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La poésie métaphysique de John Donne

Claudine Raynaud

IV. "Authorship" and Textual Poetics

In what Sense is John Donne the Author of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’?

Richard Todd

Texte intégral

1A. J. Smith’s 1971 edition of John Donne’s complete English poems in the Penguin English Poets series begins with fifty-five love lyrics arranged under the heading ‘Songs and Sonnets’. Right from the beginning of his edition Smith admits that ‘[n] o editor can be confident that he is printing just what Donne wrote’. Smith further admits that the order of the poems he prints ‘is not that in which Donne composed them’ (13-14). In his edition, Smith also ‘arrange [s] the poems alphabetically by titles, because that is a neutral order and makes them easy to find. But [Smith goes on] there is no certainty that the titles themselves are the ones Donne intended, or indeed that he gave the poems any titles’ (353).

2These disclaimers raise a number of questions, and while one must applaud Smith for raising them, it is thirty years since he did so; meanwhile scholarship on the text of Donne’s verse has moved on considerably since Smith’s edition. I want to begin by devoting attention to the history of the title ‘Songs and Sonnets’, and briefly examining what its canon has, at various times, contained. I shall elaborate on this examination by means of discussion of some features of the only two verse miscellanies so far published in a modern facsimile edition that contain a substantial number of Donne’s amatory lyrics: the two Dalhousie manuscripts. I shall then address the question of titles, and conclude by comparing Smith’s edition of Donne’s ‘The Apparition’ with versions from two of the manuscripts close to those evidently known to, or indeed used elsewhere by, Donne’s first printer, John Marriot.

3The first time any of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ appeared in print was in 1633, two years after Donne’s death. They were not, however, printed under this title. The title of the entire volume in which they are contained, which included a considerable amount of Donne’s other verse also appearing for the first time, was Poems [,] by J. D., and it was this volume that was put together by John Marriot. Smith points out that ‘the love lyrics [in this 1633 collection] are scattered in groups through the text and inconspicuously placed’ (353).

4In fact this first printed edition of 1633 has few separate rubrics for any individual groups of poems. It begins with La Corona, followed by a selection of Holy Sonnets. Some epigrams and a few elegies follow these, and then some verse letters. There is no overall sense of generic ordering; it is rather as though Marriot has printed from batches of disparate manuscript material. He has, however, attempted to make sense of what he must have had in front of him by conflating a given reading with another one. Thus although the collection itself looks messy, the text’s relative cleanness belies this impression, and shows a quite careful eclecticism on Marriot’s part, as though he were trying to produce what was, to him, the most satisfying reading of a given poem.

5Towards the end of the collection, thirty-five of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ are printed one after the other; a few poems of other generic sorts intervene, whereafter another sixteen ‘Songs and Sonnets’ follow. A few more generically different poems are printed, and the last of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’, ‘The Paradox’, brings up the rear. ‘The Paradox’ is followed by a further short and generically varied assortment and then finally by a group of funerary poems on Donne by other hands. Four of the poems included in Smith’s ‘Songs and Sonnets’ and generally accepted as canonic (‘Self Love’, ‘A Lecture upon the Shadow’, ‘Sonnet. The Token’, and ‘Farewell to Love’) are missing from the 1633 edition. It is not, therefore, strictly accurate to say, as Smith does, that the love lyrics ‘are scattered in groups through the text [of the 1633 edition] and inconspicuously placed’. In fact, if we scrutinize the 1633 collection carefully, we find that, although they are not yet given the heading ‘Songs and Sonnets’, the love lyrics occur in two large groups, one twice the size of the other. We find, further, that these two groups are separated by a few poems generically different in nature, and one final love lyric is found on its own after a few more generically different poems. Indeed, compared with other genres, a high proportion of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ now accepted as canonic found their way into the first posthumous printed collection of Donne’s verse. Yet it is certainly true that the title ‘Songs and Sonnets’ is to be found nowhere in this first printed edition of 1633.

