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The Rhetoric of the Conscience in Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan$

Ceri Sullivan

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199547845

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199547845.001.0001

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Bumptious Reading and Priggish antanaclasis

Bumptious Reading and Priggish antanaclasis

(p.116) 4 Bumptious Reading and Priggish antanaclasis
The Rhetoric of the Conscience in Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan

Ceri Sullivan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter moves on to the heart's reception of scripture in the well-known subgenre of ‘wreath’, ‘corona’, or ‘coronet’ verse. Here, the approved secular mode of reading selectively, pen in hand, is performed with conscientious obtuseness on divine texts. These verses see themselves as anthologies or florilegia, gatherings of commonplaces to be rewoven into other poems. Once again a rhetorical trope precedes the theological image in their antanaclasis (a repetition of words with a subtle shift in meaning). Unfortunately, though by now predictably, these three bustling poets show themselves to be more concerned with the physical practice of collection than with its effect on interpretation. The reception theory implicit in early modern pedagogy on the collection of loci endorses rhetorical inventio over the intervention involved in understanding any text when reading it. Snorting with earnestness to anthologize from divine texts simply allows the three poets to ignore the intention of the revealed law of God. Their repetition of words culled from scriptures has a self-centredness that assassinates one proper meaning to allow another in subsequent use. Selves are woven into the wreaths presented to a justly irritated God, who must by now be wondering what it takes to get the soul to talk to him directly.

Keywords:   wreath, coronet, corona, anthologies, florilegia, commonplaces, loci, inventio, reception theory

‘A figure when the same word is repeated in a divers if not in a contrary signification’.1

The principal way to instruct the conscience is by reading the scriptures. At Oxford, John Hales warns tyro expositors in the student congregation not to ‘deal with scripture as chemicks deal with natural bodies, torturing them to extract that out of them which God and nature never put in them’.2 William Ames stresses that the only human judgement about scripture that is important—and indeed possible—is its authorship. ‘By the Word of God we must passe judgement of all things else: but as for it, we are not to judge it, but to submit our selves to it to be judged’, not subjecting ‘the Oracles of God to the pleasure of vaine men, to be drawne hither or thither as they thinke good’. Thus, attention to the scriptures should differ ‘not onely in degree, but in the whole nature of it, from that attention which is due to the words of men’.3 Four lengthy chapters of John White's Way to the Tree of Life insist this should not be like other reading:

the manner of Reading the Scriptures, must be with great deliberation, and that not onely because the matter contained in them is weighty, and of a mysterious (p.117) nature, the Phrases significant, the expressions briefe …but also because that which we read so nearly concerning us …must be carefully laid up in our hearts, and written there.4

The first half of the seventeenth century is, as Philip West has admirably demonstrated in the case of Vaughan, a period when people did not merely read but used scripture as a guide and as an arena for debate on contemporary topics in all areas of life.5 This chapter agrees wholeheartedly with West that Vaughan—and Donne and Herbert also—are users of scriptures, with all the hints of mercenary and partisan readings this implies, but points out a moment when they have doubts about doing so. The sub‐genres formed by readers of the heart take an enigmatic way out of mixing themselves into an interpretation of what the conscience tells them. They rest on the guaranteed alterity and authenticity of the message. Another way is taken by a different sub‐genre, that of wreath poems. I argue that when poets read the law directly from scriptures, they escape its meaning by obediently repeating its words, but out of context. The group formed by Marvell's ‘The Coronet’, Donne's ‘La Corona’, Vaughan's ‘The Wreath’, and Herbert's ‘Jordan II’ and ‘A Wreath’ is well recognized by critics. Their narrators try to weave a ‘crowne of frail bayes’ in praise of God, which, by the end of the poems, they find inadequate in various ways.

Analysis of the group takes two directions. Some commentators think these efforts are shown as sinful, since they have an art which boasts that it can act in such a praiseworthy way by its own efforts. Thus, A. D. Nuttall convincingly argues that parts of The Temple show Herbert's despair of finding a creative area where he can contribute to his own salvation. He must recognize his work was God's all along, as the ‘Dedication’ says: ‘Lord, my first fruits present themselves to thee;/ Yet not mine neither: for from thee they came,/ And must return’.6 (p.118) Other critics see such poems as debates on decorum in religious verse, which question how thick a layer of tropes the faithful may have to peer through if ‘Beautie and beauteous words should go together’ (Herbert, ‘The Forerunners’).7 The cure, both sides agree, is a plain citation of scripture. This is the most respectful of styles, since it sends God's word back to him. For instance, in ‘The Posie’, despite temptations to use witty ‘invention’, Herbert twice decides that ‘Lesse then the least/ Of all God's mercies, is my posie still’. It was not only his own motto, cited by the printers of The Temple, but also Jacob's words, in Genesis 32:10. I too will end in repetition, but repetition where careful reading is treated ironically. To me, the wreath poems show how what the casuists call an erring conscience can inform itself, energetically but incorrectly.

Herbert's poem alerts us to the familiar central pun of the wreath poems, where posies are both flowers and poetry. These refer to themselves as devotional florilegia, where beautiful words and images are cited, from secular and sacred texts, gathered up into hymns of praise. The pun is used in a much larger group of poems than is generally realized, including, among others, Herbert's ‘Jordan I’, ‘Employment I’ and ‘Employment II’, ‘To All Angels and Saints’, and ‘The Flower’, and Vaughan's ‘The Garland’, ‘Religion’, ‘Unprofitableness’, and ‘Misery’.

The classic form of the wreath poem is taken in Herbert's ‘Jordan II’ and Marvell's ‘The Coronet’. In each, the stance taken by each poet is ostentatiously correct. Marvell shakes his head over how for ‘long, too long’, he has wounded Christ's head with a crown of thorny sins, before joining Herbert in throwing himself enthusiastically into collecting the best of their poetic resources, ‘set with skill and chosen out with care’ (‘The Coronet’ parenthetically and pathetically noting how even Marvell's ‘fruits are only flowers’). Then comes a theatrical moment of self‐understanding—the self has put a serpent or a fire in here! Work (p.119) must stop while this is disentangled or the poem shattered, in order to read beyond the ‘pretence’ (‘Jordan II’) and copy out what God has already written. The other three poems in the group are variations on this. Herbert's ‘A Wreath’ moves towards giving God a ‘garland, of deserved praise’, before realizing that this garland will be as crooked as his ways. Vaughan's ‘The Wreath’ says he has no such gleanings as he has been in storms, so brings a ‘twin'd wreath of grief and praise,/ Praise soil'd with tears, and tears again/ Shining with joy’, which Christ's breath will waft back to him. In the first stanza of ‘La Corona’ Donne has the confidence to offer his ‘crown of prayer and praise’, and wants in return the better ‘crown of glory’ Christ could weave for him. In all, God's inspiration is acknowledged as the source of true poetry. It replaces Donne's ‘muse’, yields Vaughan a ‘quickening breath’, gives Herbert dictation or corrects his ways, and ‘Heaven's diadem’ goes before Marvell's art.

The wreath poems evidently contain standard professional discussions on religious verse. May you use art to celebrate God? Yes? Write a poem on how the ability comes from God. No? Write one on how unnecessary such art is. May you write poetry on secular subjects? Yes? Write a poem in which choosing such subjects is relegated to youthful indiscretion. No? Write one deploring the folly of those who praise mistresses not God. Does your devotion match your words? Yes? Write a poem on how sincerity is a gift of faith. No? Write one bringing your words into scripture's. A poet, of course, can take a different answer to the same question in different poems, as do Herbert and Vaughan. Herbert very properly acknowledges the primary force of ‘invention’ by God in ‘Love II’, where ‘immortall heat’ shall make ‘our brain/ All her invention on thine Altar lay’. In ‘Love I’ he ridicules those who expend wit and invention on mortal love, just as Vaughan's determines to ‘idolize’ the Mount of Olives above the locus amoenus of love poetry. Herbert terms himself merely a ‘Secretarie’ of God's praise, writing on behalf of all creation (Herbert, ‘Providence’). Like Donne, the two poets resign corruptible flowers of ephemeral fame or pleasure. Herbert's ‘Life’ tuts that ‘I made a posie, while the day ran by/ …But Time did becken to the flowers’, and an intrusive friend tells Vaughan:

  • Desist fond fool, be not undone,
  • What thou hast cut today
  • Will fade at night, and with this Sun
  • Quite vanish and decay (‘Garland’).

(p.120) They are punctilious about giving their charming (if self‐consciously naive) wreaths to the correct person:

  • All worship is prerogative, and a flower
  • Of his rich crown …
  • Therefore we dare not from his garland steal,
  • To make a posie for inferiour power (Herbert, ‘To all Angels and Saints’).

Thus, the reproaches of ‘The Garland's’ ‘dead man’ should fall flat.

The previous chapter showed how ubiquitous stones were, standing in both for the human heart and for the poems making up The Temple and Silex; just so with flowers, standing in for human art and the collections across a range of poems, not solely the wreath group. The perennial way buds, sprouts, roses, leaves, trees, bulbs, roots, and seeds shoot up over these cases of conscience suggests that, like the images of torture and heart carvings, it could be fruitful to take the metaphor more literally and recognize its widespread presence. This four‐part chapter looks first at how methods of reading secular texts changed in the period. The particular hazards of, and protective guidelines for, note‐taking from divine texts are examined next. The chapter then looks at the floral and apian images habitually used about the collection of poetic beauties. Materials are stripped for reuse from groves, meads, bowers, and fields, without distinguishing the holy from the lay texts, and without regard for their meaning. Finally, the argument turns to how the godly recipient of these flower arrangements sardonically responds to their pastoral register. Repetition out of context is met with a brutally bucolic pruning hook. If scripture has been read for posies, not instruction, then the conscience will remain uninstructed.

As historians of reading point out, Tudor and Stuart schools think about the reception of texts in terms of what could be reused in future work.8 Anthony Grafton traces a shift over the period from scholastic reading (which aims at a synthesis of canonical authorities (p.121) from across the centuries, who are seen, ahistorically, as a coherent group) to humanist reading (an attempt to read the texts against the original context, followed by a reuse in current circumstances, so doubly situating them).9 The teachers' preferred style of reading is primarily extrapolatory, because they anticipate that their pupils will in turn write using the subjects they read about. At some point in the future, each will invent and arrange material on a subject, look for words to clothe it, memorize these, and speak the product. The collection of commonplaces while reading is held to aid three parts of this rhetorical process: invention, diction, and memory. In terms of inventio, there is no assumption that what one has to say springs directly from the subject at hand. Instead, the classical rhetorics used in the early modern schoolroom give three main methods of gathering matter.10 The first deals in specifically legal proofs, and the way a case is built through induction from ‘indications’ (including the response to torture). The sorts of facts to be considered in each type of case are detailed by the handbooks on the basis of precedent. The second technique involves categorizing areas of knowledge from which topics can be taken. These draw on what were at heart the Aristotelian predicaments, general statements that establish the essence of an object, which subsequently reappeared in other rhetoricians’ lists, with minor modifications. Every item is asked about its substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, and whether it does or suffers an act. The third method, which was touched on in the previous chapter, is the collection of ready‐made arguments, questions, or descriptions which a speaker saves for possible use on future occasions. Such loci are picked out of reports of successful appeals to the audience in similar cases. Thus matter can be drawn from the facts of a specific case, from questions asked in all situations, and from prepared appeals (‘Has he been knifed?’, ‘By accident or intent?’, ‘Murder most foul!’) Topics created by all these methods can, in their turn, be formally interrogated to produce further points. Thus, (p.122) successful invention requires training in dialectical questioning and also experience of what has roused audiences in the past. Rhetoricians speak of these topics as ‘places’ that can be resorted to by all speakers, where common strategies are stored.

