John Donne

Helen Gardner (ed.), John Donne: The Divine Poems (Second Edition)

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Critical Apparatuspg 18 VThe Virgin Mary

  • 37  For that faire blessed Mother-maid,
  • Editor’s Note38Whose flesh redeem'd us; That she-Cherubin,
  • 39  Which unlock'd Paradise, and made
  • Editor’s Note40One claime for innocence, and disseiz'd sinne,
  • 41       Whose wombe was a strange heav'n, for there
  • 42       God cloath'd himselfe, and grew,
  • 43Our zealous thankes wee poure. As her deeds were
  • 44Our helpes, so are her prayers; nor can she sue
  • Editor’s Note45In vaine, who hath such titles unto you.

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
V. The Virgin Mary] Our Lady Dob
Editor’s Note
V. The Virgin Mary. Dob, S 96, and HK 2 give this stanza the characteristically Catholic title 'Our Ladie'. Since the other Group III manuscripts read with 1633, the variant is probably merely scribal.
Editor’s Note
ll. 38–39. Whose flesh redeem'd us; That she-Cherubin, &c. The Virgin opens the gate of Paradise, shut against man by the Cherubim (Gen. iii. 24):
  • Evae crimen nobis limen
  •   Paradisi clauserat,
  • Haec, dum credit et obedit,
  •   Caeli claustra reserat.
(Dreves, Analecta Hymnica, l. 428.)
Cf. 'Good Friday', l. 31, where the Virgin is called 'Gods partner'. In later life Donne deprecated such language: 'God forbid any should say, That the Virgin Mary concurred to our good, so, as Eve did to our ruine. … The Virgin Mary had not the same interest in our salvation, as Eve had in our destruction; nothing that she did entred into that treasure, that ransom that redeemed us' (Sermons, i. 200).
Editor’s Note
l. 40. disseiz'd sinne. The Virgin can make 'one claime for innocence': she committed no actual sin. This had been generally held since Augustine. She cannot make the further claim of being innocent of original sin. To 'disseize' is 'to put out of actual seizin; to dispossess (a person) of his estates, etc., usually wrongfully, or by force; to oust' (O.E.D.). By committing no actual sin the Virgin puts sin out of possession of her, though sin still has the right to her that it has to all Adam's posterity. Donne, agreeing with Aquinas (S. T., Pars 3a, Q. xxvii, Art. i. 3), wittily denies the Immaculate Conception. The doctrine was not declared to be an Article of Faith until 1854.
Editor’s Note
l. 45. titles unto you: just claims upon you. O.E.D. gives no parallel to the use of 'title to' with the person from whom something is claimed.
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