PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing ‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing
(PN Review 236)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Alejandro Fernandez-OsorioPomace (trans. James Womack)
(PN Review 236)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Oxford University Press
Gratis Ad 1
Next Issue Kei Miller on poetry and volume control Parwana Fayyaz's Afghan poems Gabriel Josipovici bids farewell to Aharon Appelfeld Craig Raine plants a flag A.R. Ammons from two angles

This article is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

Vestiges 8: John Donne Adam Crothers
Vestiges 8 title page to Ovid’s Metamorphoses

This title page to Ovid’s Metamorphoses bears, in its lower right-hand corner, the signature of John Donne. Donne turned twelve in the year of publication, 1584, and while he was not necessarily a schoolboy when he owned and marked it, the amount of autographing and scribbling in other hands suggests that it was indeed a schoolbook. A later reader, Daniel Evans, has expended some effort ringing changes
upon his own signature.

That the book has been possessed and superficially altered by many has some relation to the unifying theme of the Metamorphoses. And Donne’s involvement in this process might lead yet more ingeniously to his fifth elegy, ‘Change’, a poem that promotes a change less of physical form than of one’s attitude towards the formalities of love. The speaker suggests that women, ‘like the arts’ (and perhaps like an individual printing of a single linguistic artwork), are ‘unprized, if unknown’, and gain value through their desirability and attachment to more than one man; he resolves to become like this, loving not nobody, and not several people at once, but a Reproduced by permission of the Master and Fellows of St John’s College, Cambridge series of individuals, like waters that ‘kiss one bank, and
leaving this / Never look back’.

This is presented as neither fickleness nor a promotion of polygamy: the best way not to ‘stink’ is to keep flowing, constancy arising from constant change. Comparing man to beasts, Donne specifies ‘Foxes and goats’: goats ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image