The rhetor's habit of visiting these storehouses of content appears again when he puts the topic into words, in the process of elocutio. This element becomes a substantial and ever‐growing area of study in the Renaissance. Commonplaces are not only spacious locales around which an orator strolls to mark material, they are also persistently associated with brilliance, polish, and ornament. Quintilian, for instance, devotes the best part of book ten of Institutio oratoria (out of twelve books) to listing these reserves, and lauding them as feathers, flowers, jewels, and accessories which are essential to win assent. Peacham praises the ‘excellent sentences …esteemed as precious pearles and costly jewels in princely vestures, and as the most beautifull flowers in gardens and fields, and as the most glorious lights in the firmament’.11 These beauties entice an audience's affections in the direction which the orator's reasoning should already be taking it. The effect on reading practices of their resplendence, combined with inventio's appeal to the wisdom of the places of invention, is to produce a situation where ‘everyone is quoting everyone else …on purpose and with a feeling of achievement’.12 The early modern pupil attempts to imitate the styles of the best writers, as he is trained to pluck out and reuse themes, tropes, schemes, and other beauties from the poets, historians, and orators he reads.

Finally, as Chapter 3 noted, the fourth element of composition, artificial memory, reinforces a similar spatial understanding of composition. Striking images, which stand for points in the speech to be remembered, are arranged in the orator's mind on images of buildings, to be read off when needed. Such representations, both cognitive and mimetic, are held to take up ‘space’ in the brain. They can be consciously hunted up and creatively combined in intricate and original ways, giving the chance to engineer a character in judgement and piety.13 This (p.123) learning from ‘vicarious and empathetic experience’ formed a training in ethics and effective communication.14 Thus commonplaces, dull though they sound to us, in the 1600s were the really exciting ideas and phrases to come across in reading. They were treasures, well worth the vast resources of time and effort expended by early modern readers. Rhetorical invention, ornamentation and memory alike, in the most effective power‐knowledge of the period, depended on the selection, interrogation, and spatial storage of loci from past reading and events. The mechanism to prise out gobbets from past reading for writing into new works was at the heart of the learning process from early Tudor to late Stuart schools. The statutes of Rivington grammar school were typical in requiring the master and ushers to ensure that

the elder sort must be taught how to refer every thing they read to some common place, as to virtue, vice, learning, patience, adversity, prosperity, war, peace, etc. for which purpose they must have paper books ready to write them in.15

In 1570, the educational theorist Roger Ascham asked the young scholar, as he got more confident in his Latin/English translations, to start three such paper books where he could transcribe startling metaphorical, literal, and synonymous phrases which he had marked up while reading. The notebooks would, thought Ascham, improve comprehension in directed study:

bookes of commonplaces be verie necessarie, to induce a man, into an orderlie generall knowledge, how to referre orderlie all that he readeth, ad certa rerum capita and not wander in studie.16

(p.124) John Brinsley, in 1612, was perhaps more realistic about his pupils' abilities. Certainly they were to be taught how to highlight hard words, grammatical examples, flowers, and so on in the margins, or even write them out fully in notebooks. Such books would be ‘a great help where the schollars have leasure and judgement to gather them; I meane, to gleane out all the choyse sentences and matter in the best Authors’. However, if this was too hard for young scholars, he suggested using one of the many collections of pre‐gathered topoi (making it clear that for Brinsley, finally, the important part was getting the stores themselves, not the prudential reading that ideally produced them).17 The tyro linguist could begin with Tullies Sentences arranged by Lagnerius as a model of connected Latin, and move on to double translation from the Ovidian commonplace book of Octavianus Mirandula, Flores poetarum. His way was then open, Brinsley said cheerily, to examine whole books (Susenbrotus' Epitome troporum ac schematum was the standard textbook for consultation on beauties taken from a larger library of texts).18 Half a century on, Charles Hoole, another pedagogue, was still recommending that the grammar school's second formers use a ‘little paper‐book, wherein to gather the more familiar phrases, which they finde in every Lesson printed in a different character’, and exchange their own and printed commonplace books to ‘pick out of them such pretty notes, as they have not formally met withall’.19 Like Brinsley, Hoole waives process for product. Only after the mid‐seventeenth century did the teaching of commonplaces in schools decline. As teachers ceased to want to replicate the exact language of the classical models, and a perception grew that the machinery of dialectical argument operated by loci was obsolete, there was a re‐emphasis on the role of author as composer rather than collector.20

The printed collections spanned a variety of genres, from encyclopedic manuals that pointed out the principal ways to trade in wool or plant a garden, to anthologies such as A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (p.125) (1573) of George Gascoigne, or Robert Allot's Englands Parnassus: or, Flowers of our Moderne Poets (1600) which picked out ‘the choystest Flowers’ and ‘flowers of learning from the stem’. There was encouragement to print compilations or redactions from theological and devotional works. Timothy Bright's abridgement of The Booke of Acts and Monuments (1589) explains why Foxe's volume needs a summary. The reader may want money or time, and the memory of the Acts will be improved by reading short extracts, for ‘the copiousness of that notable worke, hath hid the riche treasures of the same’. Moreover, Bright adds judiciously,

Large volumes, and Abridgements have both their use: and if Abridgements witholde from reading large volumes, because men find the contents of them in briefe: even as much are the large bookes an hinderance to themselves, in discouraging the negligent and slouthfull by their length. The diligent man that loveth knowledge, will use the one for his memory, and the other for his judgement.21

Foxe himself thought redaction useful, and published his own Pandectae locorum communium (1572), a skeleton commonplace book with printed headings to note ideas as one read (amor, amor dei, ambitio, anabaptismus). Walton says that Donne left at his death ‘the resultance of 1400 Authors, most of them abridged and analyse with his own hand’.22 Instruction in the extrapolatory practice was not necessarily sectarian. Margo Todd, looking at a number of classical commonplace notebooks by early Stuart students at Trinity College, Cambridge, shows how they turned to Catholic humanist writings for instruction on how to deal with a text.23 Gnomic print conventions in textbooks facilitated and directed such extrapolatory reading, by using different typefaces for notable sections, placing inverted commas at the start of a quotation or in the margin where important statements appeared, adding asterisks or insistently pointing hands, giving the comments of model readers, (p.126) and so on, practices which G. K. Hunter thinks peaked during the early years of James's reign.24

Making one's own selection, however, was preferable, and regarded as not just a youthful reading habit. Though private collections by adults did not circulate widely, their creators took pride in them as proofs of taste and learning, as well as making use of them in managing their affairs. Kevin Sharpe has investigated the reading and noting habits of a Puritan landowner, Sir William Drake, whose own rules for notation required him to break up the body of a text into ‘members’, to epitomize chapters, and to make frequent comparison between texts. He rarely read steadily through a book, telling himself that ‘a wary reader will not endeavour to remember the mass and whole bulk of books but only to extract the spirit and quintessence thereof and what is most applicable to business’.25 The practice of compilation was professionalized. Grafton, Lisa Jardine, and William Sherman show how widely scholars and secretaries were employed to read for others, providing executive summaries for public figures in the form of synopses and annotated texts, using local or specialist knowledge. This sort of information processing could be done with a colleague where more efficient, for while the documents might be secret, the mode of reading was public and task‐orientated.26 At one point, Drake considered getting a secretary who would read Drake such summaries at mealtimes or when Drake was exercising. Jardine and Sherman point out that such ‘knowledge transactions’ gave patrons easily manipulated cultural capital.27 The end result, the anthology, subjugated a range of important texts to its new circumstances of usage, accumulating supplements around each.28

(p.127) The Arcadia's afterlife is a good example of how thoroughly a book could be cannibalized by other texts. After its publication in 1590 it was cited as an exemplary text, just as its author was acclaimed as a model soldier, courtier, and poet. Abraham Fraunce's Arcadian Rhetorike (1588) and Francis Meres's Wits Commonwealth (1598) use the Arcadia as a collection of posies which they expect to be imitated. Fraunce gives brief definitions of rhetorical figures, then extensive quotations from Homer, Virgil, Sidney, and Tasso. Meres omits the definitions, providing lists of similes from Sidney. Sidney's style, they agree, should be emulated to increase the sweetness and fluency of the reader's language. By contrast, Milton's private commonplace book, dealing with politics, ethics, theology, and economics, cites the 1633 edition of the Arcadia on suicide, drunkenness, oligarchy, and political moves (the 1655 edition of Sidney gave a table of principal heads). Milton sums up situations rather than quoting the text, reminding himself of Sidney's shrewd political judgements. Moreover, Sidney's imitators could expect to be copied themselves. John Hoskyns's Direccions for Speech and Style was written around 1600 for a student at the Middle Temple, to show how features of style vary by circumstance and audience. Hoskyns took paginated examples from the Arcadia's first edition, and gave the student a marked‐up copy of Sidney's book, which pointed out ideas and verbal figures for varying, amplifying, and illustrating. In Direccions, he defined, excerpted, then analysed each figure, showing where Sidney himself had used quotations. The chain of intertextual reference continued when other students took notes from Hoskyns's work (one of the three extant manuscripts of Direccions is updated to take account of the page numbers of the 1621 edition of the Arcadia). Ben Jonson copied sections from Direccions into his commonplace notebook, Timber or Discoveries, published in 1640 as part of Jonson's collected works.29 In effect, The Arcadia had become a network of repeated readings and rewritings through the medium of the commonplace notebook, not just a single originary text.

In ‘The Church‐Porch’, Herbert advises conversationalists to ‘stuffe thy minde with sold braverie …substantiall worth’ (stanza 35), and Helen Wilcox's study of Herbert's influence on seventeenth‐century readers shows how, for some readers, The Temple itself was a (p.128) commonplace collection, to be reincorporated into their own work.30 There are royalist commonplace books which adapted Herbert's work for various local circumstances (one jotted down his verses between prescriptions for horses). Peers imitated him by building his words into their own work. Throughout Silex scintilans Vaughan credits the words of the ‘dead man’, Herbert, with inspiring him or stopping his ‘career’ into vice. ‘The Garland’ talks of Herbert's verse as a posie that retains its savour and curative values, even after the poet's death.31 Such uses see Herbert's work as universally relevant, not as a record of one man's meditation. Thus, Harvey says he ‘comprehended’ Herbert's matter (in both senses) by building extracts into his own verse. Herbert's line, ‘Thy word is all, if we could spell’ (‘The Flower’), becomes in Harvey

  • Let us learn first to know our letters well
  • Then syllables, then words to spell;
  • Then to read plainly, e're we take the pen
  • In hand to write to other men (‘The reading pue’).

A concern for elocutio as well as ethics caused a private schoolmaster at Hadley, Joshua Poole, to compile a collection of rhyming words, epithets, and phrases to teach pupils to compose verse by imitating English models including Herbert (the English Parnassus, 1657), and Charles Hoole followed him, in A new discovery of the old art of teaching schoole (1660). Thomas White's Little book for little children (1671) gives the alphabet illustrated by moral couplets from ‘The Church‐porch’. Since Herbert was being read in this excerpted fashion, Philemon Stephens added to the seventh edition of The Temple an ‘Alphabeticall Table for ready finding out chief places’, with page and line references for each theological topic (such as heart, cross, man, sin, love).

