Helen Gardner (ed.), John Donne: The Elegies and The Songs and Sonnets
- Editor’s Note1Goe, and catche a falling starre,
- Editor’s Note2Get with child a mandrake roote,
- 3Tell me, where all past yeares are,
- 4 Or who cleft the Divels foot,
- 5Teach me to heare Mermaides singing,
- 6Or to keep off envies stinging,
- 7 And finde
- 8 What winde
- Critical Apparatus9Serves to'advance an honest minde.
- 10If thou beest borne to strange sights,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus11 Things invisible to see,
- Editor’s Note12Ride ten thousand daies and nights,
- 13 Till age snow white haires on thee,
- Critical Apparatus14Thou, when thou retorn'st, wilt tell mee
- 15All strange wonders that befell thee,
- 16 And sweare
- 17 No where
- 18Lives a woman true, and faire.
- 19If thou findst one, let mee know,
- 20 Such a Pilgrimage were sweet,
- Critical Apparatus21Yet doe not, I would not goe,
- 22 Though at next doore wee might meet,
- pg 30Editor’s Note23Though shee were true, when you met her,
- Critical Apparatus24And last, till you write your letter,
- 25 Yet shee
- 26 Will bee
- 27False, ere I come, to two, or three.
Song. Title from 1633. This and the following five poems occur in DC under the heading 'Songs which were made to certaine Aires that were made before'.
l. 1. Goe, and catche a falling starre. Cf. the Somerset Epithalamium, ll. 204–5:
- As he that sees a starre fall, runs apace,
- And findes a gellie in the place …
l. 2. Get with child a mandrake roote. The mandrake had a forked root and was thus held to resemble the human form. It was valued in antiquity as a soporific, an aphrodisiac, and a promoter of fertility in women. Donne in 'The Progress of the Soul' (Stanza XV) adds a further property when he declares
See D. C. Allen, 'Donne on the Mandrake', M.L.N, lxxiv, 1959, for information on the lore of the mandrake.
- His apples kindle, his leaves, force of conception kill.
9 to'advance] to advance 1633
11 to see] see H 40, C 57, H 49, L 74, TC, B (b.c.): goe see Dob, S 96, S; see note
l. 11. to see. 1633 appears to have made an obvious correction of the defective line in Groups I and II. The true reading has possibly been preserved in Group III (Dob, S 96) which reads 'goe see', giving an imperative to balance 'Ride': 'If you are already gifted with the power to see marvels, go and see the invisible.' The manuscripts that agree with 1633 may do so accidentally through having made the same correction in the defective line in Group II with which they are all textually connected.
ll. 12–13. Miss K. M. Lea (Elizabethan and Jacobean Studies, 1959, pp. 51–52) has suggested this may be an echo of Orlando Furioso, xxvii. 123–4, where Rodomonte rails at the inconstancy of women and the poet intervenes to say that he is sure good women can be found but none have so far come his way. Still he will not give up and before he dies, before more white hairs come, he will continue his search in the hope that one day he will be able to say that one woman has kept her word.
14. when thou retorn'st] at thy returne Dob, O'F, S 96
21 not, I] not, for I Dob, O'F, S 96, S
l. 23. The tune makes the point:
24. last] omit TCC: last so O'F, S 96, A 25, JC: lasts so Dob, S