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

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pg 23On his Mistris

  • 1By our first strange and fatall interview,
  • 2By all desires which thereof did ensue,
  • Editor’s Note3By our long sterving hopes, by that remorse
  • 4Which my words masculine perswasive force
  • 5Begot in thee, and by the memory
  • 6Of hurts which spies and rivalls threatned mee,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus7I calmely beg; but by thy parents wrath,
  • 8By all paines which want and divorcement hath,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus9I conjure thee; and all those oathes which I
  • 10And thou have sworne, to seal joint constancie,
  • 11Here I unsweare, and over–sweare them thus:
  • Critical Apparatus12Thou shalt not love by meanes so dangerous.
  • 13Temper, oh faire Love, loves impetuous rage,
  • 14Be my true mistris still, not my feign'd page.
  • 15I'll goe, and, by thy kind leave, leave behinde
  • 16Thee, onely worthy to nurse in my minde
  • 17Thirst to come back; oh, if thou dye before,
  • Critical Apparatus18From other lands my soule towards thee shall soare.
  • 19Thy (else Almighty) Beauty cannot move
  • 20Rage from the seas, nor thy love teach them love,
  • Editor’s Note21Nor tame wilde Boreas harshness; Thou hast read
  • 22How roughly hee in peices shivered
  • 23Faire Orithea, whome he swore hee lov'd.
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus24Fall ill or good, 'tis madness to have prov'd
  • 25Dangers unurg'd; Feede on this flatterye,
  • 26That absent lovers one in th'other bee.
  • Editor’s Note27Dissemble nothing, not a boy, nor change
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus28Thy bodies habit, nor mindes; bee not strange
  • pg 24Editor’s Note29To thy selfe onely; All will spye in thy face
  • 30A blushing womanly discovering grace.
  • Editor’s Note31Richly cloth'd Apes are call'd Apes, and as soone
  • 32Ecclips'd as bright, wee call the moone, the moone.
  • Editor’s Note33Men of France, changeable Camelions,
  • 34Spittles of diseases, shops of fashions,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus35Loves fuellers, and the rightest companie
  • 36Of Players which uppon the worlds stage bee,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus37Will quickly knowe thee,'and knowe thee; and alas
  • 38Th'indifferent Italian, as wee passe
  • Critical Apparatus39His warme land, well content to thinke thee page,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus40Will haunt thee, with such lust and hideous rage
  • 41As Lots faire guests were vext: But none of these,
  • Editor’s Note42Nor spungie hydroptique Dutch, shall thee displease,
  • 43If thou stay here. Oh stay here, for, for thee
  • Editor’s Note44England is only'a worthy gallerie,
  • 45To walk in expectation, till from thence
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus46Our greate King call thee into his presence.
  • 47When I am gone, dreame mee some happinesse,
  • 48Nor let thy lookes our long hid love confesse,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus49Nor praise, nor dispraise mee, blesse, nor curse
  • 50Openly loves force; nor in bed fright thy nurse
  • Critical Apparatus51With midnights startings, crying out, oh, oh,
  • Editor’s Note52Nurse, oh my love is slaine; I saw him goe
  • 53Ore the white Alpes, alone; I saw him, I,
  • Editor’s Note54Assayld, fight, taken, stabb'd, bleede, fall, and dye.
  • Editor’s Note55Augure mee better chance, except dreade Jove
  • 56Think it enough for mee, to'have had thy love.

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
On his Mistris (Elegy XVI Gr). Cy omits. First printed in 1635. Text from C 57 with spelling regularized to that of 1633 and punctuation supplemented. Title from 1635: On his Mistress desire to be disguised and to goe like a Page with him Dob, (… desiring ….) O'F, S 96: His wife would have gone as his Page B
Editor’s Note
l. 3. remorse: pity.
Critical Apparatus
7 parents] fathers O'F, 1635, Gr
Editor’s Note
ll. 7, 12, and 18. On these three occasions 1635 reads with Lut and O'F against all other manuscripts, except that in l. 12 Lut and O'F are joined by S. Grierson suggested that 'fathers' (1633, O'F) for 'parents' in l. 7 arose from the identification of the lady addressed with the motherless Ann More. It seems highly improbable that at the date at which this reading would seem to have arisen (Lut and O'F were both written after Donne's death) the fact that Donne's bride had no mother would have been remembered. 'Fathers' (who are notoriously wrathful with unsuitable wooers of their daughters) looks like an obvious scribal substitution for 'parents'. Similar insignificant variants are 'wayes' (1635, O'F) for 'meanes' in l. 12 and the transposition of words in l. 18.