Amid this warm praise for the technique came some worries about the way it was moving from process into product. Ascham, for instance, considered that an epitome was ‘good privatelie for himself that doth worke it, but ill commonlie for all other that use other mens labor (p.129) therein: a sillie poore kinde of study’.32 Bacon agreed: the ethical and intellectual value lay in the act of selection (anyone might do the actual copying out), which produced copia in invention, made the judgement forceful, and ensured attentive reading. More worrying was the dislocative effect on what was read. Having been taught a hierarchy of reading in school, of subordinating a text to one's own headings, the latter naturally configured an adult's readings in later life. The reader's conceptual framework, manifest in his notebook headings, was part of his reading of the host text. This conservative approach ended up with the notions the reader started with, just more expressed in examples, in what Victoria Kahn calls a prelude to reception theory.33 Whatever the humanist ideal of historically situating a text might be, the pragmatics of reuse predictably took over, and notebook reading removed context and integrity from what it studied. Moreover, the commonplace collections rarely attempted to reconcile citations that took different positions on an issue. In practice, a reader's multiple headings were ‘supremely tolerant of cognitive dissonance’.34 Inevitably authors were irritated; many prefaces grumbled like John Hayward's that ‘men will be not readers only but interpreters, but wresters, but corrupters and depravers of that which they read’, or with George Chapman that ‘let the writer mean what he list, his writing notwithstanding must be construed …to the intendment of the Reader’.35 The defence was, once again, in terms of function. Commonplacing was intended to give rise to action and naturally produced multiple readings depending on the differing needs of the collector or his patron.

By the mid‐seventeenth century, however, there was less enthusiasm for going from the general heading to the particular example. The spread of the new science, and a thorough acceptance of Ramist categorization, made starting with the individual fact or axiom the primary way to reason. Reservations already voiced about an ‘over‐early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods’ grew in volume and number. It was felt that the headings of a commonplace notebook could discourage intellectual enquiry, showing, as Donne's (p.130) friend Sir Henry Wotton said tersely, ‘a short course to those who are contented to know a little’.36 Bacon agreed;

knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth; but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be further polished and illustrate …but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.37

Commonplacing could only contribute to inductive thinking as long as conclusions were ushered back to the facts, since

knowledge drawn freshly and in our view out of particulars knows best the way back to particulars again; and it contributes much more to practice when the discourse or discussion attends on the example, than when the example attends upon the discourse.38

Bacon's places, then, are not places of proof but places of enquiry, places where things can be compared to generate questions about their substance. Historians of ideas habitually link the mid‐century's desire to categorize the natural world, its interest in experimental knowledge, and the universal taxonomies attempted by Royal Society members, with this change to the status of commonplaces.39 Under the influence of Ramus, too, places had shifted status.40 Ramus made short work of memory places—better to remember material by the divisions inherent in any subject, each of which would naturally suggest a succeeding pair of divisions, than use the complex heavy machinery of architectural mnemonics. Even more significant in this context was his famous (p.131) division between inventio and elocutio, the former being reserved for dialectic, the latter, rhetoric. This had a particularly significant effect on the places, since they had hitherto united appeals to reason and experience. In approaching a topic, the Ramist could no longer recline gratefully on the plenitude of the past; he had a lot more work to do in dividing his subject down to the point where each statement was obviously true. Such divisions were made on the basis of what Ramus called ‘artistic’ arguments, basically a rearrangement of the ten Aristotelian categories. Places of authority, on the other hand, were classed as ‘inartistic’ arguments which by and in themselves could not create belief. They appeared as arguments by analogy (a notoriously weak form), or, principally, as rhetorical amplifications applied to affect the reader emotionally, after the real work had been done. Thus, though the use of ‘tables’ remained an essential epistemological tool to the middle of the seventeenth century, the change in their significance is mirrored in the even‐handed comment by Donne that ‘All wayes of teaching, are Rule and Example: and though ordinarily the Rule be first placed, yet the Rule it selfe is made of Examples’.41 By the 1650s, the content of places was now what you started with to create categories, not ended with as examples of categories.

What happened when the text you read was sacred? Learning to read meant learning to read the Bible; as Terence Cave shows, early modern reading was an increasingly self‐conscious preparation for the supreme exercise of approaching scripture.42 Early modern schools taught extrapolatory methods to mine divine texts, just like secular ones. The statutes of the petty school of St Saviours, Southwark, of 1562 are typical of Tudor schools’ practice: on holy days ‘the best scholers shall versify upon a chapter of the Newe Testament’, and at St Olave's in 1572 sentences of scripture were set daily as copies. This continued at grammar school. T. W. Baldwin shows that the Bible was the ‘chief source for sentential dictates’. Colloquies were held in school on biblical subjects; at Rivington school in 1596 scholars were required to learn by heart (p.132) biblical sentences commonplaced by the master and ushers.43 In 1604, canon 79 required the schoolmaster to escort his scholars to church on Sundays and holy days, and ‘train them up with such sentences of holy scripture, as shall be most expedient to induce them to all godliness’.44 Brinsley shows how to ‘open’ Genesis by posing short questions (though he warns the teacher not to go far beyond the words themselves and to leave it to God in his own time to clarify points), and Hoole requires the second form to use the Bible for Latin exercises (particularly the psalms).45 Pedagogical writing serviced this interest. The grammarian Edmund Coote's highly popular English Schoolmaster (1596) includes a catechism and observations on a Christian life with marginal biblical references. Primers for learning to read allow the pupil to move from easy to hard biblical passages.46 Richard Hodges's Most Plain Directions for True‐writing (1653) declares its aim is to teach how to read the Bible; it includes lessons on punctuation, for instance, which use biblical examples. His English Primrose (1644) takes its reading lessons from the Old and New Testaments, especially the psalms. George Robertson's Learning's Foundation Firmly Laid …whereby any One of Distinction may be Brought to Read the Bible Truly in the Space of a Month, Though He Never Knew Letter Before (1651) works from letters, through biblical hard words, to full scriptural chapters. Private tuition was also available in the printed versions of devotional commonplaces, which often merged in form and function with scriptural commentaries, as does John Marbecke's A Book of Notes and Common Places …Necessarie to those that Desire the True Understanding and Meaning of Scripture (1581). Others were provided for meditation, such as Nicholas Byfield's Principles or Pattern of Wholesome Words, Containing a Collection of Such Words as are of Necessitie to be Believed unto Salvation, Separated Out of the Body of all Theology (1627), or John Clark's Holy Oyle (1630), which give lists of topics with associated scriptural phrases. Popular sectarian polemic energetically imagined itself in real‐time conversation (p.133) with the opposition, strategically pushing the debate towards such places of scripture as made for their side: the Common Places of …Peter Martyr (1583) with over 1,200 pages of confounding places, say, or Richard Bristow's Demaundes to be Proponed of Catholics to the Heretics (1576).

This was unexceptional, provided such excerpting was done prudently. Although Donne justifies cavalier quotation for a good purpose (‘neither Christ in his preaching nor the Holy Ghost in penning the Scriptures of the New Testament were so curious as our time in citing …the very very words of the places’), his comparison implies a divinely judicious reader.47 Some writers were more cautious about excerpting in the case of scripture, since abridgements and citations violate the work of a supreme organic text and originary author. The distinction that should be made between the quotation of scripture (the only wholly sufficient argument by authority) and that of human work (only ever probable) could get sidelined in instrumental reading for reuse.48 In particular, any attempt to note God's words down merely as precious materials to be saved, or as flowers to be plucked, could be classed as self‐satisfied stupidity.

Two contemporary debates on editorial conventions in the printed Bible exemplify the care to be taken in dividing and selecting scriptural pieces: the effects of the newly inserted verse divisions in the testaments, and commentaries and annotations for private readers of the Bible.

Like other texts, the printed Bible could seem like a collection of ‘separate recombinable texts’, ‘quantifiable, malleable, even mechanical units’, which might encourage skip reading.49 The effect was doubled when verse divisions were introduced (chapters had been recognized three centuries earlier). The French humanist printer Robert Estienne was the first to divide the New Testament into verses, in his Greek‐Latin 1551 edition (the whole Bible in French was divided in 1553). Genevan printers followed suit. By the mid‐seventeenth century, the same readers who worried about commonplacing in secular texts began to worry over verse divisions. In Some Considerations Touching the Style of the H. Scriptures, for instance, Boyle thought that there was an (p.134)

inconvenient Distinction of Chapters and Verses now in use: which though it be a very great Help to the Memory and be some other wayes serviceable; yet …sometimes Sever'd Matters that should have been left United, and United others which more conveniently he might have sever'd …ev'n some Pious Readers are easily tempted to look upon the Bible as barely a Repository of Sentences and Clauses, where Divine Truths ly Huddl'd, and not Rang'd.

Some ‘heated Spirits …would be willinger to have the Texts of Scripture loose stones, which they may more easily throw at their Adversaries, than built up into a Structure'.50 Locke similarly criticized a paraphrase by Bright of the Pauline epistles: they were so ‘chop'd and minc'd’ by the verse divisions that the eye was confused, and the intellect took them for distinct aphorisms. Thus, ‘sober inquisitive Readers had a mind to see nothing in St. Paul's epistles but just what he meant; whereas those other of a quicker and gayer Sight could see in them what they pleased’.51

There is similar interest and unease over the division of scriptures and their reincorporation into other texts. In 1604, each beneficed preacher resident upon his living was required every Sunday to ‘soberly and sincerely divide the word of truth’ to his parishioners.52 Taking a cue from the advice on dividing the scriptures by William Perkins in The Art of Prophesying, published recommendations to preachers and to private readers were remarkably uniform. Of course, this is useful for memory. Thomas Fuller's advice is to learn the sermon first and quote only such loci of scripture which are ‘pregnant and pertinent’, splitting the load of places between the memory and a commonplace book.53 It is also helpful for devotion. Isaac Ambrose describes reading the scriptures as a holy conference with God which requires ‘a firm and constant resolution’, and asks the reader to observe special passages where individuated advice is given: (p.135)

every Christian following this direction, should make a little paper‐Book of a sheet or two, and write on the top of every leaf, the title that he would observe in his reading …observe such places as stare him in the face, that are so evident, that the heart cannot look off them.

The headings should be such ‘sweet passages which melted his heart’, or ‘directed him in his particular calling’, or ‘comfort him against outward crosses’.54 Nicholas Byfield's reader should note those places by which he was warmed, smitten, or counselled, and return to them in later life (again, using a little portable two‐page booklet).55 Byfield's own printed commonplace book contains only chapter and verse numbers, not full quotations, both to save time and to force the reader back to the original.56 Clearly, these leaflets were regarded not as permanent stores (like secular books), but as temporary aids to concentration. Elnathan Parr suggests bringing biblical commonplaces together to form a prayer manual, to be read over frequently. External ordering schemes, such as clauses of the Lord's Prayer, are suitable as headings for this.57 Ames thinks the practice helpful for memorizing places for future composition.58 Everyone agrees that it is important that preachers keep going back to the main text after noting the epitome. Herbert tells them to draw ‘some choyce Observations …out of the whole text, as it lyes entire, and unbroken in the Scripture it self …[not] crumbling a text into small parts’, even where these are standard headings such as speaker, addressee, subject, and the like.59 In ‘Divinitie’ he objects to those who ‘with the edge of wit …cut and carve doctrine’. In Ecclesiastes John Wilkins advises the minister to use his ‘tables’ as a compositional aid to pull in one text when examining another (Wilkins gives substantial (p.136) bibliographies of the ubiquitous published place collections).60 There was no danger anywhere here that the technique of commonplacing would overrule the intention of the divine text.

