Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
Notes to Poems hitherto Uncollected
THERE is no reason to suppose that all the poems written during Donne’s long life have been gathered together. One copy at least is recorded in his own letters of which I have found no trace, namely some “French Verses,” mentioned in a letter of 1612, to Sir Henry Wotton (Alford, vi. 361). Doubtless others will turn up from time to time out of the multitude of commonplace books extant in public and private collections. Such, however, must not be too readily received as authentic, since the compilers of these commonplace books frequently ascribe their extracts to the wrong author. There are two or three people who might be easily confused with Donne, owing to the similarity of their names to his. One is his son, also a Doctor John Donne, but a D.C.L. not a D.D. Another is John Done, the author of Polydoron, or a Miscellany of Moral, Philosophical and Theological Sentences (1631), and of an Ancient History of the Septuagint (1633). He appears to have been a schoolmaster (Notes and Queries, Sixth Series, vi. 47, 95), and also an alchemist, judging from a long letter of his on the science in Bodl. Ashm. MS. 1415, f. 19 (b). I doubt whether he is the person referred to in Sir James Whitelock’s Liber Famelicus (Camden Soc. p. 16). Whitelocke, recording the death of his wife, on 28th February, 1606, says, “There preached at her funeral Doctor John Done, the parson, that had been my acquaintance when he was of Christ Church, Oxford.” Now there is no John Donne of Ch. Ch. in the University Registers. There is however a John Dove of Ch. Ch. who became a preacher of some distinction (Registers, ed. Clerk, ii. 1. 137; 2. 102; 3. 117), and I expect that he is the parson alluded to by Whitelocke. Done and Doue are practically indistinguishable in MSS.
  There is a letter to Walsingham, signed John Done, and written from Dieppe on April 11th, 1586 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Eliz. and James I. Addl. 1580–1625). This can hardly be by John Donne, who was only 13 in 1586.
  Of the eleven additional poems which I have printed in this Appendix, it is only the first six that I put much faith in as genuine work of Donne’s.
I. From MSS. in the British Museum.

These are all from Addl. MS. 25,707. This is a folio commonplace book of the seventeenth century. It contains poems written in it by three or four hands, the latest of whom has made a list of those collected by his predecessors, and added some of a later date. Besides a number of Donne’s, most of them initialled, there are others by Francis Beaumont, Sir John Beaumont, Lord Digby, Sir Henry Goodyere, Sir William Skipwith, Richard Corbet, Henry King, etc. This appears to be the MS. described by Nicholls in the account given of Sir William Skipwith in his Hist. of Leicestershire (iii. 367). It was then in the possession of Lord Harborough. Nichols thinks that it was once a commonplace book of Sir. W. Skipwith, who died 3 May, 1610. The four poems given here are all in one or other of the earlier hands and initialled. There is a fifth, which I have not reprinted. It is no part of an editor’s duty to expurgate his author’s text, but neither is he called upon to rake up forgotten indecencies from the muck-heap of time. The poem in question is on f. 60 (b) of the MS., and begins—
        “Why should not pilgrims to thy body come,
And miracles be wrought at thy poor tomb.”
There are also, in another part of the book (f. 164), some Latin verses, signed J. D. In Obitum Mri Philippi Washinton. I cannot say whether these are Donne’s. They begin—
        “Ille ego, qui vivo retuli solamen amico.”

From Addl. MS. 25,707, f. 32 (b). It has there no heading.
To my Lord of Pembroke.
From Addl. MS. 25,707, f. 34 (a).

This poem evidently refers to the poetical controversy about love between William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and Sir Benjamin Rudyard, contained in their Poems (1660). See the note to the lines called Love and Reason in Appendix A. Besides the poems contained in this volume, many others are ascribed to Lord Pembroke in various MSS. He was the nephew of Sir Philip Sidney, a kinsman of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, and possibly the W. H. of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.
Of a Lady in the Black Mask.
From Addl. MS. 25,707, f. 34 (a).