6Donne’s poems were next printed, again by Marriot, in 1635. Here the collection is entirely re-ordered. Out of Smith’s collection of fifty-five poems, fifty-three are given in 1635. No only do they initiate the collection; they are given in a single group headed Songs and Sonets. The first recorded instance of this title occurs, then, four years after Donne’s death. This fact in turn raises the question of the title’s authority: if the title had been Donne’s, why was it not recorded in 1633? Indeed why were these poems (along with many others) published in print posthumously? The most convincing current explanation is that Donne came close to publishing his verse (whether or not all that by then existed, then certainly poems dating back to the 1590s) in 1614, but, for various reasons, he prevaricated. By now, however, he had lost control over their circulation in manuscript (Beal, 1980, 245-46; Woudhuysen, 1996, 154-55); and if he kept a record or archive, it was soon mislaid. It has even been suggested that he may have destroyed the love lyrics, and other poems including the elegies, either on taking Holy Orders, or while seriously ill in 1623, or in preparation for his death in 1631 (Hill, 2001, 451-52). The explanations suggest that the love lyrics may have once been intended, or viewed, as a collection, but did not enter the world as one. The title Songs and Sonets, then, is most unlikely to be Donne’s, but rather to be that of Marriot or one of his assistants.

7It is often noted that in the collection that first appeared under this title, there is not one single sonnet as we now understand the term. The two lyrics still excluded from the second edition of 1635 are ‘Self Love’ and ‘Sonnet. The Token’. The latter was included in the fourth edition of 1649, and the former in the fifth edition of 1650, so that it was not until nearly twenty years after Donne’s death that all the poems now canonically accepted as Songs and Sonets had been included in printed versions of that generic collection. There were a total of seven seventeenth-century printings, the last appearing in 1669. Indeed, if we consider those seventeenth-century printings one by one, what we observe is a gradual process of accretion, with several poems, many now unquestioningly considered canonic, being added to the canon during nearly forty years after Donne’s death (see Sullivan 2000, 299-309). None are removed.

8The first two editions, of 1633 and 1635, form the canon on which Donne’s most celebrated twentieth-century editor, H. J. C. Grierson, decided to build his edition, which first appeared in 1912. A major problem Grierson faced was his unawareness of the existence of the amount of manuscript material we now know to be extant. Some of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ exist in thirty or forty different manuscript versions. To put it another way, Grierson drew on forty manuscript collections, which represent about one sixth of what is now known to exist. Fifty years later Helen Gardner drew on only forty-three such collections, and furthermore seems to have taken many of Grierson’s readings for granted.

9Of course, poems whose canonic status has been doubted tend to exist in far fewer manuscripts. Which is the cause and which the effect remains a nice puzzle. ‘Farewell to Love’, not included until 1635, is unusual in existing in only four manuscripts; ‘Self Love’ (1650), too, exists in only four manuscripts, whereas ‘Sonnet. The Token’ (1649) exists in nine. Still, many of these versions are included, unattributed to Donne, in miscellanies containing the work of other poets. Two of these miscellanies, the Dalhousie manuscripts, were first recorded by Peter Beal in 1980, having been discovered by him in 1977, long after Grierson produced his edition. Indeed it is Beal’s extraordinary Index, first published in 1980, a work listing over 4,000 manuscripts of a canon consisting of around 220 poems, that will define textual scholarship on Donne in the twenty-first century. The Dalhousie manuscripts have been handsomely edited and transcribed by Ernest W. Sullivan II, and perusal of them offers an idea of what a typical verse miscellany might contain.

