Helen Gardner (ed.), John Donne: The Elegies and The Songs and Sonnets
- Editor’s Note1No Spring, nor Summer Beauty hath such grace,
- Critical Apparatus2As I have seen in one Autumnall face.
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus3Yong Beauties force your love, and that's a Rape,
- 4This doth but counsaile, yet you cannot scape.
- Critical Apparatus5If 'twere a shame to love, here 'twere no shame,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus6Affection here takes Reverences name.
- 7Were her first yeares the Golden Age; That's true,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus8But now shee's gold oft tried, and ever new.
- Editor’s Note9That was her torrid and inflaming time,
- Critical Apparatus10This is her tolerable Tropique clyme.
- Critical Apparatus11Faire eyes, who askes more heate then comes from hence,
- 12He in a fever wishes pestilence.
- Editor’s Note13Call not these wrinkles, graves; If graves they were,
- 14They were Loves graves; for else he is no where.
- Critical Apparatus15Yet lies not Love dead here, but here doth sit
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus16Vow'd to this trench, like an Anachorit.
- 17And here, till hers, which must be his death, come,
- 18He doth not digge a Grave, but build a Tombe.
- Critical Apparatus19Here dwells he, though he sojourne ev'ry where,
- Editor’s Note20In Progresse, yet his standing house is here.
- 21Here, where still Evening is; not noone, nor night;
- 22Where no voluptuousnesse, yet all delight.
- Editor’s Note23In all her words, unto all hearers fit,
- Critical Apparatus24You may at Revels, you at Counsaile, sit.
- Editor’s Note25This is loves timber, youth his under–wood;
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus26There he, as wine in June, enrages blood,
- pg 28Critical Apparatus27Which then comes seasonabliest, when our tast
- Critical Apparatus28And appetite to other things, is past.
- Editor’s Note29Xerxes strange Lydian love, the Platane tree,
- 30Was lov'd for age, none being so large as shee,
- 31Or else because, being yong, nature did blesse
- 32Her youth with ages glory, Barrennesse.
- 33If we love things long sought, Age is a thing
- 34Which we are fifty yeares in compassing.
- 35If transitory things, which soone decay,
- 36Age must be lovelyest at the latest day.
- 37But name not Winter-faces, whose skin's slacke;
- 38Lanke, as an unthrifts purse; but a soules sacke;
- 39Whose Eyes seeke light within, for all here's shade;
- Critical Apparatus40Whose mouthes are holes, rather worne out, then made;
- Critical Apparatus41Whose every tooth to a'severall place is gone,
- 42To vexe their soules at Resurrection;
- 43Name not these living Deaths-heads unto mee,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus44For these, not Ancient, but Antiques be.
- 45I hate extreames; yet I had rather stay
- 46With Tombs, then Cradles, to weare out a day.
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus47Since such loves naturall lation is, may still
- 48My love descend, and journey downe the hill,
- 49Not panting after growing beauties, so,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus50I shall ebbe on with them, who home-ward goe.
pg IN1 pg IN2
The Autumnall (Elegy IX Gr). Text from 1633. MSS.: H 40, C 57, H 49; L 74, TC; Dob, O'F. Title from 1633 which has Elegie./The Autumnall: Elegie Autumnall H 40, C 57, H 49, Dob: Widdow Her L 74: Elegie. 12. On the Lady Herbert afterwards Danvers O'F: Elegie: TC; for other titles in MSS. see note. The text in 1633 is indented and heavily italicized
ll. 1–2. Bacon ('Of Beauty') supports the claim of age against youth by an adage 'Pulchorum autumnus pulcher', a misquotation of 'Pulchorum etiam autumnus pulcher est' (Erasmus, Adagia). The saying occurs three times in Plutarch. Since Bacon uses his misquotation to support the view that autumn is the most beautiful of the seasons and North mistranslates Plutarch to give the same sense, the adage seems to have become assimilated to the epigram from the Anthology quoted above. Mrs. Duncan-Jones points out that Plutarch's anecdote in the Life of Alcibiades in which the saying figures could have been found by Donne in Aelian where he could also have found the story of Xerxes and the plane tree.
2 face.] face, 1633
3 your H 40, L 74, TC, Dob, O'F: our 1633, C 57, H 49, Gr
5 'twere] t'were 1633 bis
6 Affection … takes H 49, L 74, TC, Dob: … take H 40: Affliction … C 57: Affections … take 1633, O'F
l. 6. Affection. I agree with Grierson in rejecting the plural of 1633 which has only the accidental support of Lut, O'F. It is possibly an example of editorial sophistication, to provide a parallel to 'Reverences' mistakenly regarded as a plural.
8 shee's MSS.: they'are 1633
l. 8. shee's gold. The reading of 1633 ('they'are gold') gives nonsense as her 'first yeares' are now past.
I presume Donne thinks of the 'Golden Age' as the age of innocence. By experience, or assaying, she has herself now been proved to be gold. Gold, being the purest of metals, is unimpaired ('ever new') by being 'tried'.
- That was her torrid and inflaming time,
- This is her tolerable Tropique clyme.
The 'torrid zone' is bounded by the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, a little over 23° north and south of the equator. As the next couplet makes clear, the lady has not arrived at the temperate zone, but at a region that is 'tolerable' or 'habitable' (the choice of reading is indifferent), though still very warm.
