Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
Appendix C. Spurious Poems
I ADD a list of poems which have at various times been attributed to Donne, but which are so clearly not his that it does not seem worth while to print them in full.  1
I. From the edition of 1633.

(1) An Epitaph upon Shakespeare, beginning—
        “Renowned Spenser, lie a thought more nigh
To learned Beaumont.”
This was withdrawn from the 1635 edition, and appeared in the 1640 edition of Shakespeare’s Poems, with the initials W. B. It is also printed in Francis Beaumont’s Poems (ed. 1653). It is now universally ascribed to William Basse. See Mr. Warwick Bond’s edition of Basse’s Poetical Works, and Dr. Ingleby and Miss Toulmin Smith’s Shakespeare’s Century of Praise (New Shaks. Soc. 1879).
(2) A translation of the 137th Psalm
        “By Euphrates flow’ry side
    We did bide.”
  This is in all the seventeenth-century editions; it is, however, ascribed to Francis Davison in Harl. MSS. 3357 and 6930, and in Rawl. Poet. MS. 61, f. 60, and has been printed as his in Sir H. Nicholas’ and Sir E. Brydges’ editions of the Poetical Rhapsody, and in the collection of Translations from the Psalms by Francis and Christopher Davison. In Addl. MS. 25,707, f. 16, it occurs amongst other poems of Donne’s, and with the signature J. D., but it should be observed that this signature is quite indistinguishable from F. D. There is an inconclusive discussion on this question in Notes and Queries, 1st Series, vi. 49, 137, 157, 247.
  I have very little doubt as to Davison’s claim. The translation is unsigned in Addl. MS. 27,407, f. 65, but it is there accompanied by a letter from the author in which he speaks of other Psalms which he had translated. This applies to Davison, but not, so far as we know, to Donne.
II. From the edition of 1635.

(3) A Song, added at the end of the Songs and Sonnets
        “Dear love, continue nice and chaste.”
  This is transcribed by William Drummond (Hawthornden MS. 15), and signed J[ohn] R[oe]. It also occurs with the same initials in Lansd. MS. 740, f. 99, and in T. C. Dublin MS. G. 2. 21, f. 257.
(4) A Letter, To Ben Jonson, 6 Jan. 1603—
        “The State and men’s affairs are the best plays
Next yours.”
  On this there is the following extract in Ben Jonson’s Conversations with William Drummond (ed. Laing, Shakespeare Society, 1842), which sufficiently fixes the authorship: “That Sir John Roe loved him, and when they two were ushered by my Lord Suffolk from a Mask, Roe wrote a moral Epistle to him, which began, That next to plays, the Court and the State were the best. God threatneth Kings, Kings Lords, Lords do us.” Line 12, as printed in Donne’s poems runs, “God threatens Kings, Kings Lords, as Lords do us.”
  The poem is anonymous in Lansd. MS. 740, f. 102, but is ascribed to “Sir J. R.” in Harl. MS. 4064, f. 247.
(5) A Quatrain, On the Sacrament
        “He was the Word that spake it,
He took the bread and brake it;
And what that Word did make it,
I do believe and take it.”
  This is ascribed by several seventeenth-century writers to Queen Elizabeth, e.g., by Fuller in his Holy State (1648), iv. 302, and by Donne’s friend, Sir Richard Baker, in his Chronicle (1643), iv. 320. It is said to be an impromptu reply made when she was questioned by her sister’s confessor Feckenham as to her belief in transubstantiation. See a long discussion in Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, v. 438, 460; 3rd Series, x. 519; xi. 66, 140, 225, 315; xii. 76; 5th Series, iii. 382, 433, 472, 494; iv. 18; v. 313; vii. 111.
(6) A Sonnet On the Blessed Virgin Mary
        “In that, O Queen of Queens, thy birth was free
From that which others doth of grace bereave.”
  This is found in Harl. MS. 7553, f. 41, amongst a series of Spiritual Sonnets by H. C., which was printed as Henry Constable’s by Mr. T. Park in Heliconia (1815); on the authorship see D. Main, Treasury of English Sonnets.
III. From F. G. Waldron’s A Collection of Miscellaneous Poetry (1802).

