Herbert J.C. Grierson, ed. (1886–1960). Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th C. 1921.



Elegie. His Picture. Probably written when Donne with many other young volunteers was going to join the Cadiz or Islands Expedition, 1596–7. See The Calme and The Storme (Poems, Oxford, i. 175–80). Elegie. On his Mistris. l. 23. ‘Faire Orithea’, i. e. Oreithyia carried off by Boreas. See the magnificent chorus in Swinburne’s Erechtheus, ll. 555–640.  l. 34. ‘Spittles’, i. e. Spittals, Hospitals. A street in Aberdeen is called The Spital. A town councillor proposed to change it as being in bad taste! Donne’s spelling explains his mistake.  l. 35. ‘fuellers’, i. e. stokers.  l. 44. ‘Gallerie’, i. e. entrance-hall or corridor. Satyre. Donne’s third Satire—a vivid presentation of the choice in religion presented to one like him brought up a Roman Catholic, but becoming intellectually emancipated. Dryden’s Religio Laici was probably suggested by this poem. Donne was very far at this time from being a convinced Anglican.   l. 17. ‘ayd mutinous Dutch’, i. e. serve in Holland against the Spaniards. To the Catholic Donne the Dutch are still mutineers.  l. 25. ‘limbecks’, i. e. alembics, for distilling. Our English bodies are distilled in hot climes.  l. 31. ‘Sentinell’, &c. Plato, Phaedo, 6, &c.  l. 35. ‘his whole Realme to be quit’, i. e. to be free of his whole realm.  l. 76. ‘To adore’, &c. Compare Religio Medici, I. Sect. 3.  l. 81. ‘about must’, &c. Compare:
Or as we see, to aspire some mountain’s top The way ascends not straight, but imitates The subtle foldings of a winter’s snake. Webster, The White Devil, I. ii.
  l. 86. ‘Hard deeds’, &c. Hard deeds are achieved by the body’s pains or efforts and hard knowledge attained to by the mind’s.  ll. 96–7. Philip of Spain or Pope Gregory, Henry VIII or Martin Luther. To Sir H. W., i. e. Sir Henry Wotton, who went as Ambassador to Venice in 1604. Donne had ruined his own career by his marriage in December 1601.   ll. 21–2. ‘To sweare’, &c. To sweare love until your rank is such that I must speak of honour not love. To the Countesse of Bedford. An example of Donne’s metaphysical or transcendental strain of compliment.   l. 1. Honour, Aristotle says, is the greatest of external goods, goods for which we are dependent on others. Virtue belongs to the soul itself. Nicomachean Ethics iv. 3. 10.  ll. 10–12. The heat of dung is used for various purposes still, as to crook a walking-stick of hard wood.  l. 19. In whatever obscurity I, who praise you, may live, your glory is communicated to, illumines those who praise you.  l. 27. ‘through-shine’, i. e. transparent.  l. 29. ‘specular stone’, i. e. mica, or translucent marble (Pliny, Petronius), of which Donne seems to have read or heard that some temples were once made: ‘the heathens served their God in temples sub dio, without roofs or coverings, in a free openness; and, where they could, in Temples made of specular stone that was transparent as glass or crystal, so as they which walked without in the streets might see all that was done within’.  l. 34. ‘But as our Soules’, &c. The human soul includes three souls, that of growth, which it shares with plants; of sense with animals; reason, its human distinction. The first two are first in time, not in ‘presidence’, i. e. precedence. So discretion, natural wisdom, must yield precedence to religious zeal, though it remains with it, is subsumed not displaced. Compare Davenant, ll. 17–20.  ll. 46–7. ‘types of God’, and so of religion. ‘God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere’. Farewel ye guilded follies. Attributed by Walton first to Donne, then to Wotton. One MS. assigns it to King.   ll. 31–2. ‘Had I all the wealth of the Indies.’ An Elegie, &c. Printed from the Elegies upon the Author in Donne’s Poems, 1633. In the 1640 edition of Carew’s poems is printed what seems to me an earlier, unrevised version. Some variants are:—l. 5, for ‘uncisor’d Churchman’ (i. e. carelessly barbered), ‘Uncizard Lectr’er’; l. 44, for ‘dust, had rak’d’ 1640 reads ‘dung, had search’d’; l. 50, for ‘stubborne’, ‘troublesome’; and l. 94, for ‘Tombe’, ‘Grave’, rejected probably because of the awkward suggestion of ‘on thy Grave incise’, i. e. ‘ingrave’. In 1640 ll. 91–2 are wanting.   l. 87. I read ‘thee’ for ‘the’ in all texts. I take the lines to mean: ‘I will not draw envy on you by giving a complete catalogue of your virtues’. Compare Jonson’s
To draw no envy (Shakespeare) on thy name, Am I thus ample to thy Booke, and Fame.