10The Dalhousie manuscripts derive from a now lost manuscript in the possession of the Essex family, which was still being added to at the time the Scottish manuscripts were being compiled, the first between 1613 and 1617, the second around 1620 (Sullivan, 1988, 1-12). Some of the material in the second Dalhousie manuscript derives in turn from the first. The manuscripts are not written in one hand, nor do they exclusively contain poems by Donne, although it is the presence of a substantial number of Donne’s poems that led to their publication in 1988. The first Dalhousie manuscript is in very good condition and for the most part appears to reflects the order in which it was bound; the order of the items in the second manuscript is less certain, and this later collection appears to lack a number of items it may once have possessed. Without going into excessive textual detail, it can be said, with Sullivan, that:

the collected editions and major manuscript collections of Donne’s poems may derive from smaller collections, particularly groups of poems that circulated together, and that the texts of poems in these smaller collections (or even individual poems) of the sort that appear in verse miscellanies might be closer at least chronologically to Donne’s originals than are the texts in the larger collections. (Sullivan, 1988, 7)

11In the first Dalhousie manuscript, there are twenty-one ‘Songs and Sonnets’, and in the second, fifteen. It is possible that some of the latter have been lost: only one poem is added in the latter, whereas six are missing, the rest are identical in the two collections. More sequences are preserved than are not, although again, it is unnecessary to go into excessive textual detail to make the point quoted from Sullivan above. What sequences there are in the Dalhousie manuscripts bear no relation to the sequences in either the 1633 or 1635 prints. The Dalhousie manuscripts, the only Donne manuscript miscellany to have been edited to date, are accessible and, as the Introduction to this edition makes clear, demonstrates that Donne’s ‘Songs and Sonnets’ (and other poems) more usually than not circulated in groups that represent only part of what would come to be the printed collections of 1633, 1635,1649 and 1650.

  • 1 Here I draw gratefully on a number of conversations with Gary A. Stringer, general editor of the D (...)

12The Dalhousie manuscripts, though not known to Grierson, comprise a group of seven or eight manuscripts related to each other and derived from a common ancestor: they are known, and have been known since Grierson (who was aware of the existence of only five or six of them) as ‘Group II’. It is coming to seem likely that this Group represents a slightly revised form of a family known as ‘Group III’. There are four manuscripts in this Group, two distantly related ‘parents’ and two more closely related second-generation ‘cousins’. A more substantial revision of Group III is found in a family or group of six manuscripts, known since Grierson as ‘Group I’.1 In the current state of thinking, it seems that more or less all other extant manuscripts are in some way derived from or associated with Group III.

13In preparing the 1633 print, Marriot seems to have used an eclectic mixture of Group I and II copy, sometimes drawing on Group III. Much excavation still remains to be done, but what seems clear is that whereas Marriot’s 1633 printing of what would come to be known as the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ is fairly random, the much more careful and prominent arrangement of these poems, titled ‘Songs and Sonnets’ for the first time, in the 1635 printing, such as to bear most likeness to Group I. Of course, it is possible and indeed likely that during the course of time, manuscript collections have been rebound and their contents collated afresh, so it would be more surprising than not to find a manuscript collection still extant in the twentyfirst century ordered exactly as it was when first compiled (say) in 1625. More importantly, it cannot be stressed enough that the similarity between the order of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ in Group I and the 1635 printing does not mean that Group I has more authorial claim on our attention than any other Group. All it means is that Marriot seems to have arranged the amatory lyrics in his second, 1635, printing, in an order that accorded more with Group I than with any other Group, perhaps because it satisfied him, perhaps because the Group I exemplar he was using contained more of these poems than any other, perhaps, indeed, because Group I represents (in places at least) the most substantial revision, but by whom? There is certainly evidence for what is known as ‘scribal sophistication’ throughout seventeenth-century manuscript culture.

14Despite Grierson’s claim in 1912 that he was privileging the 1633 edition over any manuscript, he in fact printed the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ in the form in which they appeared in 1635. All editors since have by and large followed him. Smith’s decision to reproduce the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ in alphabetical order represents a choice rehearsed above, but he does not seem to have questioned the propriety of beginning his edition with the ‘Songs and Sonnets’, as Grierson did, and as Marriot’s 1635 printing did, but as the first Marriot printing of 1633 did not. In other words, the arbitrariness Smith claims he is observing (the order of the poems’ composition; the titles Donne may or may not have given them) is matched by an arbitrariness concerning the privileging of the first two printings over a wealth of manuscript material that Smith completely ignores, as did all twentieth-century editors.