The reformers' claim that the Bible was self‐interpreting (‘this verse marks that, and both do make a notion/ Unto a third, that ten leaves off doth lie’, says Herbert in ‘H. Scriptures II’) was based on the ‘sufficiency’ of scripture, which would bring to the attention of the reader any verses necessary for his salvation. In practice, there was also confidence that the materials with which commentators surrounded the text would stop dubious selection or interpretation.61 To ensure that the right things were noted, extensive technical aids were made available in the printed Bibles.62 In particular, the success of the Geneva Bible, whose wide circulation lasted from 1576 (when publication was first permitted) until at least 1621, came from its provision of ‘a splendid self‐study package’—though, T. N. Corns points out, this also produced ‘a disturbing disparity of power between maker and user that is far greater than that between [present‐day] critic and reader’.63 This, the first English Bible with verse divisions, adds page headers of such notable words or sentences as ‘may greatly further aswel for memorie, as for the chief point of the page’. Summaries of the arguments of each chapter and book are given. Sigla point to notes which deal with words that had proved difficult to translate. An alphabetical index of subjects, maps of Paul's journeys, and annotated illustrations of Old Testament subjects, are included. Its translators were trying to both ‘substantiate a new Biblical authority and restrict the subjectivism of interpretation’.64 The Geneva's format proved influential. Even the margins of the Authorized Version of 1611—subdued under royal disquiet about pointed applications—show where to find parallel texts at ‘hard places’.65

(p.137) Yet, ironically, the very richness of such interlinear and intertextual presentation in adding notes and texts to the Bible also split it into topics in a way that encouraged readers to take material from it. Reading merged into rewriting in the textual penumbra of the scriptures, which the reader was urged to mark up or consult before, and as he moved through, the testaments. For instance, Perkins requires that, after preparatory prayer, the reader first considers ‘the substance of divinity described, with definitions, divisions and explications’, well before he turns to the Bible itself. In advance of approaching the sacred text he should ‘view and read over some analytical table that so [he] better [marks] the drift and scope of the Holy Ghost, and …[he] may with ease and delight remember the same’. He puts anything memorable or worthy in his ‘tables’, which he should ‘always have in a readiness’.66 Richard Bernard's treatise on ministerial duties, The Faithfull Shepherd (1621), requires the preacher to unfold a Bible verse by reading around it, according to headings, in concordances, analytical expositions, reconciliations of hard places, catechisms, commonplace books, church histories, councils, and controversies.67 The secular authorities were uneasy about glosses that disguised or brought forward contemporary references, pointed out ironies, and prompted other interpretations. Archbishop Parker's criticism of the Geneva Bible's ‘diverse prejudiciall notis’, his rebuke to the Bishops' Bible translators on ‘bitter notis’, and James's injunctions to the translation groups set up after the Hampton Court conference show doctrinal as much as political unease.68 It was recognized that such annotation created endless opportunities for further interpretation, rather than fixing a meaning. These notebooks organized their matter to place the reader at the centre of its meaning, (p.138) ‘liberating’ scripture from the confines of scholastic ahistorical readings into the vastness of a postponed future sense.69

Division and selection, then, are as authoritarian as paraphrase or rewriting, though they appear to be humble aids to the original text. At this point, things start to get interesting. On the one hand, the education system is producing hugely self‐confident, purposeful, pragmatic readers, who approach texts with excerpting in mind. On the other, the absolute authority of the scriptures makes dividing the text a potentially heretical activity. Informing the conscience is not without problems. There is a very thin line between reading and rewriting in extrapolatory reading habits. The selection of commonplaces makes the reading process useful, orderly, efficient, memorable, and affective, but it also runs the risk of limiting deep thought, and of ignoring the host text's meaning. The question is, do the wreath poems register anxiety over secular topoi impertinently intruded (as, Baxter remarks, competitors and not servants of scripture), or over sacred topoi imperiously selected?70 The former position is the one taken by most commentators on the poems. However, as the next section of this chapter will show, the latter also has a claim to attention considering the poems' governing metaphor, ‘poesie', which the next section will show refers specifically to commonplace reading. We are familiar with the idea of supererogation in writing because it is an act. It also lurks, however, in reading, since reception—particularly where commonplacing is done—is also an act.

The interest in wreaths has, of course, many biblical precedents: there are crowns of thorns, of righteousness, of life, of glory, of the sun and the stars.71 Yet the specifically floral tributes of the poems are less biblical than classical. Medieval and early modern commonplace collections cite Seneca's advice ‘on gathering ideas'. One must follow the bees which cull the nectar of assorted flowers and blend it to produce honey; only then may ‘the fruits of one's reading …be reduced to concrete form by the pen'.72 The preface to Macrobius's Saturnalia, written at the end of the fifth century, picks up Seneca's image: writers who borrow from (p.139) their miscellaneous reading in original texts imitate ‘the bees …[which] in their wanderings to and fro, sip the flowers, then arrange their spoil and distribute it among the combs'.73 This metaphor does not imply the faint pursuit of beauties by a dilettante. Though the final product—pressed flowers—brings a restful sense of completion (Ong calls an anthology a ‘floral necropolis’), using them should be done energetically.74 Petrarch stressed the secret, active transformation of old texts into new thoughts: ‘we should write as the bees make sweetness, not storing up the flowers but turning them into honey, thus making one thing of many various ones'.75 In considering which spatial images to use about commonplaces, books published in England tend to omit the urban elements of Roman rhetoric (the buildings or streets one walks about in memory) in favour of the pastoral. A collection often features as a meadow or garden to be harvested. Juan Luis Vives, for instance, describes one volume as ‘a large field, in which grow herbs, some useful, some noxious, some meant for pleasure and ornament’.76 Bacon uses his lists of common topics to be expanded on as ‘seeds only, not flowers', ‘promtuaries’ to further thought.77 Elizabethan commercial anthologies, such as the Palladis tamia, speak of how ‘out of hearbs and plants the best things are to be extracted: so the best sayings are to be gathered out of authours’, and note how ‘Bees out of divers flowers draw divers juices, but they temper and digest them by their own vertue’. Not all meadows are wholesome: ‘bees abstaine from withered flowers: so we should abstaine from corrupt, vicious and obscene bookes’, and ‘as it is safe to lie uppon the hearbe Tryfolie, because serpentes cannot abide to come neare it: so wee shoulde be conversant in those books, in which no infection is to be feared’.78 Elyot likewise warns readers to take care (p.140) in selecting passages: ‘no wyse man entreth into a gardein but he sone espiethe good herbes from nettiles, and treadeth the nettiles under his feete’.79 Therefore, good schools control their scholars' reading, ‘as the little bee‐hives, everie one in his own cell, and each knowing his own taske, and all gathering jointly to fill the hives with the most excellent life honey’.80

Naturally, therefore, when private readers compile divine florilegia they also turn to the image of harvesting the fields. Robert Cawdrey's Treasure or Store‐house of Similies (1600) taken from secular and divine texts rejoices that

like as the busy Bee when as shee flieth into some faire and pleasant Garden, and lighteth sometimes here, and sometimes there, as it falleth out, sucketh out some sweetnesse out of every flower and hearbe, whereon she sitteth: Even so a Christian, looking into the volume of the sacred scriptures, and reading sometimes this parcell thereof, sometimes that, shall receive by everie booke therein, some comfort and profite; as will cause him to preserve the same, before the honie and the honie comb.81

Elizabeth I talks of how she wanders in meditation

manie times into the pleasant fieldes of the Holye Scriptures, where I pluck up the goodlie greene herbes of sentences, eate them by reading, chewe them up musing, and laie them up at length in the seate of memory.82

The same metaphor is used by Herbert's country parson, who creates a commonplace book in his youth (organized around the church catechism) to act as a textual treasury for his later sermons. The person finds scripture to be a ‘storehouse and magazene of life and comfort …There (p.141) he sucks and lives’.83 Moreover, there are side‐benefits for secular learning, as the Presbyterian Thomas Hall remarked,

since the Sacred Scripture abounds with tropes and figures of all sorts, and is like a pleasant garden bedecked with flowers …or a fruitful field, full of precious treasures, I conceived it might be time well spent to dig into those sacred minerals for the better finding out of those metaphors, metonymies, synecdoches, etc. which lie hid there.84

The many printed garlands of godly buds, gardens of herbs from scripture, poesies of spiritual sweetness, and handfuls of fragrant fair flowers produced by popular devotional writers such as Nicholas Breton, George Webbe, and Thomas Twyne were a huge publishing success. The upshot is that when Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan refer to flowers, bees, posies, and crowns the flores auctorem come to mind, as do the opportunities and dangers associated with this reading technique. Their poems show how often the conscience will appear to be reading the last justly, where in fact the conscientious and obedient repetition of scriptures is done out of context. Correction by ‘friends’ becomes as necessary in reading the Bible as in consulting the heart.

Mostly, everything in the garden is rosy. The ‘leaves’ of Herbert's ‘H. Scriptures II’ are like ‘dispersed herbs’, which point from one to another in a healing chain. Elsewhere, Herbert follows the example set by Seneca's bees with enthusiasm. They are implied in ‘H. Scriptures I’: ‘Oh Book! infinite sweetnesse! Let my heart/ Suck ev'ry letter, and a hony gain’. A stanza of ‘Employment II’ (Williams MS only) thinks of Herbert as a preacher distributing the sweetness collected: ‘O that I had the wing and thigh/ Of laden Bees;/ …On men [to] dropp blessings as I fly’. The specific reference in the image of bees to reading scripture is elided in ‘The Starre’ in favour of the poet's heart first as a locus where honey may be found, then as a collector of love to be taken back to (p.142) Christ. He assures the star‐bee that ‘Sure thou wilt joy, by gaining me/ To flie home like a laden bee/ Unto that hive of beams/ And garland‐streams’. Herbert longs even more to move from collecting to providing what is collected, in ‘Employment I’. At present, ‘All things are busie; onely I/ Neither bring hony with the bees/ Nor flowres to make that’. He wants to be pressed into service by God:

  • If as a flowre doth spread and die,
  • Thou wouldst extend me to some good …
  • The sweetnesse and the praise were thine;
  • But the extension and the room,
  • Which is thy garland I should fill, were mine.

God is invited to weave Herbert into a chain of praise for himself, where the poet will be a ‘place’ containing sweetness in God's anthology. At first, man was one of God's treasures, ‘A ring, whose posie was, My Pleasure/ He was a garden in a Paradise’ (‘Miserie’). Even now, when God allows it, Herbert exalts that ‘in age I bud again …/ I once more smell the dew and rain/ And relish versing’ (‘The Flower’). Herbert's imitator, Cardell Goodman, uses the image less tactfully, where Christ becomes a bee. ‘The litle bee doth work and sing,/ Closely contrive/ Within her hive/ That which Shee gathers from the spring …And having ravished the flowres,/ Extracting thence/ The quintessence,/ Not for her owne delight butt ours,/ Att last is made a sacrifice/ For men’ (‘The Bee’). Goodman's ‘The Honey Dew’ laments our unwillingness to follow the bee's example.85 Vaughan habitually associates a revival of his ability to celebrate God with budding. In ‘The Morning‐watch’, he opens ecstatically with ‘O Joyes! Infinite sweetnes! With what flowres,/ And Shoots of glory, my soul breakes, and buds!’ In ‘Unprofitablnes’, one glance from God turns ‘bleak leaves hopeles hung/ Sullyed with dust and mud’ into sprouts from a flourishing, spicy plant. In ‘Disorder and Frailty’, touched by God's ‘dew’, he breaks out in buds.

