John Donne

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

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XIThe Confessors

  • 91 Therefore with thee triumpheth there
  • Editor’s Note92A Virgin Squadron of white Confessors,
  • Critical Apparatus93 Whose bloods betroth'd, not marryed were,
  • 94Tender'd, not taken by those Ravishers:
  • Critical Apparatus95    They know, and pray, that wee may know,
  • 96    In every Christian
  • 97Hourly tempestuous persecutions grow,
  • Editor’s Note98Tentations martyr us alive; A man
  • 99Is to himselfe a Dioclesian.

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Editor’s Note
l. 92. A Virgin Squadron of white Confessors. 'Confessors' is accented on the first syllable. 'Squadron' is appropriate for those who, with the martyrs, were called by Cyprian 'Milites Christi'. Virgins and Confessors share the liturgical colour white, in contrast to the red of martyrs; this gives Donne his conceit.
Critical Apparatus
93 were,] were; 1633
Critical Apparatus
95 know,] know 1633 uncorrected
Editor’s Note
ll. 98–99. Tentations martyr us alive, &c. The comparison of temptations with persecutors is a commonplace; see Rabanus Maurus (Migne, P.L. cxi. 89). By adding 'A man is to himselfe a Dioclesian', Donne twists it to mean that we tempt ourselves and are our own worst enemies. Cf. Henry King's phrase 'this homebred tyrranie' ('A Labyrinth').
Editor’s Note
ll. 116–17.
  • Lord let us runne
  • Meane waies, and call them stars, but not the Sunne.
Donne says briefly here what he says at length in a sermon, in which he refutes the Roman accusation that the Church of England, and Protestants generally, undervalued the Fathers; see Sermons, ix. 158–9. 'Let us take the middle course: steering by them, as a mariner steers by the stars, but not taking them as our chief light.'
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