15Grierson’s edition is as remarkable as it is because he singlehandedly consulted so many manuscripts, not flawlessly, it is true. The 40 manuscripts known to Grierson tend to be those with the most poems in them, and as we have noted, four decades later Gardner consulted only three more. Grierson noted more variants and other detail than any other single editor of Donne’s work until John Shawcross in 1967. Yet as should now be evident, all Donne’s twentieth-century editors from Grierson to Shawcross and Smith assembled their editions (this goes for the entire canon, but it is the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ that are at issue here) from an eclectic mixture of the 1633 and 1635 editions.

16Perusal of the titles given to existing manuscripts of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ reveals some surprises. Many poems we know by titles such as ‘Woman’s Constancy’ or ‘The Triple Fool’ exist in manuscript form with those titles, it is true, but other manuscript forms of the same poems have no title at all, or are entitled simply ‘Song’. This complicates matters when we realise that two of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ are poems we do know by the title ‘Song’, followed in each case, respectively, by ‘Go and catch a falling star’ and ‘Sweetest love, I do not go’. ‘Witchcraft by a Picture’ is given this title in some manuscripts. Others have ‘Picture’, ‘The Picture’, or again, simply ‘Song’. Similarly, the poem we know as ‘A Lecture upon the Shadow’ appears in some manuscripts as ‘Shadow’ or ‘The Shadow’, and in this case the printed editions of 1635, 1639 and 1649 have ‘Song’. A minority of the manuscripts of ‘The Legacy’ use this title; again, some are untitled, or use the title ‘Song’, or the title ‘Elegy’. This latter title is confusing when we find Marriot in 1635 grouping ‘The Legacy’ (it is not the only such poem to be entitled ‘Elegy’ in some manuscripts) among the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ and not the Elegies: clearly ‘Elegy’ was understood by some scribes to mean a short stanzaic lyric as well as a longer poem in rhyming couplets.

17There is some indication that the earliest manuscript forms of such titles are the most abbreviated, which might suggest that the author was rather more cavalier about his titles than later scribes or indeed John Marriot would be.

18Other manuscripts possess lengthier and more ornate titles. With the variety just given, it is difficult to be certain whether Donne or an enterprising scribe has come up with the title we know, and in view of the evidence we have, it is just as difficult to know who has bestowed the title ‘Song’ on a poem we know by another title. One manuscript of ‘Break of Day’ entitles it ‘Dr Donne. /To his Love, who was too hasty to/rise from him in ye Morning’. There are several manuscript titles of this sort prefacing various ‘Songs and Sonnets’, but this one is particularly interesting. It seems to be ‘late’, in the sense that it appears to be drawing on a knowledge, or at least consensus, of the poem’s authorship, and thus may actually post-date one or more of the prints. It also appears to be appealing to a knowing readership: this is the one about staying in bed, but it is not ‘The Sun Rising’ (or ‘Ad Solem’: see below). But if this is so, most of today’s readers of ‘Break of Day’ would argue that the scribe has got the argument of the poem wrong: this is one of the two (‘Sonnet. The Token’ is the other) where the speaker appears to be a woman, and that it is Dr Donne (or the male speaker) ‘who was too hasty to rise from her in the morning’. Reading this version of the poem, we may find, indeed, that its argument is internally inconsistent. The more ornate the title, the more the text tends to deviate from what we may consider normative, thus the later in time the poem may be, and the more likely to be based on memory, or (indeed) adapted for musical setting.