The analogy between reading and walking through meadows and groves is more strictly maintained in Vaughan's ‘Religion’ and ‘The Agreement’. In the first, he looks from place to place: ‘when I walke in those groves,/ And leaves thy spirit doth still fan …/ Here Jacob dreames, and wrestles; there/ Elias by a Raven is fed’. This ‘Conf'rence’ (p.143) is now broken, and religion has run ever more muddily through time, acquiring error. In ‘Religion’, the cure for false accretions after the days of the early Church is, as Protestant theologians also agree, a return to the ‘springing rock’ or fountain of scripture. In ‘The Agreement’, Vaughan copies down an assurance which will exterminate ‘fears and night’. The implication is that his agreement with Christ has been written on his heart, since the ‘Record’ is later obscured by Satan. When the cloud is lifted, his heart points outside itself to a ‘place’, a ‘beamy book’, towards which his thoughts ‘glitter and kindle’ (Vaughan is here mirroring Herbert's ‘The Starre’). This contains the ‘present healing leaves,/ Blown from the tree of life’. Its guidance allows Vaughan to reread the ‘place’ he copied into his heart, and it as a ‘Hive of beamy, living lights’.

The wreath poems similarly reflect on their authors' reading, as they eagerly seek ‘choice bowres’ to gather garlands and reap meadows. This is the process that they have used for secular poetry. Vaughan, in ‘youthfull, sinfull age’,

  • sought choice bowres, haunted the spring,
  • Cull'd flowres and made me posies:
  • Gave my fond humours their full wing,
  • And crown'd my head with Roses (‘The Garland’)

and Marvell has woven pastoral crowns to adorn this ‘shepherdess's head’. Yet on devotional topics also, writers go to a variety of places, turn leaves, judge carefully, and look to see what will please the patron. Thinking of the crown of thorns woven by his sins, Marvell desires

  • with Garlands to redress that Wrong:
  • Through every Garden, every Mead,
  • I gather flow'rs (my fruits are only flow'rs) …
  • So rich a Chaplet thence to weave (‘The Coronet’)

and Herbert longs to give a ‘wreathed garland of deserved praise’ to God (‘A Wreath’). His budding thoughts ‘sprout, and swell’, ‘curling with metaphors a plain intention’ (‘Jordan II’). It appears Herbert's answer to the rhetorical question structuring ‘Jordan I’, ‘Is it no verse, except enchanted groves/ And sudden arbors shadow course‐spunne lines’, is a yes. Poets have read other poets conscientiously and now reuse their florilegia, with skill and enthusiasm.

(p.144) Yet the professional way that the poets sit down to flower‐arrange seems smug. In ‘The Search’, Vaughan has spent all his time reading for loci in scripture, so then misses the point. He has scurried from scriptural scene to scene in his memory, where ‘all night have I/ Spent in a roving Extasie/ To find my Saviour’. The amount of energy expended in this pilgrimage of the imagination is emphasized. He has ‘gon as far as Bethlem’, ‘fled’ to Egypt, indeed, he ‘ran’ there and comes back, goes to the Temple to enquire for Christ, rests briefly at Jacob's well, then is off again on a second journey, through the places of the passion of Christ. When this also fails, he projects a third tour into the desert, only writing ‘down/ What pleasures should my Journey crown’ and ‘Sugring all dangers’. Yet God wants vegetables not flowers from such rambles, ‘hearbes’ of ‘morall discourses’ and ‘reformed inventions’ not flowers of ‘light occasion …more pleasant than profitable’.86 So Vaughan's progress is halted by a dismissive command to leave ‘gadding’ and collecting the ‘skinne, and shell of things’.

When poets reach for their scriptural notebooks, as school exercises on a theme (say, latria), they show they have read for ornament rather than understanding. Moss argues that the comparisons between literary items in the Renaissance commonplace book encouraged the emergence of a specifically literary sensibility, and this certainly happens in the case of the wreath poems.87 Their offerings are not an absorbed, wholehearted response to God's glory, but a self‐possessed gift, as when Herbert exults how ‘Thousands of notions in my brain did runne,/ Off'ring their service, if I were not sped’ (‘Jordan II’), or Marvell looks proudly over his ‘store’ of commonplaces. The problem is deftly addressed by Vaughan's ‘Preface’, which complains that ‘Certain Authors have been so irreverently bold, as to dash Scriptures …with their impious conceits’. The difference between the work of these ‘desperate adventurers’ and Herbert's verse is left unclear by Vaughan, but the difference between Herbert and the ‘pious Converts’ who attempt to imitate him turns out to be a qualitative one, of type of life, not a quantitative one, of who has the more skill. The latter ‘aimed more at verse, then perfection …not flowing from a true, practick piety’, and were thus unable to encourage a devotion which they had not felt themselves, so producing ‘weak, and (p.145) lean conceptions’. In other words, a literary critique enforces an ethical position.

The proprietorial aspect to collection is shown in Marvell's poem, where the first person pronoun appears ten times in ten lines, but almost vanishes after he realizes that ‘the Serpent old …/ About the flow'rs disguised does fold’.88 It appears wherever commonplacing is spoken of; these are stores of ‘substantiall worth’ (Herbert, ‘The Church‐porch’, stanza 35). Thus, after collection and before the grand rewrite, just as happens in ‘The Search’, poets are interrupted by a friend or a dead man, or a serpent, and required to strip this carpe diem gathering of rosebuds back into a memento mori. In response, they histrionically trample on their stores of places and lumber on into self‐righteously plain styles that are heavily dependent on repetition. Such places can reintroduce scriptural flowers, but in a less self‐interested register: the ‘Lesse than the least/ Of all thy mercies’ of Herbert's ‘The Poesie’, the ‘sweetnesse readie penned’ copied from love of his ‘Jordan II’, or the ‘simplicite’ of his ‘A Wreath’. In ‘The Thanksgiving’, Herbert makes the bumptious proposal that Christ's ‘thorns [should be] my flower? / Thy rod, my posie? crosse, my bower?’. He tries to outdo Christ in a love competition, ‘copy[ing] thy fair, though bloudie hand’ in deciding to fulfil to the utmost scriptural commands: ‘Nay, I will reade thy booke, and never move/ Till I have found therein thy love,/ Thy art of love, which I'll turn back on thee’. However, three times he tries to find an equivalent to the passion, and three times finds himself unable to copy it in art or life: ‘Then for thy passion—I will do for that—/ Alas, my God, I know not what’. Likewise in ‘Easter’, though the poet, with heart and lute, has ‘got me flowers to straw thy way’, Christ brings his ‘sweets’ first, pre‐empting Herbert's art.

When panicked by the obverse of writers' block (too many words and all of the wrong sort), the poets return to the metaphor of fruitless growth. They talk about themselves as the barren vines and fig trees of scriptures, or as thankless weeds (Herbert, ‘Employment I’). In ‘Affliction I’ (‘I reade, and sigh, and wish I were a tree;/ For sure then I should grow/ To fruit or shade’), ‘Grace’ (‘My stock lies dead, and no increase/ Doth my dull husbandrie improve’), and ‘Employment II’ (‘Oh that I (p.146) were an Orenge‐tree,/ That busie plant’), nothing grows except words.89 Likewise, Vaughan's ‘Unprofitablenes’ admits he has been a bit weedy in the face of God's expectation of bucolic action, not pastoral loci:

  • But, ah, my God! what fruit hast thou of this?
  • What one poor leaf did ever I yet fall
  • To wait upon thy wreath?90

The problem of antanaclasis is particularly acute when the poets try sanctified citation. This can be simple compliance with previous meanings. In Vaughan's ‘The Wreath’, despite declaring that joy and grief are twined together, ‘Praise soil'd with tears, and tears again/ Shining with joy’, repetition in subsequent lines reinforces rather than corrects the first use of a word (with the exception of a quibble on the vanity corrected by death, which is therefore not in vain), as in ‘I bring for all thy pain,/ Thy causeless pain’ or ‘now beg thy breath;/ Thy quickening breath’. Vaughan's ‘Love‐sick’ works to similar effect, merely emphasizing the previous line, though with the additional technical complexity of an internal repetition across a caesura, as in

  • thou in mercy hear,
  • So hear that thou must open: open to
  • A sinfull wretch, A wretch that caus'd thy woe,
  • Thy woe, who caus'd his weal; so for his weal
  • That thou forgott'st thine own.

Where simple repetition becomes involved in schemes of gradatio, concatenation, or antanaclasis, so that God's words are not repeated back to him exactly, he ruthlessly cuts off the additions. For instance, in the gradatio of Herbert's ‘A Wreath’ declarations by the speaker at the end of each line are repeated by him in the following line, but in an increasingly shrill tone: (p.147)

  • A wreathed garland of deserved praise,
  • Of praise deserved, unto thee I give,
  • I give to thee, who knowest all my wayes,
  • My crooked winding wayes, wherein I love,
  • Wherein I die, not live

The self‐satisfied ‘deserved praise’ and ‘unto thee I give’ are repeated without comment. However, when Herbert comes to consider that he is giving a wreath of actions—ways—that are wound together only because they are bent or ‘crooked’, his confidence wilts down to the blunt ‘Wherein I die’. Form and content in the scheme work against each other, the repetition of words twining the garland and what is meant by the words unpicking it again. The crossover back into faith comes in the central lines, which reject the wreath's art in favour of God, who is ‘more farre above deceit/ Then deceit seems above simplicitie’.91 Now the repetition becomes double, reciting Herbert's own words in the first four lines, but in the sense given them by the second repetition in the preceding line, and ending by erasing the whole poem:

  • Give me simplicitie, that I may live,
  • So live and like, that I may know, thy wayes
  • Know them, and practise them: then shall I give
  • For this poore wreath, give thee a crown of praise

—or perhaps not, since the last line takes the reader back to the first line, to start sinning all over again.

In ‘The Holdfast’ Herbert starts by saying he will read the scriptures and act exactly in accordance with them: ‘I threatned to observe the strict decree/ Of my deare God’. As in ‘A Wreath’, in this love match the busily self‐righteous poet repeatedly settles—with decreasing confidence (‘threatned’ yields to ‘will’, then dwindles to ‘confesse’)—on stock phrases, righteous in themselves but whose uses are redefined by a friend standing by: (p.148)

  • But I was told by one, it could not be …
  • Then will I trust, said I, in him alone.
  • Nay, ev'n to trust in him, was also his …
  • Then I confesse that he my succour is.
  • But to have nought is ours, not to confesse
  • That we have nought.

The way out in this poem—for citation as well as trust in God—is to consider ‘That all things were more ours by being his’. In the case of quotation, this brings us back to the determined unoriginality boasted by Herbert's ‘Dedication’. Herbert's ‘Justice (1)’ similarly recasts its opening line ‘I cannot skill of these thy wayes’ into the last line ‘I cannot skill of these my wayes’, using a self‐correcting gradatio. This uncovers purpose and aid in God's actions in the first five lines (‘Lord, thou dost wound me, yet thou dost relieve me:/ Lord thou relievest, yet I die by thee’). A central couplet provides a hinge to turn Herbert's thoughts towards his own actions for the last five lines, where ‘I do praise thee, yet I praise thee not:/ My prayers mean thee, yet my prayers stray’. In both stanzas, ‘yet’ is the binary point, where the definition is mirrored from God's point of view. There is, therefore, a double repetition at the level of the line and the poem, where self‐citation shows a godly conscience at work. ‘Beginnings touch their end’ again in the last line of Herbert's ‘Paradise’. The poem is based on imagining Herbert as a tree being pruned to become more fruitful. Each of its five stanzas have three lines whose final words have their initial letters cut off, one by one:

  • When thou dost greater judgements SPARE,
  • And with thy knife but prune and PARE,
  • Ev'n fruitfull trees more fruitfull ARE.

