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W. Milgate (ed.), John Donne: The Satires, Epigrams and Verse Letters
To Mr T. W.
- 1All haile sweet Poët, more full of more strong fire,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus2 Then hath or shall enkindle any spirit,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus3 I lov'd what nature gave thee, but this merit
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus4Of Wit and Art I love not but admire;
- Critical Apparatus5Who have before or shall write after thee,
- 6Their workes, though toughly laboured, will bee
- 7 Like infancie or age to mans firme stay,
- Critical Apparatus8 Or earely and late twilights to mid-day.
- Editor’s Note9Men say, and truly, that they better be
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus10 Which be envy'd then pittied: therefore I,
- 11 Because I wish thee best, doe thee envie:
- pg 60Critical Apparatus12O wouldst thou, by like reason, pitty mee!
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus13But care not for mee: I, that ever was
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus14In Natures, and in Fortunes gifts, (alas,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus15 Before thy grace got in the Muses Schoole)
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus16 A monster and a begger, am now a foole.
- 17Oh how I grieve, that late borne modesty
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus18 Hath got such root in easie waxen hearts,
- 19 That men may not themselves, their owne good parts
- Editor’s Note20Extoll, without suspect of surquedrie,
- Critical Apparatus21For, but thy selfe, no subject can be found
- Critical Apparatus22Worthy thy quill, nor any quill resound
- Critical Apparatus23 Thy worth but thine: how good it were to see
- Editor’s Note24 A Poëm in thy praise, and writ by thee.
- 25Now if this song be Roo'harsh for rime, yet, as
- Editor’s Note26 The Painters bad god made a good devill,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus27 'Twill be good prose, although the verse be evill,
- Critical Apparatus28If thou forget the rime as thou dost passe.
- Critical Apparatus29Then write, that I may follow, and so bee
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus30Thy debter, thy'eccho, thy foyle, thy zanee.
- 31 I shall be thought, if mine like thine I shape,
- 32 All the worlds Lyon, though I be thy Ape.
To Mr T. W. MSS,: TC; Dob, O'F; W. Title from W: To M. I. W. 1633: To M. J. W. TC: A letter. Incerto O'F (Incerto is changed to To Mr. J. W.): A Ire. incog: Dob,
2 any] my dull Dob, O'F
l. 2. hath or shall enkindle. Donne frequently couples auxiliaries requiring different dependent parts of the main verb, using only the dependent part required by the second auxiliary; cf. l. 5 below.
3 lov'd] love Dob, O'F
this] thy O'F
l. 3. what: all that.
4 Wit] wit 1633
l. 4. Wit and Art: frequently coupled in the literature of the time. 'Wit' is part of 'what nature gave', native ability; 'Art' is what is gained by training (technique, skill). Cf. 'Satire IV', l. 238.
5 have] hath Dob, O'F
8 and] or Dob, O'F (b.c.)
twilights] twilight Dob, O'F (b.c.)
ll. 9–10. Men say, etc. Cf. Tilley E177: 'Better be envied than pitied.' The proverb derives ultimately from Pindar, Pythian Odes, i. 163.
10 envy'd] envyed 1633
ll. 10–11. envy'd … envie: usually accented on the second syllable, as in 'To his Mistress going to Bed', l. 11; Shakespeare, Sonnet 128, l. 5; etc.
12 mee!] mee, 1633
13 mee:] mee, 1633
ever] never Dob, O'F (b.c.)
ll. 13–16, I, that ever was, etc. 'In contrast with you, furnished as you are with the artistic graces you have learned in the school of the Muses, I have always been without the gifts of Nature, and a beggar in respect of the gifts of Fortune; now, by receiving these verses from you, I am made a fool ['zanee', l. 30] as well.' He has always been plain and poor; now he is shown up as a fool by his friend's superior poetic gifts.
The syntax is slovenly, and the confusion in the manuscripts and in the mind of the editor of 1633 (who tried emendation) is understandable. Grierson departed from the arrangement of the brackets in 1633, but returned to the (unemended) 1633 text in his one-volume edition of Donne's poems in 1929.