19Yet there are cases where the title exists in more than one form whose authenticity may genuinely baffle us. It is worth considering a couple of these, and pondering on their implications. The poems we know as ‘The Sun Rising’ and ‘A Valediction: forbidding Mourning’ appear in some manuscripts as, respectively, ‘Ad Solem’ and ‘Upon the Parting from his Mistress’. In these forms, manuscripts bearing such lesser known titles were clearly of contemporaneous sufficient authority to have made it across the North Sea and be translated (the first known translations of any Donne poems) by Constantijn Huygens into Dutch in August 1630, before the poems were printed and, indeed, while Donne was still alive (Todd, 2002, forthcoming). The difficulty here is not that we are faced with a cryptic or truncated title that becomes extended during the process of dissemination through manuscript and eventually into print. Nor is it that a title is ‘lost’ or omitted, and a later scribe substitutes a nondescript title ‘Song’ or ‘Elegy’ to indicate the beginning of a new poem in a given collection or miscellany. In these cases, ‘The Sun Rising’ versus Ad Solem’, or ‘A Valediction: forbidding Mourning’ versus ‘Upon the Parting from his Mistress’, we seem to be faced with at least two rival titles and thus two rival traditions of dissemination. The immediate questions are: which version or tradition represents Donne’s ‘original’? Can we indeed speak of an ‘original’ or should we rather think of one form that (shortly after its first dissemination) was revised; and if so, was it revised by the author? If it was the author who revised the titles, why did he do so?

20We are a long way from answering such questions conclusively. It has been argued by Ilona Bell (2000, 59-86) that Donne may in fact have written some of his amatory verse to code it as suitable for presentation to Ann More. The example Bell gives is ‘The Flea’. This is an attractive speculation, but it is based on little more than circumstantial evidence. Perhaps another way to think of matters is to argue that, as with Donne’s satirical and religious verse, some form of revision, adaptation or even censorship was applied retrospectively, for whatever reason, either by the author, or at his behest, or with his approval; or autonomously by an officious scribe. These several possible explanations for variations not just in the titles but in the texts of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ suggest that an edition such as Smith’s is arbitrary not only in presenting these poems in the alphabetical order that he does. In fact an editor might well be justified, where title and text of a given lyric comprise several and substantive variations, not just in recording these in the textual apparatus, but in actually printing more than one version of a given poem.

  • 2 In being able to present these different versions of the poem, I am grateful to Gary A. Stringer a (...)

21I want to end by presenting the text of one of the shorter ‘Songs and Sonnets’, partly because manuscript versions of it contain several substantive variants of real interest, and partly because Smith ignores all but one of them. Other significant variants have not, to my knowledge, ever been recorded in print prior to this paper. Placing these side by side raises disturbing questions as to which version is ‘Donne’s’. I first give the poem as printed by Smith; secondly follows the version to be found in the British Library’s Harley Noel manuscript (fols. 282r-v) (this Group I manuscript exemplifies an ordering of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’ that attracted Marriot); and thirdly I give the version found in the Cambridge University Library’s Luttrell manuscript (fols. 103r-v), an instance of a second-generation Group III manuscript. This last version contains (as do several others) the one substantive verbal variant recorded by Smith, but it will be seen from placing them side by side that there are many more.2 Beal records forty-four different manuscript versions of this poem in total. In the two I reproduce here I have modernized the spelling and normalized the orthography so as to facilitate comparison with Smith’s text. Old-spelling versions are given in an Appendix.

22Here is Smith’s version:

23‘The Apparition’

When by thy scorn, Ο murdress, I am dead,
And that thou think’st thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feigned vestal, in worse arms shall see ;
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tired before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him , think
Thou call’st for more,
And in false sleep will from thee shrink,
And then poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bathed in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
A verier ghost than I ;
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,
I had rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threatenings rest still innocent.

24Here is the Group I version as exemplified in the British Library’s Harley Noel manuscript. Substantive verbal departures from Smith are given in bold.

