The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XI. John Donne

§ 5. Songs and Sonets

Of the Songs and Sonets, not one is a sonnet in the regular sense of the word. Neither in form nor spirit was Donne a Petrarchian poet. Some were written to previously existing airs; all, probably, with a more or less definite musical intention. The greater number of them would seem to have been preserved and may be found in the first section of Chambers’s edition. He has rightly excluded the song, “Dear Love, continue nice and chaste,” which was included in the edition of 1635, but was written by Sir John Roe. A fresh editor would have to exclude, also, the song “Soul’s joy now I am gone” and the Dialogue beginning “If her disdain least change in you can move,” which, if the collective evidence of MSS. be worth anything, were written by the earl of Pembroke, collaborating, in the last, with Sir Benjamin Ruddier. The Burley MS. contains a few songs, as well as longer pieces which, from their accompanying indubitable poems and letters of Donne, are, presumably, given as his. None of them is specially characteristic or adds anything of great intrinsic value. It has been not unusual, since its first publication as by Donne in The Grove (1721), to ascribe to him the charming song “Absence, hear thou my protestation.” But, in Drummond’s copy of a collection of verses made by Donne himself, of which only a few are his own composition, this particular song is ascribed to Sir John Harington. The touch is a shade lighter, the feeling a shade less intense, than in Donne’s most characteristic work.