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John Donne

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

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XIIThe Virgins

  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus100 Thy cold white snowie Nunnery,
  • 101Which, as thy mother, their high Abbesse, sent
  • 102 Their bodies backe againe to thee,
  • 103As thou hadst lent them, cleane and innocent,
  • 104    Though they have not obtain'd of thee,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus105    That or thy Church, or I,
  • 106Should keep, as they, our first integrity;
  • Critical Apparatus107Divorce thou sinne in us, or bid it die,
  • 108And call chast widowhead Virginitie.

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
100 Thy H 49, TCD, Dob, O'F: The 1633, C 57, Gr
Editor’s Note
l. 100. snowie Nunnery. The extreme High Anglican Anthony Stafford addresses those 'who have vowed Virginity mentall, and corporall' in words that seem to be taken from this stanza: 'Approach with Comfort, and kneele downe before the Grand White Immaculate Abbesse of your snowy Nunneries' (The Femall Glory, 1635).
Critical Apparatus
105 That] That, 1633 uncorrected
Editor’s Note
ll. 105–6.
  • That or thy Church, or I,
  • Should keep, as they, our first integrity;
Donne has in mind a famous saying of Eusebius, quoted by Hooker in the Preface to The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, that the Church only remained a pure Virgin as long as the Apostles lived; see Migne, P.G. xx. 283. It is awkward to use 'virginity' metaphorically in a stanza in honour of 'virgins' in the literal sense.
Critical Apparatus
107 Divorce] Devorce 1633 uncorrected
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