25An Apparition

When by thy scorn Ο murdress, I am dead,
And that thou think’st thee free
From all solicitation from me ;
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed
And thee, feigned vestall, in worse arms shall see.
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink
And he whose thou art then, being tired before
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think Thou call’st for more
And in false sleep will from thee shrink
Thou poor Aspen wretch, neglected then
Both in a cold quicksilver sweat will lie
A verier Ghost then I
What I will say, I will not tell thee now
Lest that preserve thee and since my love is spent
I had rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threat’nings rest still innocent.

26And here is the second-generation Group III version as exemplified in the Luttrell manuscript; again, substantive verbal differences from Smith are given in bold.

27An Apparition

When by thy scorn, Ο murdress I am dead
And that thou thinkst thee free
From all solicitations by me.
Then shall my Ghost come to thy bed
And thee (fond virgin) in worse arms shall see
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink
And he, whose thou art then, being tir’ d before
Will, if thou stir to pinch or wake him , think
Thou call’st for more
And in a false sleep from thee shrink
And then poor Aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
A verier ghost than I.
What I will say I will not tell thee now
Lest that preserve thee, and since my love is spent
I had rather thou shouldst painfully repent
Than by my threat’nings keep thee innocent.

28Which (if any) version is closest to what Donne wrote? And do any of the three versions reproduced here manifest any revision, and, if so, is such revision to be considered authorial? It is not possible, in the present state of knowledge, to give a definite answer to such questions, but the weight of their implications can be judged by briefly surveying, in conclusion, the substantive verbal variants evident from just these three versions.

  • 3 Constantijn Huygens’s translation, dated 6 September 1633, follows a ‘keep thee’ exemplar and show (...)

29The substantive verbal variant Smith records, the only one, is in the last line. Smith reads, with the early prints, ‘rest still’,3 but notes that ‘some MSS’ read ‘keep thee’. It turns out that this crux is the biggest one in the poem, in the sense that all extant manuscripts read one or the other. What does this tell us? There are two possibilities: either the authorial version read ‘rest still’ and a later scribe misread or miscopied it as ‘keep thee’, a reading followed by all who copied directly or indirectly from this scribe. This does not seem plausible. Or an authorial version ‘keep thee’ was later revised, either authorially or scribally, to ‘rest still’. It may be felt that ‘rest still’ is the more powerful reading, in keeping with the reciprocal scorn or contempt the poem illustrates, but that, until more is known about the relationship between the authorial holograph and the various manuscript versions, is all that can be said at present. Some of the manuscripts that read ‘keep thee’ also read ‘fond virgin’ at line 5 (these include two Group III manuscripts): none of those that read ‘rest still’ have this reading. No print keeps the reading ‘fond virgin’. Conversely, the reading ‘both’ at line 12 is shared only by manuscripts that read ‘rest still’: none of those that read ‘keep thee’ have this reading (a reading largely confined to Group I). No print keeps the reading ‘both’.

30One could in fact take all the extant manuscripts and ‘weed out’ versions that do not conform to the prints, particularly 1633 and 1635. What one would then be obliged to conclude is that there is indeed no way of knowing what Donne wrote. He may or may not have revised what he wrote, and ‘revision’ covers a range of activity from the careful to the cavalier. If he did revise his amatory lyrics, he may not have revised every one of what we now know (but he apparently did not) as the ‘Songs and Sonnets’. He appears often to have given the poems simpler, more cryptic titles than they later acquired and are given in the prints. We are bound to conclude that the process of dissemination, from authorial holograph versions that are now lost, led to a complex manuscript tradition from which Donne’s first printer John Marriot chose freely but (in the absence of an authorial text) often intelligently, to provide an eclectic text in 1633, revising its order in 1635, a text and an order that Grierson followed in 1912, and that forms the basis for all later twentieth-century editions, including that of A. J. Smith. Providing we are prepared to accept the complexity of its implications, we can fairly say that it is in this sense that Donne is the ‘author’ of the ‘Songs and Sonnets’.