On Sir Henry Goodyere, see the note to Donne’s verse letter to him (vol. ii. p. 10). This poem seems to have been written by the friends to their wives on some absence. Donne was at Polesworth in the spring of 1613. (See note to Good Friday, vol. i. p. 172.)
  The following lines are from Bodl. Mal. MS. 14, f. 28. They are headed—
  On the interlinearie poem begot ’twixt S[ir] H. Goo. and Dr. Donne.
        “Here two rich ravish’d spirits kiss and twine,
  Advanced and wedlock’d in each other’s line.
Goodere’s rare match with only him was bless’d,
  Who has outdonne and quite undonne the rest.”
  l. 25. Ancor, a stream in the Forest of Arden, close to Polesworth.
  l. 28. St. Edith’s nuns. Before the Reformation, there was a Benedictine convent at Polesworth, founded by the Saxon Saint Edith (Dugdale’s Warwickshire).
II. From Coryat’s Crudities (1611).

289. To the Author.
290. In Eundem Macaronicum.

These Macaronic verses immediately follow in Coryat’s Crudities the lines reprinted in the 1650 Poems (vol. ii. p. 68). The third set comes at a different place in the book, and the name is differently spelt, but I do not doubt that this also is by Donne. His name is variously spelt Donne, Done, Donn, Dunn, etc.; it is Done in Jonson’s Conversations with Drummond.
III. From MSS. in the Bodleian Library.

On Friendship.

From Ashm. MS. 36, f. 124. The lines are headed, “On ffriendship. Dr. Donne.” They are also found unsigned in Brit. Mus. Addl. MS. 10,309, f. 110, in Sloane MS. 1446, f. 88 (b), and in T. C. Dublin MS. G. 2. 21, f. 303. They are printed in Pembroke and Ruddier’s Poems (1660), but without any distinguishing initial. J. A. Manning, in his Memoirs of Rudyard, claims them as his, but gives no other authority than that of the 1660 volume. The text there given is inferior to the MS. one. They may be Donne’s.
The next three poems are from Ashm. MS. 38, which also contains some undoubted work of Donne’s.  9

The first of three poems grouped together as “Doctor Donn Verses” on Ashm. MS. 38, f. 62. It also occurs unsigned in Sloane MS. 1792, f. 132, and is printed anonymously with the title here given to it, in Wit Restored (1658). The second poem of the group is certainly not Donne’s. It is Ben Jonson’s, “Doing a filthy pleasure is and short,” a translation from the Brevis facere est et foeda voluptas of Petronius Arbiter. Jonson definitely claims the authorship of this, which is printed among his poems, in the Conversations with Drummond.

This is the third poem of the group above mentioned. So far as internal evidence goes, both this and the first might be Donne’s, but the MS. is clearly not very trustworthy.

From Ashm. MS. 38, f. 152, where it is signed D. Donn. I have not found the whole poem elsewhere, except in a very different anonymous version in Wit’s Recreations (1640), but the last two lines occur separately in at least three other places, and in two they are ascribed to Donne. In Ashm. MS. 47, f. 36, they are headed “Dr. Dunn to a Gentlewoman,” and in Sloane MS. 542, f. 12, “Dr. Donn to a Lady that gave him the lie.” In a collection of MS. Epigrams bound up with the Brit. Mus. copy of Shakespeare’s Lucrece (1624) and other pamphlets (C. 39. a. 37), they are anonymous. Probably they are by Doctor Donne, but was it the D.D. or the D.C.L.?