(7) An Elegy, entitled by Dr. Grosart, A Lament for his Wife
        “Is Death so great a gamester, that he throws
Still at the fairest? must I ever lose?”
Waldron ascribes this to Donne on the authority of a MS. dated 1625. It is really by William Browne, being included in his autograph MS. of his own poems in Lansd. MS. 777, f. 49. (See Mr. Gordon Goodwin’s edition of Browne in the Muses’ Library). It also appears with the initials W. B. in the anthology Le Prince d’Amour (1660).
IV. From Sir J. Simeon’s Unpublished Poems of Donne (Philobiblon Society’s Publications, 1856).

(8) A Love Poem, The Challenge
        “Thou art not fair, for all thy red and white,
Nor all thy rosy ornaments in thee.”
  This is really by Campion, and is included in Mr. A. H. Bullen’s edition of his poems, from the First Book of Ayres (1601). It is also printed in error among J. Sylvester’s Posthumi.
(9) Lines headed A Wife
        “Such as I have to my own heart propounded.”
  This is found in the Farmer-Chetham MS. (ed. Grosart), with the signature Th. Scotte. Hunter (Chorus Vat. Anglic.) states that Thomas Scott of Utrecht published a poem called The Interpreter in 1622. I cannot, however, find any poetry among his numerous writings or controversial theology, either in the British Museum or the Bodleian, although there is a long verse elegy on him in Addl. MS. 33,998, f. 90.
V. From Dr. A. B. Grosart’s Poems of John Donne (Fuller Worthies Library, 1873).

(10) Ten Sonnets to Philomel.
        “Oft did I hear, our eyes the passage were
By which Love entered to avail our hearts.”
  These Sonnets, together with a poem entitled A Hymn in Praise of Music, and beginning—
        “Praise, pleasure, profit, is that threefold band—”
were signed I. D. in the second edition (1608) of Davison’s Poetical Rhapsody. In the first edition (1602) they have the signature Melophilus. It is generally admitted that, like the other I. D. poems in the same anthology, they are not by John Donne, but by Sir John Davies. Cf. Mr. A. H. Bullen’s edition of the Poetical Rhapsody and a letter in the Athenæum for Jan. 29th, 1876.
(11) Lines entitled Sleep
        “Care-charming sleep, thou easer of all woes.”
This was printed by Dr. Grosart from Trin. Coll. Camb. MS. B. 14, 22, where it is signed “Dr. Donn.” It is really by Fletcher, being a song in Act V. scene i. of Valentinian. It is one of many imitations of Daniel’s famous Sonnet LIV. to Delia. Cf. Main, Treasury of English Sonnets.
(12) Four stanzas headed My Heart
        “Thou sent’st to me a heart was sound,
  I took it to be thine;
But when I saw it had a wound,
  I knew that heart was mine.”
This was printed by Dr. Grosart from the Stephens MS. It is a bad copy of a poem which is ascribed in several MSS. to Sir Robert Aytoun.
  The version given in Aytoun’s Poems (ed. Rogers, 1871) is taken from Addl. MS. 10,308, f. 6, where it is in company with others of his poems. It is nine stanzas long, begins—
        “Thou sent’st to me a heart was crown’d,”
and has the title “Upon a diamond cut in the form of a Heart, set with a Crown above, and a bloody dart piercing it, sent to the Poet as a New Year’s Gift.” A very similar version is found also among other poems of Aytoun’s in Addl. MS. 28,622, f. 37. This is headed, “Upon a ring Queen Anne sent to Sir Robert Aytoun, a Diamond in form of a heart.” Anonymous versions are found in Addl. MS. 15,227, f. 82, Addl. MS. 22,603, f. 49, and Rawl. Poet. MSS. 117, f. 188; 160, f. 107. Another with the title Epigram to his Mistress is printed in Wit’s Recreations, 1640. It is anonymous.
(13) An Elegy entitled A Love-Monster
        “Behold a wonder such as hath not been
From Pyrrhus age unto the present seen.”
This is numbered Elegia Vicesima Prima in the Stephens MS. It is unsigned in Rawl. Poet. MS. 160, f. 170. It is so offensive and devoid of humour that it is hardly fair to saddle Donne with it on the authority of a single bad MS.
I may add that Mr. F. G. Fleay in his Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama (vol. i. pp. 326, 328), following a hint of Gifford’s, asserts that Nos. 37, 38, 57, 59, 60 in Ben Jonson’s Underwoods (ed. Cunningham), as well as No. 58 (i.e., Elegy xvi.), are by Donne. This statement appears to be perfectly wanton and gratuitous.  15

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