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ANON., manuscript verses on Donne, ?1631

ANON., manuscript verses on Donne, ?1631

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17. Joost van den Vondel

c. 1633

The Dutch poet Vondel (1587–1679) commented in verse on

Huygens’s translation of Donne’s poems into Dutch (see No.

14), indicating that he thought Donne greatly overrated (Die

Werken van Vondel, ed. J.F.M.Sterck and H.W.E.Moller,

Amsterdam, 1929, iii, p. 415). Here is a prose translation of

Vondel’s lines. ‘The Sheriff’ is P.C.Hooft, Sheriff of Muiden;

Tesselscha was the popular and talented daughter of RoemerVisscher; and ‘Mustard’ is Daniel Mostart. All three evidently

prized Donne’s poetry highly.

On the recondite epigrams of the English poet John Donne, translated by


The English poet Donne, that obscure sun, does not shine for

everyone’s eyes, Huygens has said, rightly—this language scholar

from the Hague, who relishes caviar, snuff and smoking, which clouds

the brain of the inexperienced. But this unusual fare is a feast for the

Sheriff, and our young friend, sweet Tesselscha. O dear nymph

Tesselscha, if you do not understand it, then make a guess at it or get

someone to explain it to you: for these are songs more exalted than

the Song of Songs of Solomon, which elude the shrewdest minds

except the most experienced of learned doctors. But why should my

judgement disapprove of what appeals to the taste of my piquant

friend, my Mustard, who can never have enough of such salads!

Now good people, eat your fill, adding vinegar and peppers; for I do

not covet these delicacies at all.


18. The first collected edition of

Donne’s poems


We do not know who edited Poems, By J.D. With Elegies on the

Authors Death, 1633. It may have been Donne’s friend, the poet

Henry King. Whoever it was, he brought together not only

Donne’s poems but a body of tributes to their author which

constitutes far and away the best evidence of what Donne’s

contemporaries valued in his writings. The items that follow are

all given in this edition.

(i) An unsigned address to the reader, presumably by the ‘M.F.’ who

is named on the title page as the printer of the edition for the publisher

John Marriot. ‘M.F.’ was probably Miles Fletcher, a well-known

printer of the day:





For this time I must speake only to you: at another, Readers may

perchance serve my turne; and I thinke this a way very free from

exception, in hope that very few will have a minde to confesse

themselves ignorant.

If you looke for an Epistle, as you have before ordinary

publications, I am sory that I must deceive you; but you will not lay

it to my charge, when you shall consider that this is not ordinary, for

if I should say it were the best in this kinde, that ever this Kingdome

hath yet scene; he that would doubt of it must goe out of the Kingdome

to enforme himself, for the best judgments, within it, take it for


You may imagine (if it please you) that I could endeare it unto

you, by saying, that importunity drew it on; that had it not beene



presented here, it would have come to us from beyond the Seas;

(which perhaps is true enough,) That my charge and paines in

procuring of it hath beene such, and such. I could adde hereto, a

promise of more correctness, or enlargement in the next Edition,

if you shall in the meane time content you with this. But these

things are so common, as that I should profane this Peece by

applying them to it; A Peece which who so takes not as he findes

it, in what manner soever, he is unworthy of it, sith a scattered

limbe of this Author, hath more amiablenesse in it, in the eye of a

discerner, then a whole body of some other; Or, (to expresse him

best by himselfe)

—A hand, or eye,

By Hilyard drawne, is worth a history

By a worse Painter made;—

If any man (thinking I speake this to enflame him for the vent of the

Impression) be of another opinion, I shall as willingly spare his money

as his judgement. I cannot lose so much by him as hee will by himselfe.

For I shall satisfie my selfe with the conscience of well doing, in

making so much good common.

Howsoever it may appeare to you, it shall suffice mee to enforme

you, that it hath the best warrant that can bee, publique authority,

and private friends.

There is one thing more wherein I will make you of my counsell,

and that is, That whereas it hath pleased some, who had studyed

and did admire him, to offer to the memory of the Author, not long

after his decease, I have thought I should do you service in presenting

them unto you now; onely whereas, had I placed them in the

beginning, they might have serv’d for so many Encomiums of the

Author (as is usuall in other workes, where perhaps there is need of

it, to prepare men to digest such stuffe as follows after,) you shall

here finde them in the end, for whosoever reades the rest so farre,

shall perceive that there is no occasion to use them to that purpose;

yet there they are, as an attestation for their sakes that knew not so

much before, to let them see how much honour was attributed to

this worthy man, by those that are capable to give it. Farewell.

