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The prosodic significance of Donne's "accidentals" In the case of Donne, we are confronted with two extraordinary facts which are of the greatest interest to those who wish to consider the question of what his text (as a poet) is held to be and what in fact Donne might have liked it to be if he had seen his poems through the press. On the one hand, Donne's verse has acquired a reputation for prosodic "roughness" which we could never feel sure was intended by him or caused by his copyists (printers and scribes); on the other hand, we have in recent years gained access to a copy of a poem in his own hand which, although it is only one poem, is informative enough to let us measure Donne's reputation for roughness against the exact details of what he wrote, and thus to get some idea as to whether the roughness which critics think they can see is real and intended by Donne, or a matter of the way his text has come to us. There is, of course, also the theoretical possibility that the discovery of a poem in Donne's own hand would have forced us into concluding that the gap between his own version and those which we had known is so big that we actually had no idea of which words Donne wrote, and in which order. However, we may feel fairly confident that in general there is in this respect little that Donne's own manuscript (or presumably manuscripts if more were found) can tell us other than what we already knew: it is not the words about which Donne's autograph proves revealing, but the spelling and punctuation which he uses to indicate to the reader how those words are meant to be sounded, thus enabling us to gauge his prosodic intentions. The expression that we have in recent years "gained access" to an autograph version of a poem by Donne stands in need of modification. Most of us will never be allowed to handle the actual sheet on which the poem, a verse letter to the Lady Carey, is written. It is in the possession of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and I was permitted to inspect the manuscript itself only after I had persuaded the librarian-in-charge that a transcript of the poem by Dame Helen Gardner contained a number of startling but important inaccuracies if the facsimile published by the Library in conjunction with Scolar Manselll could be at all relied upon accurately to reproduce the original. (The facsimile, which turned out to be of excellent quality, accompanies Dame Helen's transcript - with comment - in a booklet entitled John Donne's holograph of "A Letter to the Lady Carey and Mrs Essex Riche".) The average reader of Donne not only will gain no access to the manuscript, but will not necessarily either see or be able to decipher the facsimile version mentioned (or another should there be one). For these reasons, and because Dame Helen's transcript 1 London, 1972. 88 J. Daalder which in any case is not widely available - contains several errors, it will, I hope, be useful and interesting to provide a transcript here. Madame, Here, where by all, all Saints invoked are, T'were too much Scisme to bee singulare, And gainst a practise generall to war, yett, turninge to Saints, should my'Humilitee To other Saint, then yow , directed bee, 5 That were to make my Scisme Heresee. nor would I bee a Convertite so cold As not to tell ytt; If thys bee to bold, Pardons are in thys Market cheaply sold. where, because Fayth ys in too lowe degree, 10 I thought yt some Apostleship in mee To speak things wch by Fayth alone I see: That ys, of yow; who are a firmament Of vertues, where no one ys growen, nor spent; Thay'are yor Materialls, not yor Ornament. 15 Others, whom wee call vertuous, are not so In theyr whole Substance, but theyr vertues grow But in theyr Humors, and at Seasons show. For when through tastles flatt Humilitee, In Doe-bakd men, some Harmelesnes wee see...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 87-101
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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