Works cited

Beal, Peter. 1980. Comp. Index of English Literary Manuscripts, vol. 1 (1450-1625, pt. I: Andrewes-Donne). London: Mansell & New York: R. R. Bowker.

Bell, Ilona. 2000. ‘Courting Anne More’, John Donne Journal 19: 59-86. Gardner, Helen, 1965. Ed. John Donne. Elegies and the Songs and Sonnets. Oxford: Clarendon.

Grierson, H. J. C. 1912. Ed. The Poems of John Donne. Vol. I: The Text of the Poems with Appendixes. Vol. II: Introduction and Commentary. Oxford: Clarendon.

Hill, W. Speed. 2001. ‘The Donne Variorum: Variations on the Life of an Author’. Huntington Library Quarterly, 62.3 & 4. < > Shawcross, John T. 1967. Ed. The Complete Poetry of John Donne. New York: Doubleday.

Sullivan, Ernest W. II, 1988. Ed., The First and Second Dalhousie Manuscripts: Poems and Prose by John Donne and Others. A Facsimile Edition. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press.

Sullivan, Ernest W. II, 2000. ‘Poems by J. D. Donne’s Corpus, and His Bawdy, Too’, John Donne Journal 19: 299-309.

Todd, Richard. 2002 forthcoming. ‘The Manuscript Sources for Constantijn Huygens’s Translation of Four Poems by John Donne, 1630’. English Manuscript Studies 11.

Woudhuysen, H. R. 1996. Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts. Oxford: Clarendon.



Here follow diplomatic transcriptions of (firstly) British Library MS Harley 4064 (Harley Noel) and (secondly) Cambridge University Library Add. MS 8468 (Luttrell):

‘An Apparition’

When by thy scorne Ο murderess, I am dead,
And that thou thinkst the free
ffrom all solicitation from mee ;
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed
And the, faynd vestall, in worse armes shall see.

Then thy sicke taper will beginn to wink
And he whose thou art then, being tired before
Will, if thou stirre, or pinch to wake him , think
Thou calst for more
And in false sleepe will from the shrinke
Thou poore Aspin wretch, neglected then
Both in a cold quicksilver sweate will ly
A veryer Ghost then I
What I will say, I will not tell the now
Least that--serve the And since my loue is spent
I had rather thou shouldst paynfully repent.
Then by my threatnings rest still innocent.

‘An Apparition’

When by thy scorne, ô murdresse, I am dead
And that thou thinkst thee free4 ffrom all sollicitations by me.
Then shall my Ghost come to thy bed
And thee (fond virgin), in worse armes shall see
Then thy sick taper will begin to winke
And he, whose thou art then, being tyr’ d before
Will, if thou stirr to pinch or wake him , thinke
Thou call’st for more
And in a false sleepe from thee shrinke
And then poore Aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bathd in a cold quicksiluer sweat wilt lye
A veryer ghost then I.
What I will say I will not tell thee nowe
Least that preserue thee, & since my loue is spent
I had rather thou shouldst painfully repent
Then by my threatninges rest still innocent.


1 Here I draw gratefully on a number of conversations with Gary A. Stringer, general editor of the Donne Variorum project. The project’s website,, is an indispensable resource for those interested in textual matters.

2 In being able to present these different versions of the poem, I am grateful to Gary A. Stringer and J. Syd Conner of the Donne Variorum project, for supplying various materials and for advice, and to the following students for participating in a research course in the English Department Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, that involved transcribing, collating and filiating most of the manuscript versions of ‘The Apparition’: Nadine Akkerman, Guusje Groote, Susanna Hop, Eline van Straelen and Sebastiaan Verweij.

3 Constantijn Huygens’s translation, dated 6 September 1633, follows a ‘keep thee’ exemplar and shows that for this poem at least, Huygens did not use Marriot’s 1633 print.

4 This word may read ‘farr’ in manuscript.


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© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2002

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