(ii) A preliminary commendation by John Marston (?1575–1634),

the satiric poet and playwright who became an Anglican priest.

Marston’s work owes much to Donne:



Hexastichon Bibliopolae.

I see in his last preach’d, and printed Booke,

His Picture in a sheet; in Pauls I looke,

And see his Statue in a sheete of stone,

And sure his body in the grave hath one:

Those sheetes present him dead, these if you buy,

You have him living to Eternity.


(iii) An anonymous commendation:

Hexastichon ad Bibliopolam.


In thy Impression of Donnes Poems rare,

For his Eternitie thou hast ta’ne care:

’Twas well, and pious; And for ever may

He live: Yet shew I thee a better way;

Print but his Sermons, and if those we buy,

He, We, and Thou shall live t’ Eternity.

(iv) The collection of funeral elegies on Donne which concludes the

1633 edition contains some notable criticism of his writings as well

as direct evidence of his reputation among other writers in his own

day. The first elegy is by Henry King (1592–1669), later Bishop of

Chichester, a considerable poet of small output who had been an

intimate friend in Donne’s last years. This elegy, with that by Edward

Hyde (No. 18 (iv) (c)), was originally published unsigned in 1632 as

an appendix to Donne’s sermon Deaths Duell:






To have liv’d eminent, in a degree

Beyond our lofty’st flights, that is, like Thee,

Or t’ have had too much merit, is not safe;

For, such excesses finde no Epitaph.



At common graves we have Poetique eyes

Can melt themselves in easie Elegies,

Each quill can drop his tributary verse,

And pin it, like the Hatchments, to the Hearse:

But at Thine, Poeme, or Inscription

(Rich soule of wit, and language) we have none.

Indeed a silence does that tombe befit,

Where is no Herald left to blazon it.

Widow’d invention justly doth forbeare

To come abroad, knowing Thou art not here,

Late her great Patron; Whose Prerogative

Maintain’d, and cloth’d her so, as none alive

Must now presume, to keepe her at thy rate,

Though he the Indies for her dowre estate.

Or else that awfull fire, which once did burne

In thy cleare Braine, now falne into thy Urne

Lives there, to fright rude Empiricks from thence,

Which might prophane thee by their Ignorance.

Who ever writes of Thee, and in a stile

Unworthy such a Theme, does but revile

Thy precious Dust, and wake a learned Spirit

Which may revenge his Rapes upon thy Merit.

For, all a low pitch’t phansie can devise,

Will prove, at best, but Hallow’d Injuries.

Thou, like the dying Swanne, didst lately sing

Thy Mournfull Dirge, in audience of the King;

When pale lookes, and faint accents of thy breath,

Presented so, to life, that peece of death,

That it was fear’d, and prophesi’d by all,

Thou thither cam’st to preach thy Funerall.

O! had’st Thou in an Elegiacke Knell

Rung out unto the world thine owne farewell,

And in thy High Victorious Numbers beate

The solemne measure of thy griev’d Retreat;

Thou might’st the Poets Service now have mist

As well, as then thou did’st prevent the Priest;

And never to the world beholding bee

So much, as for an Epitaph for thee.

I doe not like the office. Nor is ’t fit

Thou, who did’st lend our Age such summes of wit,



Should’st now re-borrow from her bankrupt Mine,

That Ore to Bury Thee, which once was Thine,

Rather still leave us in thy debt; And know

(Exalted Soule) more glory ’t is to owe

Unto thy Hearse, what we can never pay,

Then, with embased Coine those Rites defray.

Commit we then Thee to Thy selfe: Nor blame

Our drooping loves, which thus to thy owne Fame

Leave Thee Executour. Since, but thine owne,

No pen could doe Thee Justice, nor Bayes Crowne

Thy vast desert; Save that, wee nothing can

Depute, to be thy Ashes Guardian.

So Jewellers no Art, or Metall trust

To forme the Diamond, but the Diamonds dust.


(b) Probably by Sir Thomas Browne (1605–82), the physician and

writer; though Browne was at this time a young medical student

who had published nothing of note, and was unknighted. These lines

do not appear in subsequent editions of Donne’s poems:

To the deceased Author,

Upon the Promiscuous printing of his Poems, the

Looser sort, with the Religious.

