Helen Gardner (ed.), John Donne: The Elegies and The Songs and Sonnets

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To his Mistris Going to Bed

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Critical Apparatus
To his Mistris Going to Bed (Elegy XIX Gr). First printed in 1669. Text from C 57 with spelling regularized to that of 1633, punctuation supplemented and paragraphing supplied. Title from 1669: Going to Bed B, Gr
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4 they] he Dob, S 96, A 25, Cy, P, B, S, 1669, Gr
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5 zone] zones TC, Dob, W
glistering] glittering Dob, 1669, Gr
Editor’s Note
l. 5. zone. The singular is required both for sense and to avoid a further sibilant in the line. The reference is either to the 'zone or girdle of Orion' (O.E.D., 'zone', sb. 3. c), or to the outermost circle of the universe, within the Primum Mobile, the sphere of the fixed stars.
Editor’s Note
l. 7. that spangled brest-plate. The stomacher, which covered the chest under the laced bodice, was often richly ornamented with jewels.
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8 that I may see my shrine that shines so faire Cy, P
Editor’s Note
l. 9. that harmonious chime. The lady is wearing a chiming watch.
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10 'tis your] is … Dob, O'F: 'tis full A 25: it is 1669, Gr
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11 whom] which O'F, S 96, A 25, JC, Cy, P, 1669, Gr: yt B
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13 gownes] gown O'F, A 25, Cy,P, 1669, Gr
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14. from] through 1669
shadow] shadows P, 1669
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15 your] that Dob, Cy, P, B, 1669, Gr
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16 on you] on your head 1669
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17 Off with those shoes: and then H 49, TC: … these … C 57: … shoes you weare and Dob, O'F, S 96: Off with yor hose and shoes, then S: Now off with those shoes and then W, A 25, JC, Cy, P, B, 1669, Gr; see note
safely TC, Dob, O'F, S 96, W, A 25, B, S: softly C 57, H 49, JC, Cy, P, 1669
Editor’s Note
l. 17. Off with those shoes: and then safely tread. I concur with Grierson in rejecting 'softly' (I, JC, Cy, P, 1669) as an error arising from 'soft' in the following line. I differ from him in adopting the abrupt 'Off with' (I, II, and III), which repeats the opening of ll. 5 and 11, in place of 'Now off with' (W, A 25, JC et al.). The line I print is a syllable short. It can be scanned with a defective fourth foot:
Lines of poetry with graphic scansion
But the strong pause at the colon suggests that a better scansion would regard the third foot as defective, or virtually non-existent, and take it that its deficiency received rhythmic compensation from a dramatic pause:
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Cf. l. 43:
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'Off with those shoes you weare' (III) and 'Off with your hose and shoes' (S) are plainly attempts to regularize the line in Groups I and II. The line in W has its full complement of syllables; but it is both less vigorous and rhythmically unsatisfactory:
Lines of poetry with graphic scansion
It could be argued that this is the original reading and that the omission of 'Now' was due to the influence of ll. 5 and 11. I prefer the explanation that the line in W has also been regularized. The parallel in l. 43 suggests that in this dramatic monologue Donne was availing himself of a licence common in dramatic verse.
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20 Receiv'd by] Revealed to 1669
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22 Ill] All O'F, Cy, P, B, 1669
Editor’s Note
l. 22. Ill sprits walk in white. White is normally the garb of 'good spirits'; but since the devil is sometimes 'transformed into an angel of light' (2 Cor. xi. 14) white is no proof of a spirit's goodness.
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24 They] Those O'F, 1669, Gr
the] our Dob, O'F, S 96, A 25, JC, Cy, P, B, S, 1669, Gr
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26 Before, behinde, betweene, above B, 1669, Gr: Above, behinde, before, beneath S 96
Editor’s Note
l. 27. my new found lande. Modern Newfoundland was only one of many 'new found lands'. The title was not restricted to the island at the mouth of the St. Lawrence until the seventeenth century.