14 Natures, and in Fortunes] … fortunes 1633: Fortunes or in Natures Dob, O'F
ll. 14–15. Natures … Fortunes gifts … grace. Donne is playing rather clumsily upon the ancient distinction of the gifts of Nature from the gifts of Fortune and the gifts of Grace (detailed, for example, in Chaucer's The Parson's Tale, X. 450). The bodily gifts of Nature (e.g. strength, beauty) a 'monster' lacks; the gifts of Fortune (e.g. wealth, kinsmen, friends) a 'begger' lacks; the gifts of Grace (e.g. knowledge) a 'foole' lacks.
15 Before thy grace … the Muses Σ and 1633 uncorrected: Before by thy grace … th'Muses 1633 corrected: but by thy grace … Dob, O'F (correcting by to for)
l. 15. Before: in front of, juxtaposed to, and hence 'compared with'.
16 am now Dob, O'F, W: am 1633, TC
l. 16. The line has eleven syllables. See note on 'Satire I', l. 28.
now. Grierson thought it possible that the reference here is to Donne's marriage and consequent disgrace early in 1602. The evidence of style, however, makes it practically certain that, like others in the sequence (which it begins in the authoritative MS. W), it was written about eight years earlier. I take 'now' to mean 'on receipt of your poem'.
18 easie] all softe Dob, O'F (b.c.)
l. 18. easie waxen: easily impressed, easily influenced.
l. 20. suspect: suspicion. Donne elsewhere uses verbal forms as nouns, e.g. 'show … resist' ('The Progress of the Soul', ll. 418–19).
surquedrie: O.E.D., 'surquidry' = arrogance, presumption.
20–21 surquedrie, / For, but] surquedry. / But for Dob, O'F (b.c.)
22 nor] or Dob, O'F
23 worth Σ: worke 1633, TC
l. 24. writ by thee. Cf. Ralph Brideoak's contribution to Jonsonus Virbius, l. 60: 'None but thyselfe could write a verse for thee' (Jonson, Works, xi. 468).
l. 26. The Painters bad god, etc. I do not know whether there is a particular allusion here. Cf. Tilley P27: 'A good painter can draw a devil as well as an angel.'
27 evill,] evill. 1633
ll. 27–28. If you overlook the rhymes as you read, this song will seem like good prose.
28 passe.] passe, 1633
29 that Σ: then 1633, TC
30 thy'eccho, thy foyle] th'Eccho, the Foile TC: thy foyle, thy Eccho Dob: foyle, thy Eccho O'F
l. 30. foyle: setting off your brilliance by contrast.
zanee: an imitative clown, usually an ineffective or burlesque imitator. Grierson quotes Jonson, Every Man out of his Humour, IV. ii. 44–45: 'Hee's like the Zani, to a tumbler, / That tries tricks after him, to make men laugh' (Works, iii. 532).
In W this letter is followed by one addressed to Donne, presumably by T. W., and part of an exchange of such poems:
- To Mr J. D.
- Thou sendst me prose & rimes, I send for those
- Lynes, wc beeing nether, seeme or verse or prose.
- They'are lame & harsh, & haue no heat at all
- But what thy liberall beams on them let fall.
- The nimble fyer wc in thy brayne doth dwell
- Is it yt fyre of heaven or yt of hell.
- It doth beget & comfort like hevens ey
- And like hells fyer it burnes eternally.
- And those whom in thy fury & iudgment
- Thy verse shall skourge like hell it will torment.
- Haue mercy on me & my sinfull Muse
- Wc rub'd & tickled wth thyne could not chuse
- But spend some of her pithe & yeild to bee
- One in yt chaste & mistique tribadree.
- Bassaes adultery no fruit did leaue,
- Nor theirs wc their swolne thighs did nimbly weaue,
- And wt new armes & mouthes embrace & kis
- Though they had issue was not like to this.
- Thy Muse, Oh strange & holy Lecheree
- Beeing a Mayd still, gott this Song on mee.
Copies of the poem, detached from Donne's, are found in B, Lut, O'F, O, P, S 96 and HK 1 (in O, P it is copied twice).