Pruning is a standard humanist trope for training a child. Herbert's country parson thinks of his family as a garden, labouring to ‘dresse and prune them, and take as much joy in a straight‐growing childe, or servant, as a Gardiner doth in a choice tree (p. 275). In ‘Paradise’, however, the pruning produces a circular rather than a linear movement, where the last line echoes the first, having been cut by ‘art’ into more proper shape. ‘Paradise’ also, of course, shares a form with the echo poem, where the eroding epistrophe trains the poet's nature into (p.149) productive forms.92 Herbert's ‘Heaven’ takes human questions and slices off syllables to show the godly already within the secular. Once again, we are invited to think of scriptural leaves in a delightful garland of ‘light, joy, and leisure’:

  • are there any leaves, that still abide?
  • Echo. Bide.
  • What leaves are they? Impart the matter wholly.
  • Echo. Holy.
  • Are holy leves the Echo then of blisse?
  • Echo. Yes.

A particularly involved set of ironies are woken when Herbert and Marvell cite the third sonnet of Astrophil and Stella (1591). Sidney's ‘In Stella's face I read/ What love and beauty be; then all my deed/ But copying is, what in her nature writes’ becomes ‘There is in love a sweetnesse readie penn'd:/ Copie out onely that, and save expense’ in ‘Jordan II’, as Herbert's editors point out. In biblical, platonic, and medieval literature, the heart is literally the site of memory and understanding, so sincerity should be assured if Sidney refers to its inscription. What tends not to be remarked is that in sonnet 3 Sidney himself has set up a scene of copying by turning his own anthologies’ leaves, and even copying his own copying in sonnets 1, 6, 15, and 28. In sonnet 1 he studies ‘inventions fine …/ Oft turning others’ leaves’ (his Muse's injunction at the end of this poem is, again, to ‘look in thy heart, and write’). The topoi other lovers use are dismissively run through in sonnet 6 (‘heavenly beams …/ living deaths, dear wounds, fair storms and freezing fires’, myth, pastoral, and pathos), before the usual reduction to a plain style admission ‘that I do Stella love’. Lover‐poets, who ‘every flower, not sweet perhaps, which grows/ …into your poesy wring’ in sonnet 15 are sent off to look at Stella, and then begin to write. In sonnet 28, Astrophil says he ‘in pure simplicity,/ Breathe[s] out the flames …/ Love only reading unto me this art’. The desire to speak truly is more appropriately answered by sinking the self's style into the Bible's words (as happens, say, in ‘Coloss. 3:3’, where the poem twines round (p.150) an italicized sash, ‘My Life is Hid in Him that is my Treasure’), not by urging an ever‐more self‐reflexive register. In fact, as Harman, Lewalski, Fish and others point out, Herbert (or indeed Sidney) never tries this new type of writing from the heart, but simply writes about it. Marvell, asking God to ‘shatter …my curious frame’, impudently cites Sidney's request, at the start of sonnet 28, for readers not to misquote him: ‘You that with allegory's curious frame/ Of others' children changelings use to make’.93 Significantly, these citations do not come in the first two‐thirds of each poem, where Herbert and Marvell are bustling about collecting material. They come in the closing lines, where the poets are claiming to have reduced their words to the heart's truth. Such inscriptions on the heart are, as the last chapter also showed, no guarantee of sincerity or what we would regard as originality. Like Astrophil and Stella, The Temple habitually uses ‘invention’ to refer to the activity of collecting topoi, the ‘sweet phrases, lovely metaphors’ which ‘The Forerunners’ faces losing—the very same which, in ‘The Author to the Critical Peruser’, Traherne attempts to strip away. He promises, using the words of ‘Jordan II’, merely ‘the naked Truth’, with ‘No curling metaphors that gild the Sence/ …But real Crowns’. Of course, such intertextual reference would only be caught by a reader who remembers a number of passages, that is, one who has collected an anthology and missed the point of the poems.

The ‘look in thy heart’ trope is one of two in ‘Jordan II’ which engage with imitation. Its image of flames that ‘do work and winde, when they ascend,/ So do I weave my self into the sense/ …while I bustled’ finds an analogue in Herbert's own ‘Sinnes Round’, his ‘offences course it in a ring/ …thoughts working like a busie flame’. Here each of the three stanzas appears to reach to the utmost sin that thoughts, words, and actions can do, respectively. Each climactic final line, however, becomes the basis for the next stage of sin in the following stanza, as for instance in the second:

  • My words take fire from my inflamed thoughts …
  • But words suffice not, where are lewd intentions:
  • My hands do joyn to finish the inventions.

(p.151) The end of the final stanza writhes back to the start in an ungodly crown, for ill deeds suggest ‘new thoughts of sinning’, using all the art celebrated elsewhere. In ‘Misery’ Vaughan's passions intrude on his resolution to sit in silence, and they do so in Herbert's words:

  • As flames about their fuel run
  • And work, and wind til all be done,
  • So my fierce soul bustles about
  • And never rests til all be out.

‘Jordan II’ also inspired an imitation by Vaughan's admirer, Thomas Traherne. The Temple echoes throughout Silex as much as does the Bible, and Vaughan announces himself in his preface to be one of Herbert's ‘converts’. As Stevie Davies says, Herbert's ‘poems have lodged in [Vaughan] so deeply that, with that eagerness so understandable in ourselves and so annoying in other people, he longs to say them out loud to anyone who will listen’.94 In this, Vaughan, as all his editors point out, is matching up to Herbert's offer in ‘Obedience’. Here, Herbert yet again offers himself and his work to God, the poem acting as a ‘Deed’ to pass on ownership. He pauses at the end to urge emulation:

  • He that will passe his land,
  • As I have mine, may set his hand
  • And heart unto this Deed, when he hath read …
  • How happie were my part,
  • If some kinde man would thrust his heart
  • Into these lines.

Vaughan's ‘The Match’, addressed to Herbert as his ‘Dear friend’, answers this:

  • Here I joyn hands, and thrust my stubborn heart
  • Into thy Deed,
  • There from no Duties to be freed.

‘The Match’ produces a chain of poems. Arguably, the ‘Record’ of Vaughan's ‘The Agreement’ could refer to this resolve, not a separate one with Christ, as could the ‘match’ set up in ‘Idle Verse’, which eschews (p.152) the ‘sugred sin’ of ‘bays’ and ‘roses’. The proprietorial aspect in the three poems is peculiarly strong, given they are poems about giving up the self and its goods, including these poems. After all, Vaughan's store of bays and roses is largely made up of Herbert's abandoned verses. In his ‘Dedication’ of Silex to God, Vaughan declares that ‘he/ That copyed it, presents it thee/ ‘Twas thine first, and to thee returns’. Since this imitates Herbert's ‘Dedication’ of his collection to God, where his ‘first fruits present themselves to thee;/ Yet not mine neither: for from thee they came,/ And must return’, there must be a question over who is the dedicatee of Vaughan's work.

The issue of misinterpretation by over‐reading haunts Donne's ‘A Litanie’. Commentary on the poem generally notes how it retains the liturgical form of Prayer Books from 1644, only adding an invocation to the doctors of the Church. Critics often give an ecumenical reason for this, since the doctors appear in the Roman Catholic litany.95 I would argue that the addition of the Doctors, whose function it is to draw ethical and doctrinal conclusions out of the scriptures, is precisely because they are tempted to the sin Donne worries over in the poem: making God's word his own. Of the invocations addressed to humans (the Virgin Mary, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, and Doctors) four focus on this problem, unlike the invocations of traditional litanies. Where the Patriarchs saw God through faith (that is, not in the flesh), Donne prays that ‘Reason added’ will not cause him to be more blind. The Prophets make him anxious about overwriting: ‘those heavenly Poets/ …pray for mee,/ That I by them excuse not my excesse/ In seeking secrets, or Poetiquenesse’. The Apostles are asked to ‘pray still …that I goe/ Th'old broad way in applying; O decline/ Mee, when my comment would make thy word mine’. The Doctors pray with Donne ‘That what they have misdone/ Or mis‐said, wee to that may not adhere;/ Their zeale may be our sinne’. When ‘A Litanie’ moves from enumerating the persons of the Church Triumphant to direct petition on behalf of the Church Militant, the theme continues. ‘When wee are mov'd to seeme religious/ Only to vent wit’ (stanza 21) is succeeded by ‘In Churches, when th'infirmitie/ Of him that speakes, diminishes (p.153) the Word’ (stanza 22). Far from the litany being, as P. M. Oliver and Annabel Patterson think, ‘a perfect vehicle for conveying a feeling of helplessness’, encouraging ‘passivity and mindlessness’ and ‘intellectual laziness’, in Donne's poem the form worries over his principal fear of overactivity, of working out the Word in interfering words.96 A decade later, Donne still suspects there may be a problem with all poetry on divinity. In the first four lines of ‘Upon the translation of the Psalmes’, he raises the question of seeking ‘new expressions’ for God as one of thrusting him into our ‘poore wit’. Ostensibly, this is a digression to explain his opening address, ‘Eternal God’. In the fifth line there is a transitional line of question‐begging: ‘I would but blesse thy Name, not name thee now’. The rest of the poem celebrates how God, as Muse, taught David to sing ‘formes of joy and art’, and David, in his turn, the Sidney siblings. However, the position of the digression, its subject, and the quite unnecessary explanation of why he addresses God as ‘Eternall God’ suggests his caution about adding human art to divine subjects could also be extended to the translations themselves—and the poem ends by looking forward to the ‘Extemporall song’, without art, we will sing after death.

‘A Litanie’ shares some of the features of wreath poems, in its structural parallels between stanzas (invocation, followed by petition), the cross references between them (for instance, the stanza to the Virgin Mary refers to her as a ‘She‐Cherubim’, linking into the following stanza to the Angels), and its scepticism over being able to exclude the self in receiving God's word. It also provides a useful commentary on a poem which most commentators agree was written in the same winter of 1608/9, ‘La Corona’.97 This poem brings together the Italian secular genre of a sequence of sonnets linked through their first and last lines, and a Catholic tradition of saying the rosary using seven, rather than the more usual five, decades; both were known as a corona. The rosary (from the Latin rosarium, ‘rose garden’) is one of the references behind the poem's view of itself as a wreath of flowers and (p.154) prayers. Illustrated verse and prose rosaries in English were published by Catholic presses at the turn of the century, and Annabel Patterson conjectures that here, as in ‘A Litanie’, Donne is salvaging a Catholic form.98 The humble lover of the secular sonnets is also present in sonnet 1, imploring his beloved to inspire and accept his poetry and himself.