From Rawl. Poet. MS. 117, f. 222. The MS. also has Elegy xx. This might be Donne’s.
I append a list of pieces which, after careful consideration I have decided not to include in this Appendix.  14
(1) The Epitaph on Mrs. Boulstred, which I have already printed in vol. ii. p. 231.
        “Stay, view this stone, and if thou be’st not such,
Read here a little that thou may’st know much.”
  The notion that this may be Donne’s is purely a conjecture of my own.
(2) A set of Commendatory Verses prefixed to Capt. John Smith’s General History of Virginia (1625).
        “I know not how desert more great can rise,
Than out of danger ta’en for good men’s good.”
  The verses are signed “Io: Done.” They are very commonplace, and Donne was not writing secular verse in 1625.
(3) An Elegy on Prince Henry—
        “Keep station, Nature, and rest, Heaven, sure.”
  This is signed J. D. in Le Prince d’Amour (1660). But this is of little authority, and the Elegy is in Henry King’s Poems, Elegies, Paradoxes, and Sonnets (1657).
(4) Lines headed Dr. Don’s Elegy on the Death of King James.
        “Who now shall grudge to die, or not desire
To weep himself away, quench his own fire.”
  This is found in Addl. MS. 19,268, f. 30. It might conceivably be Donne’s, by no means at his best; but I can hardly believe that so important a literary production, as an Elegy on the King by Dr. Donne, Dean of S. Paul’s, would have been, could have reached us only through the medium of one obscure commonplace book.
(5) Lines headed “J. D. to his Paper.”
        “Fly, paper, kiss those hands,
Whence I am barr’d of late.”
  This is found, so headed, in Addl. MS. 30,982, f. 13, and in Sloane MS. 1792, f. 45. In Addl. MS. 13,998, f. 68, it is signed Jo. Dun. It is printed without any sign of authorship in Wit Restored (1658). It is a mere trifle, and I do not for a moment suppose it is the elder Donne’s.
(6) Lines headed “Dr. Don on the Eucharist”
        “Priests make Christ body and soul; you need not doubt.”
  This bit of profanity from Addl. MS. 15,226, f. 25, is probably by the younger Donne.
(7) Lines headed, “Jo Felton’s epitaph made by Dr. Donn.”
        “Here uninterr’d suspends (though not to save
Surviving friends th’ expenses of a grave.”
  This is found, with the above heading, in Ashm. MS. 38, f. 20. It is anonymous in half-a-dozen Brit. Mus. and other MSS., and in Addl. MS. 15,226, f. 28, is accompanied by a poem Super eundem et contra by H. Ch[olmeley] which begins—
        “Here uninterr’d suspends, doubtless to save
Hopeful and friendless, th’ expenses of a grave.”
  This is a fine poem, but I do not see how it can be Donne’s. Buckingham was killed by Felton on Aug. 23, 1628. The Dean was not likely, at that date, to write in a pronounced anti-court vein. The verses were printed from Sloane MS. 826, f. 177, by F. W. Fairholt in Poems and Songs … relating to … the Duke of Buckingham (Percy Society Publications, vol. xxix.).
(8) Lines beginning—
        “Like to the damask rose you see,
Or like the blossom on the tree.”
  These are ascribed to Donne in Rawl. D. MS. 859, f. 158. At the end is written the message which Donne sent to his wife when he lost his secretaryship in 1601. It was “John Donne, Anne Donne, Undonne.” I have not a complete copy of the poem before me, but its opening lines are identical with those of a verse which appears both in Wastall’s Microbiblon (1620), and in Quarles’ Argalus and Parthenia. See H. King’s Poems, ed. Hannah (p. cxviii).
(9) A Verse Letter to Lord Craven.
        “My lord, now you’re at Rome and there behold
Things which are wonders when in England told.”
  This was communicated to Notes and Queries (Fifth Series, v. 243) by A. R. B., who adds the following note, which is endorsed on the MS.: “This curious poem, never before printed, was written by the famous Doctor Donne, in the year 1630, and sent to Rome to William, Lord Craven, who served with so much credit under Gustavus Adolphus. It was entrusted to me with the curious State papers of the said Lord Craven, by Fulwar, Lord Craven, in the year 1762.
W. Harte.”    

  The MS. reached A. R. B. through an uncle, the Rev. Thomas Lawrence, formerly chaplain to Lord Craven. The letter is 114 lines long, and contains a sketch of the sights and associations of Rome. I have not printed it because, in 1630, Donne was an infirm divine, and had long done with secular poetry. Very likely it is by his son, who dedicated the 1650 Poems to this same Lord Craven.

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