When thy Loose raptures, Donne, shall meet with Those

That doe confine

Tuning, unto the Duller line,

And sing not, but in Sanctified Prose;

How will they, with sharper eyes,

The Fore-skinne of thy phansie circumcise?

And feare, thy wantonnesse should now, begin

Example, that hath ceased to be Sin?

And that Feare fannes their Heat; whilst knowing eyes

Will not admire

At this Strange Fire,

That here is mingled with thy Sacrifice:

But dare reade even thy Wanton Story,

As thy Confession, not thy Glory.



And will so envie Both to future times,

That they would buy thy Goodnesse, with thy Crimes.

Tho: Browne.

(c) Probably by Edward Hyde (1607–59), Anglican divine and

theologian; though the future Earl of Clarendon (1609–74) has been


On the death of Dr DONNE.

I cannot blame those men, that knew thee well,

Yet dare not helpe the world, to ring thy knell

In tunefull Elegies; there’s not language knowne

Fit for thy mention, but ’twas first thy owne;

The Epitaphs thou writst, have so bereft

Our tongue of wit, there is not phansie left

Enough to weepe thee; what henceforth we see

Of Art or Nature, must result from thee.

There may perchance some busie gathering friend

Steale from thy owne workes, and that, varied, lend,

Which thou bestow’st on others, to thy Hearse,

And so thou shalt live still in thine owne verse;

Hee that shall venture farther, may commit

A pitied errour, shew his zeale, not wit.

Fate hath done mankinde wrong; vertue may aime

Reward of conscience, never can, of fame,

Since her great trumpet’s broke, could onely give

Faith to the world, command it to beleeve;

Hee then must write, that would define thy parts:

Here lyes the best Divinitie, All the Arts.

Edw. Hyde.

(d) By Dr Richard Corbet (1582–1635), Bishop of Oxford and

Norwich. Corbet wrote verses and is the author of the well-known

poem ‘Farewell, rewards and fairies’:

On Doctor Donne,

By D’ C.B. of O.

He that would write an Epitaph for thee,

And do it well, must first beginne to be

Such as thou wert; for, none can truly know



Thy worth, thy life, but he that hath liv’d so;

He must have wit to spare and to hurle downe:

Enough, to keepe the gallants of the towne.

He must have learning plenty; both the Lawes,

Civill, and Common, to judge any cause;

Divinity great store, above the rest;

Not of the last Edition, but the best.

He must have language, travaile, all the Arts;

Judgement to use; or else he wants thy parts.

He must have friends the highest, able to do;

Such as Mecœnas, and Augustus too.

He must have such a sicknesse, such a death;

Or else his vaine descriptions come beneath;

Who then shall write an Epitaph for thee,

He must be dead first, let’it alone for mee.

(e) By Henry Valentine (fl. 1600–50), Rector of Deptford and later

D.D. of the University of Oxford. These are extracts from his long

elegy on Donne:

An Elegie upon the incomparable


All is not well when such a one as I

Dare peepe abroad, and write an Elegie;

When smaller Starres appeare, and give their light,

Phœbus is gone to bed: Were it not night,

And the world witlesse now that DONNE is dead,

You sooner should have broke, then seene my head.

Dead did I say? Forgive this Injury

I doe him, and his worthes Infinity,

To say he is but dead; I dare averre

It better may be term’d a Massacre,

Then Sleepe or Death; See how the Muses mourne

Upon their oaten Reeds, and from his Vrne

Threaten the World with this Calamity,

They shall have Ballads, but no Poetry.

Language lyes speechlesse; and Divinity,

Lost such a Trump as even to Extasie

Could charme the Soule, and had an Influence

To teach best judgements, and please dullest Sense,



The Court, the Church, the Vniversitie,

Lost Chaplaine, Deane, and Doctor, All these, Three.

It was his Merit, that his Funerall

Could cause a losse so great and generall….

Me thinkes, Corruption, Wormes, what else is foule

Should spare the Temple of so faire a Soule.

I could beleeve they doe; but that I know

What inconvenience might hereafter grow:

Succeeding ages would Idolatrize,

And as his Numbers, so his Reliques prize.

If that Philosopher, which did avow

The world to be but Motes, was living now:

He would affirme that th’ Atomes of his mould

Were they in severall bodies blended, would

Produce new worlds of Travellers, Divines,

Of Linguists, Poets: sith these severall lines

In him concentred were, and flowing thence

Might fill againe the worlds Circumference….

Let this suffice thee, that his Soule which flew

A pitch of all admir’d, known but of few,

(Save those of purer mould) is now translated

From Earth to Heaven, and there Constellated.