Critical Apparatus
9 those] these H 49: the Dob, O'F, S 96, P, B, 1635, Gr
Editor’s Note
l. 9. those. The agreement of Groups I, II, and W establishes this reading.
Critical Apparatus
12 meanes] wayes O'F, S, 1635, Gr
Critical Apparatus
18 My soule from other lands to thee O'F, 1635, Gr
Editor’s Note
ll. 21–23. Nor tame wilde Boreas harshness, &c. In all versions of the myth known to me Boreas, the north wind, carried off Orithea to his home in Thrace where she bore him twin sons; see Ovid, Metamorphoses, vi. 682–713. In the Phaedrus Socrates refers to a rationalization of the myth which said that the girl was blown off a cliff by a blast of the north wind and hence the fable of her rape by a god arose. This hardly explains Donne's allusion since it rationalizes away the roughly amorous god. Donne may have confused two stories, the rape of Orithea and a story Burton tells:
Contantine in the eleventh book of his husbandry, cap. II. hath a pleasant tale of the Pine tree; she was once a fair maid, whom Pineus and Boreas two corrivals, dearly sought; but jealous Boreas broke her neck (Anatomy, part 3, sect. 3, memb. I, subs. I).
Critical Apparatus
24 Fall Σ: Full C 57
Editor’s Note
ll. 24–25. 'Whether things turn out well or badly, it is madness to have endured dangers not thrust upon us.'
Editor’s Note
l. 27. Dissemble. There is a zeugma here, the verb being used in two senses, the current sense 'hide' and the obsolete sense 'simulate'. 'Hide nothing, nor simulate a boy.'
Critical Apparatus
28 mindes TC, W, A 25, JC,B: Mynde C 57, H 49, Dob, O'F, S 96, P, S, 1635
Editor’s Note
ll. 28–30. bee not strange, &c. If she disguises herself she will deceive only herself.
Editor’s Note
l. 29. As in 'The Anagram', l. 7, see note, there is an extra unmetrical syllable before the pause which could be elided.
Lines of poetry with graphic scansion
Editor’s Note
l. 31. Apes: fools.
Editor’s Note
ll. 33–42. For the traditional characteristics of the French, Italians, and Dutch (Germans), cf. the old rhyme quoted by Brone, Religio Medici, ii. 4:
  • Le mutin Anglois, et le bravache Escossois;
  • Le bougre Italian, & le fol François;
  • Le poultron Romain, le larron de Gascongne,
  • L'Espagnol superbe, & l'Aleman yvrongne.
Editor’s Note
ll. 33–34.
  • Men of France, changeable Camelions,
  • Spittles of diseases, shops of fashions,
For the changeability of the French, see note on 'Love's War', l. 9. The diseases treated in spital-houses were venereal; cf. 'Even Spittles will give me souldiers to fight for me, by their miserable example against that sin' (Sermons, iv. 55). French changeableness in fashions is commented on by Du Bartas:
  • Heer's nothing constant: nothing still doth stay. …
  • Much like the French, (or like our selves, their Apes)
  • Who with strange habit do disguise their shapes;
  • Who loving novels, full of affectation,
  • Receive the Manners of each other Nation;
  • And scarcely shift they shirts so oft, as change
  • Fantastick Fashions of their garments strange.
  • (Sylvester, Du Bartas, First Week, Second Day.)
Critical Apparatus
35 Loves TC, O'F, A 25, S, 1635: Lives C 57, H 49, Dob, S 96, W, JC, P, B; see note
Editor’s Note
l. 35. Loves fuellers. I agree with Grierson in reading 'Loves' though the weight of authority is with 'Lives'. It is easy to misread one for the other. The reading is established and the sense explained by reference to the same sermon quoted in the note above and later in the note to l. 44. It would almost seem as if Donne had been re-reading this poem of his youth when preparing this sermon, preached 8 March 1622 at Whitehall:
If mine enemie meet me betimes in my youth, in an object of tentation, (so Josephs enemie met him in Putifars Wife) yet if I doe not adhere to this enemy, dwell upon a delightfull meditation of that sin, if I doe not fuell, and foment that sin, assist and encourage that sin, by high diet, wanton discourse, other provocation, I shall have reason on my side, and I shall have grace on my side, and I shall have the History of a thousand that have perished by that sin, on my side; Even Spittles … (Sermons, iv. 55).