Yet the citation tradition of anthologies should not be forgotten as a source for ‘A Litanie’. Helen Gardner has shown how Donne weaves together phrases from the Advent offices in the Breviary in the first sonnet, for instance. ‘La Corona’ concatenates the first and last lines between the seven sonnets, and between the start of sonnet one and the end of sonnet seven, in the first‐last prayer of ‘Deigne at my hands this crowne of prayer and praise’. Each repeated line finishes a stage in the story of the incarnation, and starts the next stage in the following sonnet, from the annunciation to the nativity, Christ as a child teaching in the temple, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension. The conventional topoi of the subgenre appear in the first verse, where a ‘treasury’ of good is rifled, and a ‘vile crown of fail bays’, that is, earthly fame, is rejected in favour of a crown of glory. However, the usual subject positions are swapped about. The ‘crown of prayer and praise’ which Donne presents (that is, ‘La Corona’ itself) he finds quite adequate, and assures God it has not come from an upstart poetic (such as Herbert, Vaughan, and Marvell will later fear), but from a ‘low devout melancholie’. The crown‐substitution which goes on is not, as with the other poems, done by the poet but by Christ. Moreover, Christ has to denude himself, to give over his crown of thorns to Donne to make the latter a crown of glory. The issue arises of whose work this is, just as it does with the three other poets, but there is no lack of confidence in Donne's assessment. ‘The ends crowne our workes', he says, so that Christ, as an appreciative audience, can be relied on to ‘crown'st our ends’.

The six substantive sonnets on Christ's life which follow the first's reflections on its own composition are dominated by unsettling repetitions. It appears in Donne's habit of self‐citation, so that readers of his secular poetry get the shock of recognition. For instance, as Helen Gardner points out, three lines from the second stanza on the (p.155) annunciation had already appeared in Donne's satire on metempsychosis, ‘The Progress of the Soul’ of 1601, in a stanza on the crucifixion. In ‘La Corona’, the lines repeated between verses undergo a change of function, so that, for instance, the prayer to Christ to ‘Moyst, with one drop of thy blood, my dry soule’, which ends the sixth sonnet, becomes an adjectival clause at the start of the seventh: ‘Moyst with one drop of thy blood, my dry soule/ Shall …bee/ Freed by that drop’. Antanaclasis is particularly noticeable when Donne structures it around a paradox: ‘Which cannot sinne, and yet all sinnes must beare’, ‘Which cannot die, yet cannot chuse but die’, ‘Whom thou conceiv'st, conceiv'd; yea thou art now/ Thy Makers maker’, ‘Was not his pity towards thee wondrous high,/ That would have need to be pittied by thee’, ‘Beares his owne cross, with paine, yet by and by/ When it beares him, he must beare more’, ‘Death, whom thy death slue’. That it is characteristic of Donne's theology to meditate on self‐reflexive paradoxes is by now a critical axiom, and none the less true for being so widely noted. Perhaps the most convincing defence of the poem's ingenuity has come from Margaret Maurer, who argues that it takes a solafidian line, where Donne's effort to understand God's ways is made inside the human experience of time. This effort disappears when the poem looks at his ways from the imagined perspective of eternity.99 It might, however, be worth adding to her perspective the critiques by succeeding wreath poems, such as Herbert's, about how the self is involved in divine poetry. Clearly, paradoxes are useful tropes to encompass the problems humans have in understanding how God can become man. However, winding them in a scheme of verbal repetition brings the two positions into stark opposition, forcing a reader to switch from God to man to God, rapidly and alternately. If the point of the poem is, as it declares, to weave a tight‐knit devout crown of praise on the most mysterious of theological unities, God become man, this form of paradox could not have a more disjunctive effect. It pushes attention onto Donne's incapacity to understand, and away from the incarnation. In effect, the antanaclasis of ‘La Corona’ makes God's word Donne's, and fully justifies the concerns explored in wreath poems by later poets.

(p.156) In summary, I have argued that a conscience whose major term is formed by self‐selective reading cannot be rightly instructed. The posies made from scriptural commonplaces are risky, because they repeat the word out of context, giving power to the reader. Even, therefore, when the poems attempt to quote scriptural places exactly, their humility still has a trace of their own reading. Conscientious repetition is not always self‐abnegating.


(1) John Smith, The Mysterie of Rhetorique Unvail'd …Conducing Very Much to the Right Understanding of the Sense of the Letter of the Scripture (London: E. Cotes, 1656), p. 107.

(2) John Hales, A Sermon Preached at St. Maries in Oxford(Oxford: J. Lichfield, 1617), p. 4.

(3) William Ames, Conscience with the Power and Cases Thereof(1639; Amsterdam: Theatrum orbis terrarium, 1975), 25, 75. Erasmus's interpretation of scripture sees it as self‐authorizing, though the reader's understanding of the final sense is deferred: T. Cave, The Cornucopian Text: Problems of Writing in the French Renaissance(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), ch. 3.

(4) J. White, A Way to the Tree of Life: Discovered in Sundry Directions for the Profitable Reading of the Scriptures (London: M. F., 1647), p. 129.

(5) West shows how Vaughan consoled himself for the defeat of the royalist side by using scripture to shape a narrative of his life, taking in particular the life of Christ, the figure of Jacob in the wilderness, and Hezekiah's recovery: Philip West, Henry Vaughan's ‘Silex scintilans’: Scripture Uses(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

(6) A. D. Nuttall, Overheard by God: Fiction and Prayer in Herbert, Milton, Dante and St. John(London: Methuen, 1980), pp. 14–16. The effects of the ‘inherent worthlessness of human acts’ in art are similarly explored by Lewalski in ‘Marvell as Religious Poet’, in C. A. Patrides, ed., Approaches to Marvell(London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), pp. 253–7; A. Pinnington, ‘Prayer and Praise in John Donne's “La Corona”’, in Peter Milward, ed., Poetry and Faith in the English Renaissance (Tokyo: Renaissance Institute, 1987), pp. 133–42; J. Kronenfeld, ‘Herbert's “A Wreath” and Devotional Aesthetics: Imperfect Efforts Redeemed by Grace’, ELH48 (1981), 290–309.

(7) See J. Daalder, ‘Herbert's “Poetic Theory”’, GHJ 9/2 (1986), 17–34; Louis Martz, The Poetry of Meditation: A Study in English Religious Literature of the Seventeenth Century(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954), pp. 105–11; J. Walker, ‘The Religious Lyric as Genre’, English Language Notes 25 (1987), 39–45; M. Carpenter, ‘From Herbert to Marvell: Poetics in “A Wreath” and “The Coronet”’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 69 (1970), 50–62.

(8) Barbara M. Benedict, Making the Modern Reader: Cultural Mediation in Early Modern Literary Anthologies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), ch. 1; R. Bushnell, A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), chs. 3, 4; G. Cavallo and R. Chartier, eds, A History of Reading in the West, trans. L. G. Cochrane (Cambridge: Polity, 1999), chs. 7–10; John Kerrigan, ‘The Editor as Reader: Constructing Renaissance Texts’, in James Raven, Helen Small, and Naomi Tadmor (eds), The Practice and Representation of Reading of England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

(9) Anthony Grafton, ‘Humanist Readers’, in Cavallo and Chartier, History of Reading, ch. 7.

(10) Ann Moss, Printed Commonplace‐books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 2–13, describes the classical handbooks used. See also A. Blair, ‘Humanist Methods in Natural Philosophy: the Commonplace Book’, JHI53/4 (1992), 541–51; Peter Beal, ‘Notions in Garrison: the Seventeenth‐century Commonplace Book’, in W. Speed Hill, ed., New Ways of Looking at Old Texts (Binghamton: MRTS, 1993), pp. 131–47.

(11) Joan M. Lechner, Renaissance Concepts of the Commonplaces (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1962), p. 13.

(12) Walter J. Ong, ‘Commonplace Rhapsody: Ravisius Textor, Zwinger, and Shakespeare’, in R. R. Bolgar, ed., Classical Influences on European Culture AD 1500–1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 102.

(13) For instance, in Peter Gerard, A Preparation to the Most Holie Ministerie, trans. N.B. (London: T. Creed, 1598), pp. 176–80, memory is credited with allowing the minister to build up complex knowledge, exercise judgement, and give appropriate and immediate advice. Mary Carruthers describes similar medieval expectations of memory in The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 9. The parallels between memory and invention are analysed by Moss, Commonplace‐books, pp. 217–18, in relating commonplaces to the emblem book; and Lechner, Renaissance Concepts of the Commonplaces, section 4.

(14) W. J. Ong, Interfaces of the Word: Studies in the Evolution of Human Consciousness and Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), p. 168.

(15) T. W. Baldwin, William Shakspere's Small Latine and Lesse Greeke, 2 vols (Urbana: Illinois University Press, 1944), i, 351.

(16) Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster (1570; Amsterdam: Theatrum orbis terrarium 1968), p. 43 r.

(17) John Brinsley, Ludus literarius, or, the Grammar Schoole (1612; Menston: Scolar, 1968), pp. 187–8; 153–4; 193.

(18) Moss, Commonplace‐books, pp. 140, 215.

(19) Charles Hoole, A New Discovery of the Old Art of Teaching Schoole (1660; Menston: Scolar, 1969), pp. 51, 65, 68, 71, 131.

(20) Moss, Commonplace‐books, ch. 9.

(21) Timothy Bright, An Abridgement of the Booke of Acts and Monuments of the Church (London: J. Windet, 1589), preface to the reader.

(22) Isaak Walton, The Lives of Dr. John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton, Mr. Richard Hooker, Mr. George Herbert(London: for R. Marriott, 1670), p. 62.

(23) Margo Todd, Christian Humanism and the Puritan Social Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), ch. 3.

(24) G. K. Hunter, ‘The Marking of Sententiae in Elizabethan Printed Plays, Poems, and Romances’, The Library, 5th ser., 6 (1951), 174; William Slights, Managing Readers. Printed Marginalia in English Renaissance Books (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001).

(25) Kevin Sharpe, Reading Revolutions: the Politics of Reading in Early Modern England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), p. 85.

(26) Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton, ‘“Studied for Action”: How Gabriel Harvey Read his Livy’, Past and Present 129 (1990), 30–78.

(27) Lisa Jardine and William Sherman, ‘Pragmatic Readers: Knowledge Transactions and Scholarly Services in Late Elizabethan England’, in Anthony Fletcher and Peter Roberts, eds, Religion, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 102–24.

(28) For instance, Benedict, Making the Modern Reader, pp. 37–40; M. T. Crane, Framing Authority: Sayings, Self and Society in Sixteenth‐century England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), ch. 1.

(29) Hunter, ‘Marking of Sententiae’, pp. 175–6.

(30) Helen Wilcox, ‘“Something Understood”: The Reputation and Influence of George Herbert to 1715’ (Oxford University, DPhil, 1984), pp. 127–31, 35–6, 50–1, 135–7, 139–41, 242–4; Robert H. Ray's findings endorse this in ‘The Herbert Allusion Book: Allusions to Herbert in the Seventeenth Century’, Studies in Philology 1986 (83), supplement pp. 1–167, eg. pp. 11, 14, 20.

(31) F. Malpezzi, ‘Dead Men and Living Words: Herbert and the Revenant in Vaughan's “The Garland”’, GHJ 15/2 (1992), 71–4.

(32) Ascham, Scholemaster, p. 42 v.

(33) Victoria Kahn, Rhetoric, Prudence, and Skepticism in the Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), chs 1, 4.

(34) Blair, ‘Humanist Methods in Natural Philosophy’, p. 548.

(35) Quoted in Sharpe, Reading Revolutions, pp. 548.

(36) Wotton, quoted in Beal, ‘Notions in Garrison’, p. 139. Montaigne had already protested that ‘rapsodies of common places, wherewith so many stuffe their study, serve not greatly but for vulgar subjects’, quoted in F. Goyet, ‘The Word “Commonplaces” in Montaigne’, in Lynette Hunter, ed., Toward a Definition of Topos: Approaches to Analogical Reasoning (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991), p. 69.

(37) Francis Bacon, ‘Of the Advancement of Learning’ (1605), in J. Spedding, R. Ellis, and D. Heath, eds, The Works of Francis Bacon, 5 vols (London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1857–87), iii, part 1.292. Herbert was one of the team of translators who turned this treatise into Latin.