To my worthy friend Mr. George Sandys. From Sandys, A Paraphrase upon the Divine Poems, 1638. It is less correctly printed in Carew’s Poems, 1640. Maria Wentworth. She died in 1632, aged 18, being the daughter of Thomas, Earl of Cleveland, and Anna Crofts, sister of Carew’s friend John Crofts. On Shakespeare. From Milton’s Poems, 1645. This epitaph, first printed in the Second Folio of Shakespeare, is quite in the Italian style of wit. Petrarch speaks (Canz. cxxxi) of the pure ivory of Laura’s face,
Che fa di marmo chi da presso ‘l guarda,
‘turns to marble whoever gazes closely at it’, i. e. his admiration turns him to a statue. ‘We catch,’ says Mark Pattison, ‘the contagion of the poet’s mental attitude. He makes us bow with him before the image of Shakespeare, though there is not a single discriminating epithet to point out in what the greatness which we are made to feel consists.’ That is an exact description of the metaphysical fashion in eulogy and in description too. See note on Donne’s Nocturnall upon St. Lucies day, p. 13.   l. 5. ‘son of memory’. The Muses are daughters of Memory.  l. 12. ‘Delphick lines’, i. e. oracular lines. An Elegy on Ben. Jonson. From Jonsonus Virbius: or The Memory of Ben Johnson. Revived by the Friends of the Muses, 1638. Signed J. C. It is not quite certain that this poem is by Cleveland. It is not altogether in his style. For the Lady Olivia Porter. Endymion Porter was the friend of Herrick also and addressed by him in several poems.   l. 7. ‘glorious Eyes’ 1673: ‘lasting Eyes’, Madagascar with other Poems, 1648 (2nd ed.).  l. 8. ‘Darken … Jewels’, 1673: ‘Outlooke … Jewells’, 1648. The Grasse-hopper. From Lucasta, 1649.   l. 8. ‘Acron-bed’, i. e. Acorn-bed.  ll. 11–12. Apparently ‘And through all these merry days thou madest men and thyself merry, and Melancholy streams’, i. e. ‘flies away’. Lovelace has not mastered his style, yet to me the whole poem has a great charm.  l. 21. ‘Thou best of Men’, i. e. Charles Cotton. The grass-hopper has introduced the address and exhortation. Compare:
dissolve frigus ligna super foco large reponens atque benignius deprome quadrimum Sabina, o Thaliarche, merum diota. Horace Od. i. 9.
  ll. 33–6. The order is again obscure. ‘Our tapers, clear as Hesperus, shall whip Night from the well-lit Casements where we sport ourselves, and strip her black mantle from the dark Hag and stick in its place everlasting Day.’  l. 37. ‘untempted’, apparently ‘secure, unmolested’. Of Wit. Wit is equivalent to imagination, fancy, genius, combined with learning, and showing itself in the discovery of subtle analogies, resemblances. Compare Pope, Essay on Criticism, e. g. ll. 290–304; Johnson, Life of Cowley. Against Hope. These poems illustrate the difference between Cowley’s clear, clever wit and Crashaw’s warmer fancy. But Cowley’s Hope and Crashaw’s are not quite the same. Compare Hope in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, iii. 12. 13, with Speranza in i. 10. 14. Answer for Hope. This 1651 text varies as usual from earlier versions, showing revision.   l. 30. ‘supple essence’ 1652, ‘subtile essence’ 1646. On the Death of Mr. Crashaw. ll. 37–46. Crashaw died at Loretto, of which he was a Canon. Hymn. To Light. ll. 45–8. Compare Shelley’s Hymn to Apollo:
The sunbeams are my shafts, with which I kill Deceit, that loves the night and fears the day; All men who do or even imagine ill Fly me, and from the glory of my ray Good minds and open actions take new might, Until diminished by the reign of Night.
A Contemplation upon Flowers. From Harleian MS. 697 (British Museum), where it is signed ‘H. Kinge’. It is not certain that it is the Bishop’s. On a Drop of Dew. In the 1681 edition Latin versions of this and the following poem, The Garden, are printed immediately after the English. Neither the Latin nor the English can be accurately described as a translation of the other. But a careful reading suggests that the Latin in each case was written first, and served as a guide rather than a text for the beautiful English verses. The relation of the two versions On a Drop of Dew and Ros is fairly close, though the Latin is at times clearer than the English; e. g. ‘Round in its self incloses’ (l. 7), means, as the Latin shows, incloses itself in its own orb’:
Inque sui nitido conclusa voluminis orbe;
and ‘So the World excluding round’ (l. 29) is in Latin
Oppositum mundo claudit ubique latus.
The relation of The Garden and Hortus is much less close. Portions of the Latin reappear very freely treated, viz. the first three stanzas and the last. Other portions of the Latin are not represented in English, and, on the other hand, stanzas 4–8 read like a happy addition in which the poet has been unfettered by any reference to the Latin. The 1681 editor, indeed, suggests that some of the Latin poem is lost, but this may be an attempt to explain the want of correspondence. My colleague Professor Oliffe Legh Richmond has read the poems carefully and the opinion I have adopted was suggested by him. The Metaphysical Sectarian. The description of Hudibras in Canto I, i. e. on his intellectual side. That of his religion follows:
For his Religion it was fit To match his Learning and his Wit: ‘Twas Presbyterian true blew, &c.
  l. 12. ‘Committee-men’. Committees set up in various counties to fine and imprison indignants.  l. 56. ‘Tycho Brahe,’ the Danish mathematician and astronomer. Erra Pater, i. e. William Lilly, the English astrologer (1602–81) whom every one consulted.  l. 58. As a justice of peace he could inspect weights and measures.  l. 84. ‘Like words congeal’d’. Compare Rabelais, Pontagruel, iv. 55.  l. 88. ‘he that hight Irrefragable’, Alexander of Hales, d. 1245.