For, if each Priest of God shine as a Starre,

His Glory is as his Gifts, ’bove others farre.


(f) By Izaac Walton (1593–1683), Donne’s friend and biographer,

who later wrote The Compleat Angler and the lives of some celebrated

contemporary poets and writers. Walton revised his elegy many times

and in 1658 transferred it to his Life of Donne where he continued

to revise it in the successive republications of that work (see No. 27

(i)). Thus in all the seventeenth-century editions of Donne’s poems

after 1633 the elegy closes with four additional lines which refer to

Donne’s ‘matchlesse worth’. In the 1658 edition of the Life of Donne,

and subsequently, the poem opens with these lines:

Our Donne is dead: and we may sighing say,

We had that man where language chose to stay

And shew her utmost power. I would not praise

That, and his great Wit, which in our vaine dayes



Makes others proud; but as these serv’d to unlocke

That Cabinet, his mind, where such a stock

Of knowledge was repos’d, that I lament

Our just and generall cause of discontent.

Most interesting of all, the reference in the 1633 version to Donne’s

youth scattering poetry ‘wherein/ Was All Philosophie’ becomes in

the final form of the poem ‘wherein/Lay Loves Philosophy’. The

following are extracts from the version of the elegy given in 1633:

An Elegie upon Dr Donne.

Is Donne, great Donne deceas’d? then England

say Thou ’hast lost a man where language chose to stay

And shew it’s gracefull power. I would not praise

That and his vast wit (which in these vaine dayes

Make many proud) but as they serv’d to unlock

That Cabinet, his minde: where such a stock

Of knowledge was repos’d, as all lament

(Or should) this generall cause of discontent….

Dull age, Oh I would spare thee, but th’art worse,

Thou art not onely dull, but hast a curse

Of black ingratitude; if not, couldst thou

Part with miraculous Donne, and make no vow

For thee and thine, successively to pay

A sad remembrance to his dying day?

Did his youth scatter Poetrie, wherein

Was all Philosophie? Was every sinne,

Character’d in his Satyres? made so foule

That some have fear’d their shapes, and kept their soule

Freer by reading verse? Did he give dayes

Past marble monuments, to those, whose praise

He would perpetuate? Did hee (I feare

The dull will doubt:) these at his twentieth yeare?

But, more matur’d: Did his full soule conceive,

And in harmonious-holy-numbers weave

A Crowne of sacred sonets, fit to adorne La Corona.

A dying Martyrs brow: or, to be worne

On that blest head of Mary Magdalen:

After she wip’d Christs feet, but not till then?…



Did hee (fit for such penitents as shee

And hee to use) leave us a Litany?

Which all devout men love, and sure, it shall,

As times grow better, grow more classicall.

Did he write Hymnes, for piety and wit

Equall to those great grave Prudentius writ?

Spake he all Languages? knew he all Lawes?

The grounds and use of Physicke; but because

’Twas mercenary wav’d it? Went to see

That blessed place of Christs nativity?

Did he returne and preach him? preach him so

As none but hee did, or could do? They know

(Such as were blest to heare him know) ’tis truth.

Did he confirme thy age? convert thy youth?

Did he these wonders? And is this deare losse

Mourn’d by so few? (few for so great a crosse.)

(g) By Thomas Carew (?1598-?1639), the poet and courtier, who was

at this time sewer-in-ordinary to King Charles. Carew’s elegy contains

some of the most memorable things ever said about Donne’s poetry:

An Elegie upon the death of the

Deane of Pauls, Dr. Iohn Donne:

By Mr. Tho: Carie.

Can we not force from widdowed Poetry,

Now thou art dead (Great DONNE) one Elegie

To crowne thy Hearse? Why yet dare we not trust

Though with unkneaded dowe-bak’t prose thy dust,

Such as the uncisor’d Churchman from the flower

Of fading Rhetorique, short liv’d as his houre,

Dry as the sand that measures it, should lay

Upon thy Ashes, on the funerall day?

Have we no voice, no tune? Did’st thou dispense

Through all our language, both the words and sense?

’Tis a sad truth; The Pulpit may her plaine,

And sober Christian precepts still retaine,

Doctrines it may, and wholesome Uses frame,

Grave Homilies, and Lectures, But the flame

Of thy brave Soule, that shot such heat and light,

As burnt our earth, and made our darknesse bright,

Committed holy Rapes upon our Will,


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