10 tolerable] habitable L 74, TC, O'F
11 heate] heate, 1633 uncorrected
l. 13. graves: trenches or furrows. Cf. Shakespeare, Sonnet ii:
- When forty winters shall besiege thy brow
- And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field.…
Donne makes the same play on the sense of 'graves' in a sermon:
If when they are filling the wrinkles, and graves of their face, they would remember, that there is another grave, that calls for a filling with the whole body … (Sermons, vi. 269).
15 Love] love 1633
16 an Anachorit] an Anchorite L 74, TC: to an Anchorit O'F
l. 16. like an Anachorit. Cf. The Second Anniversary, ll. 169–72:
- Thinke that no stubborne sullen Anchorit,
- Which fixt to a pillar, or a grave, doth sit
- Bedded, and bath'd in all his ordures, dwels
- So fowly as our Soules in their first-built Cel.
Anchorites, as distinct from hermits who might wander, were fixed to one place. Legouis, in a note on The Second Anniversary, refers to a certain 'Baradatos, qui habita de longues années une sorte de niche creusée dans le sol (Théodoret, Histoire religieuse, ch. xvii)'. Donne adapts, possibly from the Anthology, the conceit of love sitting in the lady's wrinkles, adding the hyperbole that he makes there a thing of beauty, a tomb, not a mere grave.
19 where,] where; 1633 uncorrected
l. 20. his standing house: his permanent dwelling as distinct from houses he visits while 'on progress' through his kingdom.
ll. 23–24. In all her conversation there is both delight and instruction, so that it is suitable for all hearers who may enjoy which they choose.
24 Counsaile] counsaile 1633
l. 25. under-wood: small bushes, coppice wood or brushwood growing beneath high timber trees. It flares up and burns out quickly compared with slow-burning timber.
26 enrages] breeds C 57: bringes H 49
ll. 26–28. 'In youth, love, like wine, overheats the blood; it comes at a better time when our other appetites have lost their strength.' Cf. the note to the phrase 'love's fuellers' in the Elegy 'On his Mistress', p. 141.
27 seasonabliest] seasonablest L 74, TC, Dob, O'F
28 past.] past; 1633
- Xerxes strange Lydian love, the Platane tree,
- Was lov'd for age, none being so large as shee,
- Or else because, being yong, nature did blesse
- Her youth with ages glory, Barrennesse.
Grierson refers to Herodotus (vii. 31) for the story of how Xerxes found in Lydia a plane tree which because of its beauty he decked with gold ornaments and entrusted to a guardian. He also cites Aelian, Variae Historiae, ii. 14, who ascribes Xerxes' passion to the tree's size. In popular encyclopedias, such as Maplet's A Greene Forrest, 1567, and Swan's Speculum Mundi, 1635, the story is taken from Aelian and the tree's size is insisted on. Mrs. Duncan-Jones (N. and Q., February 1960) explained the reference to the 'barrennesse' of the plane-tree, an idea found in William Browne's Britannia's Pastorals (book ii, song iv) as well as here. She quotes Evelyn (Sylva, 1664, II. iv) as saying of the plane 'I know it was anciently accounted ᾄκαρπος, citing a Greek author in support. She suggests that Donne and Browne were probably familiar with the idea from the Georgics (ii. 69–70):
- inseritur vero et fetu nucis arbutus horrida,
- et steriles platani malos gessere valentes.
For a fuller discussion see R. L. Sharp (N. and Q., June 1962) who suggests that the pseudo-Aristotelian De Mundo (c. vi) is the ultimate authority for the notion that the plane is akarpos or sterilis.
Donne's argument is that Xerxes loved the plane either for its age which he deduced from its huge size, or because, though young, it possessed the attribute of age, barrenness. Gosse absurdly misread the passage as implying that the lady was 'not so slender' as she had been (ii. 229).
40 made;] made 1633
41 to'a] to a 1633
44 Ancient] Ancients O'F Antiques L 74, TC, Dob, O'F: Antiquityes H 40: Antique 1633, C 57, H 49, Gr
l. 44. Antiques. The jest requires the plural noun rather than the adjective 'Antique' (1633, I), which may have arisen as a correction of 'Antiquityes' (H 40) or by attraction to 'Ancient'. The attraction has worked the other way in Lut, O'F which read 'Ancients … Antiques'.
The 'living Deaths-heads' are not merely ancient, they are grotesques. 'Antic' (from Italian antico) and 'antique' (from Latin antiquus, were spelt alike at this period and both were stressed on the first syllable. Originally used as an architectural term, equivalent to 'grotesque', 'antic' came to be applied to those who performed grotesque roles. Death's heads grin like antics. Cf. Shakespeare's reference to Death in Richard II, III. ii. 162:
- And there the antic sits
- Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp.
47 naturall lation H 40, H 49, L 74, TC: natural statyon C 57, Dob, O'F: motion natural 1633
l. 47. naturall lation. The obsolete astronomical term 'lation', for the movement of a body from one place to another, caused trouble to many scribes. HK 2, O, and P read 'natur-alation', S reads 'Naturallatyon', and JC gives up and leaves a blank after 'naturall'. The reading 'natural statyon' (C 57, Lec, Dob, Lut, O'F) is plainly a misreading of an unfamiliar word and gives a sense opposite to that required. 'Motion natural' (1633) has no manuscript support. We may assume it to be a shot at sense made by the editor faced with 'natural statyon' in his Group I manuscript. He either did not consult his Group II manuscript, or, if he did, made no sense of 'lation'.
50 on MSS,: out 1633, Gr
home-ward] home-wards H 40, C 57, H 49, Dob, O'F
l. 50. ebbe on. 'Ebbe out' (1633) looks like a substitution of a more familiar phrase for the reading in the text which is found in all manuscripts.