John Donne

W. Milgate (ed.), John Donne: The Satires, Epigrams and Verse Letters

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To Mr R. W.

  • 1If, as mine is, thy life a slumber be,
  • 2  Seeme, when thou read'st these lines, to dreame of me,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus3Never did Morpheus nor his brother weare
  • 4Shapes soe like those Shapes, whom they would appeare,
  • 5As this my letter is like me, for it
  • Critical Apparatus6Hath my name, words, hand, feet, heart, minde and wit;
  • pg 65Editor’s Note7It is my deed of gift of mee to thee,
  • 8It is my Will, my selfe the Legacie.
  • Editor’s Note9So thy retyrings I love, yea envie,
  • 10Bred in thee by a wise melancholy,
  • 11That I rejoyce, that unto where thou art,
  • 12Though I stay here, I can thus send my heart,
  • Editor’s Note13As kindly'as any enamored Patient
  • 14His Picture to his absent Love hath sent.

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Notes

Critical Apparatus
To Mr R. W. MSS.: TC; O'F; W. Title from MSS.: To M. R. W. 1633.
Critical Apparatus
3 brother] brethren W
Editor’s Note
l. 3. brother. Morpheus, god of sleep, had many brothers, and the 'brethren' of W seems to be an emendation to correct an apparent lapse in Donne's mythological lore. But only two of Morpheus's brothers had the power to assume and to give dream-shapes, and of these Phantasus took inanimate forms. Donne must therefore mean Phobetor, or Icelus, who assumed the shapes of other animals as Morpheus assumed those of men. Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses, xi. 635–41.
Critical Apparatus
6 hand] hands TC, O'F
Editor’s Note
ll. 7–8. deed of gift … Will: two methods of freely conveying property, one when the donor is alive, the other after death.
Editor’s Note
ll. 9–10. retyrings … wise melancholy. According to one theory (arising mainly from discussions of Aristotle, Problemata, xxx. 1), melancholy, wisely controlled, can make men of letters and contemplative people happy and truly blessed; cf. L. Babb, The Elizabethan Malady, 1951, pp. 58 ff. This is not the Galenist theory of melancholy, as a humour run to excess (as in the Letter to Lady Carey, ll. 25–27). Woodward's 'retyrings' are the normal rewarding state of a contemplative man, not the morbid symptom of an 'unnatural' or corrupt melancholy.
Editor’s Note
l. 13. Patient: sufferer.
Editor’s Note
l. 20. the Jemes guide: Moses. Cf. Num. xx. 12, Deut. xxxiv. 1–5.
Critical Apparatus
21 in:] in, 1633
Critical Apparatus
22 Oh Σ: Ah W: Our 1633
sinne.] sinne; 1633
Editor’s Note
l.22. punishment and sinne. Donne is fond of this phrase, doubtless because (as he says also in other places) 'when we consider Caines words in that originall tongue in which God spake, we cannot tell whether the words be, My punishment is greater then can be born; or, My sin is greater then can be forgiven' (Letters, p. 9). Cf. Gen. iv. 13.
Critical Apparatus
23 these] this TC
business] businesses O'F, W
Editor’s Note
l. 23. these … businesse. The use of the singular form of the noun with plural meaning is normal. Cf. 'Idle, and discoursing men, that were not much affected, how businesse went, so they might talke of them' (Sermons, iv. 182).
Critical Apparatus
26 discontinu'd] discontinued 1633
Critical Apparatus
27 all th'All] All th'All 1633
Editor’s Note
l. 27. all tb' All: the whole universe. Cf. Sylvester's Bartas His Divine Weeks and Works, 1605, p, 2: 'But all this All did once (of nought) begin.' smoake away; referring to the destruction of the world by fire.
Editor’s Note
l. 28. an India: a source of priceless benefits, usually material (as in 'Satire I', l. 58), but here, spiritual.
Editor’s Note
ll. 29–31. If the correspondence of the microcosm (Man) to the macrocosm is valid, there must be something to correspond with all material benefits (the world's wealth), and in good men this is virtue.
Critical Apparatus
30 to'answere] to answere
1633]
Critical Apparatus
31 this,] this 1633
Editor’s Note
ll. 31–32. our formes form and our soules soule. Donne refers to the Aristotelian theory that the soul is the 'form' of the body—that by which the body has life, activity, and individuality. Cf. De Anima, ii, 414a; and Aquinas, S. T., Ia pars, q. lxxvi, art. 1. Paradoxically, says Donne, the soul itself has a 'form' or 'Soul' which gives it effective life—virtue. In 'Goodfriday', ll. 1–10, the 'Soules forme' is 'devotion'.
Critical Apparatus
32 soule,] soule 1633
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