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28 kingdome, safeliest] … safest S 96, A 25, B, S: kingdom's safest O'F, Cy, P, 1669
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30 How am I blest in thus 1669
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31 in Dob, W,A 25, JC, B, S: into C 57, H 49, TC, O'F, S 96, Cy, P
these Σ: those C 57, A 25
bonds Σ: Bands, C 57
Editor’s Note
l. 31. in these bonds. To 'enter into' a bond is the more common form; but since, even if we elide 'enter' into', we get an awkward line, I have preferred 'enter in' (W, A 25, JC) for which there are Shakespearian parallels.
In B, where this poem occurs at the close in a different hand from that of the bulk of the manuscript, the writer has written against this line 'why may a man not write his owne Epithalamion if he can doe it so modestly'.
Critical Apparatus
32 Then Σ: There C 57, JC, P: That S
Editor’s Note
l. 32. my seal shall be. Cf. 'Tutelage', l. 29, and 'The Relic', ll. 29–30.
Editor’s Note
ll. 34–35. 'As souls must cast off the body to taste the fullness of joy, so bodies must cast off their clothes.' See Aquinas, S. T., Ia pars, IIae partis, q. lxix, art. ii, where it is concluded that the full reward of the blessed is after death and that in this life they have only a foretaste of bliss. For the praise of nakedness, cf. Propertius, II. xv.
Editor’s Note
ll. 35–36. Since it was Hippomenes who cast the golden balls in the path of Atalanta to distract her from the race (Ovid, Metamorphoses, x), Donne's simile which equates women with Hippomenes and men with Atalanta is not altogether happy.
Critical Apparatus
36 as] like Dob, S 96, JC, 1669, Gr
balls] ball 1669
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38 covet] courte P, 1669
theirs] those S: yt O'F,B,1669
Editor’s Note
ll. 39–40.
  • Like pictures, or like bookes gay coverings made
  • For laymen,
There is a glance here at the view commonly ascribed to Papists that images and pictures are 'lay-mennes bokes' (Norton, Calvin's Institutes, 1561,I. xi) as well as at the ignorant rich man who values his books for their binding.
Critical Apparatus
41 Themselves are only mysticke bookes, which we B, 1669: … musique bookes … P
Editor’s Note
l. 42. imputed grace. The Reformation dispute over Justification turned on whether the merits of Christ are imparted, as Catholics held, or merely 'imputed' by a kind of legal fiction. By using the Protestant term Donne implies the distinction between the few 'elect' and the mass of the reprobate, and also pays women a hyperbolical compliment: all merit and grace is from them.
Critical Apparatus
43 see Σ: be C 57, H 49, TCD
since] since that O'F, JC, 1669, Gr: sweet that Cy, P: (sweet) since B; see note
Editor’s Note
l. 43. See note to l. 17. As there, the line has been filled out in various manuscripts.
Critical Apparatus
44 a] thy JC, 1669
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46 Here … much lesse Dob, S 96, A 25: There … much lesse C 57, H 49, TC, W: There … due to O'F, JC, Cy, P, B, S, 1669, Gr; see note
Editor’s Note
l. 46. Here is no pennance, much lesse innocence. Grierson preserved the reading of 1669: 'There is no pennance due to innocence.' He thought that the line I print was the original reading and that the reading of 1669 was 'a softening of the original to make it compatible with the suggestion that the poem could be read as an epithalamium', quoting the marginal note in B cited above in the note to l. 31. He presumably ascribed the 'softening' to Donne. Apart from unreliable miscellanies the reading of 1669 is found only in Lut, O'F, JC, Cy, O, P, B, and S. JC (reading here against W and A 25, with whom in the Elegies it usually agrees) may well be the source of this reading. Lut and O'F, reading here against the other Group III manuscripts, show contact with the tradition in Cy, O, and P as they do occasionally elsewhere. The agreement of Groups I, II, and III (less Lut, O'F) with W establishes 'much lesse' as the true reading, and I cannot regard the variant as anything but scribal in origin. The notion that the poem could be an epithalamium need hardly be taken seriously. The lady is plainly, like the lady of 'Love's War', a 'faire free City'; white, the colour of penitence and virginity, is not for her. The initial address 'Come, Madame, come' and the fact that she is obviously very expensively dressed suggests that she is one of the 'cities quelque choses' ('Love's Usury', l. 15).
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