, were what they say so opposite their meaning, that to be believed destroyed their true aims.' Tiberius was a master of dissimilation and also spoke obscurely as if he did not want to make his meaning clear. See Tacitus, Annates, l. 11. Suetonius, 'Tiberius'. ch. 24. Cassius Dio lvii, 1. 'were … it destroyd' is idiomatic for 'were … it [would have] destroyed'.
Critical Apparatus
3 to beleeve] not … Ash 826
were it never] … ever TC, S 962: And is it Ash 826
Editor’s Note
l. 3. it. The Senate, 'even when the Senate was "opposite and diametricall" toward him, he could make it believe him'.
Critical Apparatus
4 and Σ‎: or O'F, 1652
that Σ‎: as … O'F
destroyd] destroyes Ash 826
theyr Σ‎, O'F (b.c.): his O'F; see note
Editor’s Note
l. 4. destroyd theyr very ends. The scribe of O'F saw that there was a difficulty in this passage as it stood in his copy, and 'corrected' his text by crossing out 'theyr' which he had first written, and inserting 'his'. thus indicating that Tiberius's aims were destroyed (which of course they were, but that is not Donne's point here).
Critical Apparatus
5 deceaved] destroyd O'F (b.c.): defeated Ash 826
Critical Apparatus
5–6 this man by] his man Ash 826
Editor’s Note
ll. 5–6. Asinius Gallus … beleeving him. Cf. Tacitus, Annales, i. 12:
Inter quae senatu ad infimas obtestationes procumbente dixit forte Tiberius se ut non toti rei publicae parem, ita quaecumque pars sibi mandaretur, eius tutelam suscepturum. Turn Asinius Gallus 'Interrogo,' inquit, 'Caesar, quam partem rei publicae mandari tibi velis.' Perculsus inprovisa interrogatione paulum reticuit; dein, collecto animo, respondit nequaquam decorum pudori suo legere aliquid aut evitare ex eo, cui in universum excusari mallet.
(The senate, meanwhile, was descending to the most abject supplications, when Tiberius happened to say that, unequal as he felt himself to the whole weight of government, he would still undertake the charge of any one department that might be assigned to him. Asinius Gallus then said:— "I ask you Caesar, what department you wish to be assigned you." This unforeseen inquiry threw him off his balance. He was silent for a few moments; then recovered himself, and answered that it would not at all become his diffidence to select or shun any part of a burden from which he would prefer to be wholly excused.)
This passage continues on to say that Tiberius was offended as he thought that Asinius's question suggested a division of the power of the State.
Critical Apparatus
6 Mayour] Mayor TC: Maior Dob, Ash 826, S 962, S: Major 1652
Editor’s Note
ll. 6–7. Mayour and Aldermen of London Richard the Third. The interview between Richard III and the Mayor and Aldermen in which Richard was 'persuaded' by the Duke of Buckingham to accept the crown, took place on 25 June 1483. The dramatization of the scene is in Shakespeare's Richard III, 111. vii. In the play, after Buckingham's speech ll. 207–18, the citizens having accepted Richard's reluctance to assume the crown, turn to leave, so in this sense they could be said to have almost deceived him. Both S and 1652 read 'in Richard the 3 d' implying that the reference is to the play.
Critical Apparatus
7 Richard] in … S, 1652
the businesses] businesses Dob, S, 1652: buisines TC, S 962
Critical Apparatus
8 about which Σ‎: whereabout O'F
Critical Apparatus
9 and] omit TC, S 962, S, 1652
Critical Apparatus
10 they are therefore Σ‎: therefore they are O'F
oraculously] Graculously TC, S 962
multiformly Σ‎: multiformity O'F: omit S 962, 1652
Editor’s Note
l. 10. oraculously. 'Oraculous' = resembling the ancient oracles in the mystery, ambiguity, or sententiousness of their answers, OED 2b, obs. The earliest usage of this word recorded by OED is in Bacon, Essays (1625), 509. There is no such word as 'graculously'. the Group II reading.
Editor’s Note
l. 10. multiformly. 'Multiform' = of many and various forms or kinds. OED records the first usage in 1603 in Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essays (1632), 458.
Critical Apparatus
11 and thereby] therby Ash 826: and therefore 1652
escapingly] escapably Ash 826
Critical Apparatus
12 weather Σ‎: weathers O'F
Editor’s Note
l.13. Arcana Imperii. Cf. Sparrow, Devotions, 'Meditation 10'. 56' … certaine Arcana Imperii, secrets of State, by which it will proceed, and not be bound to declare them' (E. M. S.). The phrase also occurs in Sermons, v. 298, 365, vii. 124, ix, 246. In the Problem, Donne's cynical wit reduces state secrets to court gossip.
Critical Apparatus
14 Of] and Ash 826
Critical Apparatus
15 such, Σ‎: … like, O'F
Critical Apparatus
16 inexcusable] excusable Ash 826
Critical Apparatus
17 not] omit Ash 826
State businesse] … businesses Dob, Ash 826: estate … TC, S 962: estate of busynes S
Critical Apparatus
18 tell] not … 1652
Editor’s Note
ll. 18–21. they tell true … in a curse. 'Statesmen will not tell the truth about the time or the weather if these things will not aid their ambitions, in the same manner in which witches will not name Jesus in a curse, as He will not aid them in the evil they intend.'
Critical Apparatus
19 truth of it, if it] truth though it Ash 826
disconduce] … not TC: Conduce not S, 1652
Editor’s Note
l. 19. disconduce. To be non conductive to, OED, obs.
Critical Apparatus
21 out of Σ‎: but in O'F
Critical Apparatus
22 elements] Element Ash 826
a habit] an … 1652
Critical Apparatus
23 the Lords] lords S 962, 1652
Critical Apparatus
24 these theyr Prince Σ‎: omit O'F
Editor’s Note
l. 24. these theyr Prince. 'The statesmen imitate Sata.'
Critical Apparatus
27 it selfe Σ‎: omit O'F
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