Critical Apparatus
37 knowe thee, and knowe thee; and alas TC, W, ( … and thee … ) A 25, ( … thee alas ) S: knowe thee and alas C 57, H 49, Dob, S 96, JC, P, B: knowe thee, and no lesse, alas O'F, 1635, Gr; see note
Editor’s Note
l. 37. Will quickly knowe thee,' and knowe thee; and alas. There can be no doubt that this is the line that Donne wrote and that the reading of 1635, taken from O'F, is a patch of the defective line found in Group I and other manuscripts. Grierson thought this, but preserved the reading of 1635 out of repugnance for 'the sudden brutal change in the sense of the word "knowe"', though he owned that it was in Donne's manner.
Critical Apparatus
39 well Σ: will C 57
Critical Apparatus
40 haunt] hunt Dob, O'F, S 96, 1635, Gr
Editor’s Note
l. 40. haunt. The Group III reading 'hunt', which 1635 took from O'F, does not fit the behaviour of the Sodomites who, when Lot was entertaining the two angels, 'compassed the house round' (Gen. xix. 4). Lot might well have used to them the words of Brabantio to Roderigo: 'I have charg'd thee not to haunt about my doors' (Othello, I. i. 98).
Editor’s Note
l. 42. spungie hydroptique Dutch. The more the dropsical man drinks the more he thirsts.
Editor’s Note
l. 44. England is only'a worthy gallerie. The 'gallery' is the long room or corridor in a palace where suitors wait for admission to the presence-chamber. Donne frequently in his sermons uses the metaphor of this world as a gallery to the presence-chamber of Heaven; see Sermons, iii. 203 and iv. 240, cited by Grierson. The closest parallel to the poem is in the sermon already quoted from twice where, having spoken of the 'Heaven of Heavens' as 'the Presence Chamber of Gd himselfe' which awaits 'the presence of our bodies', Donne turns to this world as 'one house' and says 'Let this Kingdome, where God hath blessed thee with a being, be the Gallery, the best roome of that house' (Sermons, iv. 47 and 49).
Critical Apparatus
46 greate … call … into W, A 25, JC: … to C 57, H 49: … doe call … to TC: greatest … call … to Dob, O'F, S 96, P, B, 1635, Gr; see note
Editor’s Note
l. 46. Our greate King call thee into his presence. All the versions of this line are lame. The line printed here is from W, A 25, JC, S. Groups I and II agree with W in reading 'Our greate', but both read 'to' for 'into'. This gives in Group I a line of nine syllables that is hopelessly unmetrical. Group II has mended the line by adding the auxiliary 'do', but this does not help the rhythm. Group III, which also reads 'to' for 'into', achieves ten syllables by reading 'greatest'. I think we must regard the lines in II and III as patched and that an editor has no choice but to accept the line in W or attempt emendation on his own judgement.
Critical Apparatus
49 blesse] nor blesse Dob, O'F, S 96, P, B, S, 1635, Gr
Editor’s Note
l. 49. blesse. Grierson retained the reading of 1635 and Group III, 'nor blesse', though he owned that the reading of Groups I and II and W was 'probably original'. For the absence of a syllable at a medial pause, see notes to 'Going to Bed', l. 17. The line as printed is very forceful:
Lines of poetry with graphic scansion
Critical Apparatus
51 midnights H 49, TC, O'F, W, A 25,1635: midnight C 57, Dob, S 96, JC, P, B, S
Editor’s Note
ll. 52–53. Mr. Leishman suggested to me that the vividness of these lines might owe something to Virgil's tenth Eclogue (ll. 46–48):
  • Tu procul a patria (nec sit mihi credere tantum)
  • Alpinas ah dura nives et frigora Rheni
  • Me sine sola vides.
Editor’s Note
l. 54. See note on versification (p. 109) for the scansion of this line.
Editor’s Note
l. 55. Augure mee better chance. Cf. the song 'Sweetest love, I doe not goe' and 'A Valediction: of Weeping' for this fear that his mistress's 'ill-divining soul' may provide an ill omen. In these two poems Donne, as here, makes no attempt to prove the 'flatterye':
That absent lovers one in th'other bee.
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