(38) Francis Bacon, ‘De augmentis scientiarum’ (1623), trans. F. Headlam, in Works, v, 56. See Beal, ‘Notions in Garrison’, pp. 138–9. Crane, Framing Authority, ch. 1, comments on the intellectual prudence acquired by the activity of anthologizing.

(39) For instance, W. S. Howell, Logic and Rhetoric in England, 1500–1700(New York: Russell and Russell, 1961), ch. 6.2; N. W. Gilbert, Renaissance Concepts of Method(New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), ch. 9.

(40) Howell, Logic and Rhetoric, ch. 4.1; Moss, Common‐place Books, ch. 9.

(41) Donne, The Sermons, ed. G. R. Potter and E. M. Simpson, 10 vols (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953–62), ix, 274, 278. The sermon, on Psalm 32:3, 4, is undated, but Donne's editors suggest that it comes from 1624–5 (ix, 37).

(42) Terence Cave, ‘The Mimesis of Reading in the Renaissance’, in J. D. Lyons and S. G. Nichols, eds, Mimesis: From Mirror to Method, Augustine to Descartes (Hanover: New England University Press, 1982), p. 150.

(43) T. W. Baldwin, William Shakspere's Petty School (Urbana: Illinois University Press, 1943), pp. 84, 103; idem, Small Latine, i, 682–8.

(44) E. Cardwell, Synodalia: A Collection of articles of Religion, Canons, and Proceedings of Convocation in the Province of Canterbury …1547–1717, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1842), i, canon 79.

(45) Brinsley, Ludus literarius, ch. 23.

(46) Foster Watson, The English Grammar Schools to 1660: Their Curriculum and Practice(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1908), pp. 181–5.

(47) Cited by David Norton, A History of the Bible as Literature, vol. 1: From Antiquity to 1700(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 227.

(48) Moss, Commonplace‐books, p. 21.

(49) Benedict, Making the Modern Reader, pp. 44, 35.

(50) Boyle, Considerations (written around 1651–2), in The Works, ed. M. Hunter and E. B. Davis, 14 vols (London: Pickering and Chatto, 1999–2000), i, pp. 415, 416, 419.

(51) John Locke, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul, ed. A. W. Wainwright, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), i 105, 107.

(52) Cardwell, Synodalia, i, canon 45.

(53) Thomas Fuller, The Holy and Profane States (separately printed as two States 1642; London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1884), p. 84. Fuller (1608–61), moderate divine and popular preacher, was curate at the Savoy Chapel while completing this book.

(54) Isaac Ambrose, Prima, media, & ultima: the First, Middle, and Last Things (1650; London: T. R. and E. M., 1654), pp. 438–41, 485–7. Ambrose (1604–64) was a Puritan divine with Presbyterian leanings. He was at Garstang, Lancashire, when Prima came out.

(55) Nicholas Byfield, Directions for the Private Reading of the Scriptures (London: E. Griffin, 1618), A6 r‐A8 v, A10 r‐A11 v. Byfield (1579–1622), Puritan divine, was vicar of Isleworth from 1615.

(56) N. Byfield, The Principles, or, the Patterne of Wholesome Words (London: W. Sansby, 1627).

(57) Elnathan Parr, Abba Father: or, a Plaine and Short Direction Concerning Private Prayer (London: F. K., 1618), pp. 55–6, 85–8. Parr (d. 1632) was rector of Palgrave, Suffolk.

(58) William Ames, The Marrow of Sacred Divinity(London: E. Griffin, 1642), p. 192.

(59) Priest, in George Herbert, The Works, ed. F. E. Hutchinson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941), pp. 234–5.

(60) John Wilkins, Ecclesiastes, or, a Discourse Concerning the Gift of Preaching as it Fals Under the Rules of Art (London: M.F., 1647), pp. 47–51.

(61) Evelyn B. Tribble, Margins and Marginality: the Printed Page in Early Modern England (Charlottesville: Virginia University Press, 1993), ch. 1.

(62) Ian Green, Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 56–78, 403–10.

(63) In Neil Rhodes and Jonathan Sawday, eds, The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 102–3.

(64) G. Ward, ‘To Be a Reader: Bunyan's Struggle with the Language of Scripture in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners’, L&T 4 (1990), p. 30.

(65) W. W. E. Slights, ‘“Marginall notes that spoile the text”: Scriptural Annotation in the English Renaissance’, Huntingdon Library Quarterly 55 (1992), 255–78. M. Jensen argues that the Genevan annotation expected its readers to be strictly attentive, lacking in education, but bold in speech, and as a community apart from the worldly, well able to use the annotations correctly, ‘“Simply” Reading the Geneva Bible: The Geneva Bible and its Readers’, L&T 9 (1995), 30–45.

(66) W. Perkins, The Art of Prophesying, or a Treatise Concerning the Sacred and Only True Manner and Method of Preaching, in The Works, ed. I. Breward (Abingdon: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1970), pp. 336–9.

(67) Richard Bernard, The Faithfull Shepherd(London: T. Pavier, 1621), book 1. ch. 3. See also Wilkins, Ecclesiastes, pp. 22–61; Perkins, Prophesying, in Works, pp. 336–43.

(68) M. Betteridge, ‘The Bitter Notes: the Geneva Bible and its Annotations’, The Sixteenth‐Century Journal14 (1983), pp. 41–62; Slights, Managing Readers, ch. 3.

(69) Benedict, Making the Modern Readerpp. 44–5, considering Locke's A Common‐place Book to the Holy Bible (1697).

(70) Baxter, Gildas salvianus: The Reformed Pastor, ed. J. T. Wilkinson (1656; London: Epworth, 1939), p. 139.

(71) For instance, 1 Cor. 9:25, 2 Tim. 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, Rev. 2:10.

(72) Seneca, Ad Lucilium epistulae morales, trans. R. M. Gummere, 3 vols (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953), ii, 277–85; Moss, Commonplace‐books, pp. 24–7.

(73) Macrobius, The Saturnalia, trans. P. V. Davies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), p. 27.

(74) Ong, Interfaces of the Word, pp. 235–7.

(75) Cited in Thomas M. Greene, The Light in Troy: Imitation and Discovery in Renaissance Poetry (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), pp. 98–9.

(76) Cited in Bushnell, A Culture of Teaching, p. 135; Ong, ‘Commonplace Rhapsody’, pp. 118–20; Crane, Framing Authority, pp. 57–9. Michael Leslie describes how, conversely, early modern gardens such as Kenilworth or the Herbert family gardens (noted for their striking Italianate ingenuity) were seen as ‘eloquent’ rhetorical landscapes to be read as one walked around them: Hunter, Toward a Definition of Topos, pp. 17–44.

(77) Bacon, The Works, iv, 492.

(78) Francis Meres, Palladis tamia, introd. D. C. Allen (1598; New York: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1938), 265 v, 268 v–269 r.

(79) Thomas Elyot, A Critical Edition of Sir Thomas Elyot's ‘The Boke Named the Governour’, ed. D. W. Rude (New York: Garland, 1992), p. 64.

(80) J. Brinsley, A Consolation for our Grammar Schooles(1622; Amsterdam: Theatrum orbis terrarium, 1969), p. 9.

(81) R. Cawdrey, A Treasure or Store‐house of Similies(1600; Amsterdam: Theatrum orbis terrarium, 1971), pp. 630–1. Apian metaphors were also frequently used of translation, Theo Hermans, in The Manipulation of Literature: Studies in Literary Translation, ed. T. Hermans (London: Croom Helm, 1985), pp. 103–7.

(82) Quoted in Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading(London: HarperCollins, 1996), pp. 171–2.

(83) Priest, in The Works, p. 195. Such reading should be followed up with action. A. M. Endicott draws parallels between ‘A parsons library’ and a sermon by Donne of 1624–5, where the preacher ‘labors not to shew his reading, but his feeling; not his learning, but his compunction; his Conscience is his Library, and his Example is himselfe, and he does not unclaspe great Volumes but unbutton his owne breast’ (Donne, Sermons, ix, 274), and, from 1629, ‘a godly man is a Library in himself’ (ix, 185): A. M. Endicott, ‘“The Soul in Paraphrase”: George Herbert's “Library”’, Renaissance News 19/1 (1966), 14–16.

(84) Quoted in Norton, A History of the Bible as Literature, p. 251.

(85) Cardell Goodman, Beawty in Raggs, or, Divine Phancies Putt into Broken Verse, ed. R. J. Roberts (Reading: Reading University Press, 1958), pp. 11, 16–17.

(86) George Gascoigne, Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, ed. G.W. Pigman III (1573; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), p. 367.

(87) Moss, Commonplace‐books, pp. 200 ff.

(88) The proprietary aspect of commonplace collecting is examined in Ong, Interfaces of the Word, pp. 233 ff.

(89) See F. Malpezzi, ‘The Withered Garden in Herbert's “Grace”’, JDJ 4 (1985), 35–47. As Todd remarks, Herbert's wishes ‘to become a plant …characteristically carry a curious and problematic combination of spiritual fervour and withdrawal’: R. Todd, The Opacity of Signs: Acts of Interpretation in George Herbert's ‘The Temple’ (Columbia: Missouri University Press, 1986), p. 59.

(90) The inscription on Vaughan's gravestone, placed there by his own wish, reads ‘servus inutilis: peccator maximus hic iaceo’ (‘a useless servant, greatest of sinners, here I lie’): Henry Vaughan, The Complete Poems, ed. Alan Rudrum (1976; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983), p. 565.

(91) Antanaclasis, or repetition with a different meaning (Quintilian, Insitutio oratoria, trans. H. E. Butler, 4 vols (1920–4; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979–86, 9.3.68), is the ‘politic’ figure of ‘rebounde’, says G. Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie(1589; Amsterdam: Theatrum orbis terrarium, 1971), p. 173. Commenting on a similar movement in Marvell's ‘The Coronet’, John Carey attributes a political motive to the poet's interest in actions that coil back on themselves: Carey, ‘Reversals Transposed: An Aspect of Marvell's Imagination’, in Patrides, Approaches to Marvell, pp. 143–4.

(92) Humanists use the images of weeding and pruning, thinking these to be of as much importance in training a child as sowing and nurturing, Bushnell, A Culture of Teaching, p. 90. Knevet's ‘Transmutation’ is a similar pruning poem: R. Knevet, The Shorter Poems, ed. A. M. Charles (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1966), pp. 363–4.

(93) Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene I.xi.15 is referred to by Marvell in the ‘speckled breast’ of his serpent.

(94) Stevie Davies, Henry Vaughan (Bridgend: Seren, 1995), p. 95.

(95) J. E. Wellington, ‘The Litany in Cranmer and Donne’, SP 68 (1871), 177–200; P. M. Oliver, Donne's Religious Writing: a Discourse of Feigned Devotion(London: Longman, 1997), ch. 3.

(96) Oliver, Donne's Religious Writing, p. 90; Annabel Patterson, ‘“A Man is to Himself a Dioclesian”: Donne's Rectified Litany’, JDJ 20 (2001), 39, and idem, ‘Donne's Re‐formed “La Corona”’, JDJ 23 (2004), 80.

(97) John Donne, The Divine Poems, ed. Helen Gardner (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), pp. 81, 152.

(98) Patterson, ‘Donne's Re‐formed “La Corona”’, 69–93.

(99) Margaret Maurer, ‘The Circular Argument of Donne's “La Corona”’, SEL 22/1 (1982), 51–68.