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Helen Gardner (ed.), John Donne: The Elegies and The Songs and Sonnets
- 1I long to talke with some old lovers ghost,
- 2 Who dyed before the god of Love was borne:
- 3I cannot thinke that hee, who then lov'd most,
- 4 Sunke so low, as to love one which did scorne.
- pg 48Editor’s Note5But since this god produc'd a destinie,
- 6And that vice-nature, custome, lets it be;
- 7 I must love her, that loves not mee.
- Critical Apparatus8Sure, they which made him god, meant not so much:
- 9 Nor he, in his young godhead practis'd it.
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus10But when an even flame two hearts did touch,
- 11 His office was indulgently to fit
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus12Actives to passives: Correspondencie
- 13Only his subject was. It cannot bee
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus14 Love, till I love her, that loves mee.
- Editor’s Note15But every moderne god will now extend
- Editor’s Note16 His vast prerogative, as far as Jove.
- 17To rage, to lust, to write to, to commend,
- Editor’s Note18 All is the purlewe of the God of Love.
- 19Oh were wee wak'ned by this Tyrannie
- Critical Apparatus20To'ungod this child againe, it could not bee
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus21 That I should love, who loves not mee.
- 22Rebell and Atheist too, why murmure I,
- 23 As though I felt the worst that love could doe?
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus24Love might make me leave loving, or might trie
- 25 A deeper plague, to make her love mee too,
- Critical Apparatus26Which, since she loves before, I'am loth to see;
- 27Falshood is worse then hate; and that must bee,
- 28 If shee whom I love, should love mee.
Loves Deitie. Title from 1633, Σ: no title HK 2, P
ll. 5–6. Cupid, parodying Jove, brings forth a destiny of his own whose authority has been legalized by custom which is 'second nature'; cf. 'Consuetudo est altera natura'.
8 which] that H 40, Dob, O'F, S 96
10 flame] Omit HK2: desire Cy, P
l. 10. even: equal.
l.12. Actives to passives: males to females, Cf. note to 'Air and Angels',ll. 26–28. The adverb 'indulgently' makes clear that Love's office is not concerned with joining soul to soul.
- Only his subject was.
'Subject' may be used in its general sense for a person's particular business or craft, or in its legal sense as a thing over which a right is exercised. Similarly, 'Correspondencie' may be used in the sense of agreement or harmony, so that Love's business is to make perfect matches; or in the sense of communication or intercourse of every kind. The second sense in each case fits better with the development of ideas in the next stanza. 'His office was indulgently to join males to females: his sphere of authority was only the mutual exchanges of love.'
14 till … mee ] if I love [her] who loves not mee O'F (her cancelled, as also in l. 21)
l. 15. moderne: new-fangled.
l. 18. All is the purlewe of the God of Love. The right to declare land forest was a part of the royal prerogative, and forests were exempt from common law and under the law of the forest. 'Purlieu' was land that had been disafforested under the Charter of the Forest in 1217 but which remained in some respects, such as preservation of game, still subject to forest law. See John Manwood, A Treatise and Discourse of the Laws of the Forest, 1592, second edition 1598, chapter xx 'Of the Purallee'. Attempts by the Crown to assert rights over the purlieus were a permanent source of discontent up to the Long Parliament. I am unable to suggest any particular year when this reference would be topical and have not found evidence to support Arthur Wilson's statement that at the beginning of James's reign 'the liberty of hunting must be forbidden, the King's Game preserved, and a strict Proclamation threatens the disobeyer' (History of Great Britain, 1653, p. 11).
Love, a minor god with a well-defined sphere, is now imitating the King of the Gods and extending his prerogative over neighbouring regions where his rights are at best dubious. He now exercises power where there is no 'correspondencie', and where the lover burns with passion, lusts after, writes to, and extols a lady who feels no 'even flame'.
20 To'ungod] To ungod 1633
21 That I should love, who H 40, C 57, H 49, l 74, TC, HK 2, Cy, P, A 25, … love her who … Dob, S96: … love [her] who O'F (b.c.): … love that loves … S:I should love who JC: I should love her, who 1633, B, Gr; see note
l. 21. That I should love, who loves not mee. Manuscript authority is overwhelmingly in support of this reading. Group III inserts an extra-metrical 'her' which in Lut and O–F is set in square brackets. 1633, which has the support of only B (and O'F after correction), has similarly followed the pattern of ll. 7 and 14, but has omitted 'That' to regularize the line.
24. might make Σ: may make 1633, C 57
26 Which,] Which 1633