Poems by Shakespeare, Donne and others in I. A.'s 17th-century commonplace book


This handwritten collection of poems and prose contains William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2, as well as works by other Elizabethan authors including John Donne, William Strode and William Herbert. The small notebook is signed on the first page by its original owner, ‘I A’ of Christ Church College, Oxford.

What are commonplace books?

Personal anthologies like this are known as commonplace books, and were popular in 17th-century Britain. Their owners used the books to collect inspiring quotes and passages, which they copied from sources ranging from poems and prayers to recipes and medical texts. As such, they reveal the owner’s personal tastes, experiences and interests. This particular book contains mainly poetry.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2

A number of Shakespeare’s sonnets, especially Sonnet 2, have been found in commonplace books from the 1620s and 30s.

Sonnet 2 is one of the so-called ‘Fair Youth’ group of Sonnets, which are addressed to a young man. The poem tries to persuade the youth to marry and reproduce, to defy the process of ageing. It asks him to imagine himself as a 40-year-old with ‘sunken eyes’, who can only renew his beauty by having a child.

But in manuscripts like this one, the addressee is changed from male to female by adding the title, ‘To one that would die a Mayd [virgin]’. This revision makes it seem like a more conventional poem about seducing a woman. This version also differs in other ways from the 1609 printed edition. The word ‘pleasure’ is used instead of ‘praise’, and ‘like’ has been repeated, as if the poem was copied quickly without concern for accuracy.

Which other poems are digitised here?

  • Walton Poole celebrates the attractions of a lady with ‘blacke’ hair and eyes, who somewhat resembles Shakespeare’s ‘Dark Lady’ (ff. 23r–24r).
  • John Donne’s racy ‘Elegy: To His Mistress Going to Bed’ is included here, although it was banned from the first print edition of Donne’s Poems (ff. 27r–28r).
  • ‘A Maides Deniall’ was written by William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (f. 125r–v). Some critics suggest that Herbert, who was notoriously reluctant to marry, might be the mysterious young man of Shakespeare’s ‘Fair Youth’ sonnets.



J.A. Christichurch


Robert Killigrew

his booke witnes

by his Maiesties

ape Gorge Harison

M.S. 1644.

M.S. 1660






fond               fond

an la butterie

MS. C           210



Should by th[a]t darknes suffer an Eclippese

Nor it is fitt th[a]t nature should have made

Soe bright a sunne to shine without a shade

It seemes that nature when she first did fancie

Your rare composure, studied Niegromancie

And when to you those gifts she did imparte

She used alltogether the blacke arte.

She drew the magicke circle of your eyes

And made your haire the chaine wherin she ties

Rebellious harts, thos blew veines which appeare

Twined in Meanders licke to either spheare

Misterious figures are and when you list

Your voice commandeth like an Exorcist.

O if in magicke you have skill so farr

Vouchsafe to make mee your familiar

Nor hath kinde nature her blacke arte revaeald

On outward parts alone some ly concealed

As by the springhead men may often know

The nature of the stre^ames th[a]t run below

Soe your blacke haire and eyes doe give direction

To make mee thinke the rest of licke perfection

The rest where all rest lyes th[a]t blesseth man

That Indian mine th[a]t streight of Magellan

That world-dividing Gulfe w[hi]ch who so ventures

With swelling sayles, & ravisht sensces, enters

Into a world of blisse; Pardon I pray

If my rude muse presume here to display

Secrets unknowne, or have her bound ore past

In praysing sweetnes which I neere shall tast

Starved men know ther^es meat, & blind men may

Though hid from them yet thinke theire is a day

A rover in the marke his arrow stcikes

Sometime as well as hee th[a]t shootes at prickes

And if I might direct my shaft aright

The black marke would I hitt & not the white.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

On Ms Mallet unmasked.

- - - - - - - - - -

Skelton some rimes and Elderton a ballet

Here theame enough for all, hers Maddam Mallet

Whom poets all scorne, but our riming muses

Makes choice of this occation and doth chuse

To writ of her whom all the towne admires

For going, speaking, looking, strange attiers

For bein what she is an uncoth thinge

Made up by naturs hasty handelinge

The moddle of whose wit is gracie so bigg

As a flie blow nitte or Kernell of a figge.

Shoulde dote on mee? as if they did contrive

The divell and shee to damne a man alive

This spouse of Antichrist, and his alone,

Shees drest sox like the whore of Babylon,

Why doth non welcome ra^ither purchase her

And beare about this rare familiar?

Six market dayes, a wake, & a fayre too

Will quitt his charges and the Ale to boote

Not tygresselike she feeds upon a man

Worse than a tyger or a leoparde can.

Let mee goe pray & thinke upon some spell

At once to beidd the divell and her farwell.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Com Maddam come all rest my powers defy

Untill I labor, I in labor ly

The foe oft times having the foe in sight

Is tyrde with standing though he never fight.

Off with th[a]t girdle like heavens zone glistering

But a far^re fairer world incompassing.

Unpinne th[a]t spanglinge brest plat th[a]t thYou weare

That I may see my shrine that shines soe faire

Unlase your selfe for that harmonius chime

Tels mee from you th[a]t now tis your bedtime

Off with that happie buske which I envy

That still will bee and still can stand soe nigh.

Your gowne going off such beauteous state reveale

As when from flourie meads hills shadowes steale

Off with that verie corronett and show

The ha^yrie diadem which one you doth groew

Now off with those sho^oes, and then softly tread

In this loves hallowed temple this soft bedd

In such white robes heavens Angells use to bee

Received by men, thou Angell bringst with thee

A heavenly Mahomets Paradice & though

All spirits walke in white wee easeily know

By this these Angells from an evill spxrite

They sett our haire but these our flesh upright

Licence my roving hands & let them goe

Behinde, before, betwen, abo ^ above, below.

O my America my new found lande

My Kingdome safest when with one man ^ tis mand

My mine of preciouse stones, my Empeiry

How blest am I in this discovering, theey

Full nakednesse, all eyes are due to thee

All soules unbodyed bodyes unclothed should bee

To x tast whole Joyes, gemms th[a]t you women use

Are as Atlantas bal^les cast in mens veiws

That a fooles eye lightnening on a gemm

His greedy ey might court thes ^ & not them

Like unto bookes with gawdie covernings made

For laymen, are all women thus arayed

Them selfes are musike bookes which only wee

(Whom their impxuted grace will dignifie)

Must see reveald, then sweet th[a]t I may know

As liberally as to a midwife shew

Thy selfe, case all, yea this white linnen hence

Ther is nox pennance due to innocence

To enter into these bonds is to bee free

There where my hand is set my seale shall bee

To txeach thee, I am naked first; why then

What needst thou have more covering then a man

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Iter boreale . R. Cor.

- - - - - - - -

Fowxre Clearkes of Oxford Doctors txxwo and txxwo

    That would bee Doctors, having lesse to doe

With Austein, then with Galxen, in vacation

    Change’d studies, and turne’d bookes te recreation,

And one the 10th of August Northwarde bente

    A J^ourney not soe soone conceive’d as spent.

The first halfe day they rode, they light upon

    A noble clergie-host Kitt Midleton

Who numbring out good dishes with good tales,

    The maior part of cheere waiyde downe the scales

And though the countenance make the feast (say bookes)

    Wee xxxx nere found better welcome with worse lookes

To one that would die a Mayd.

    When forty winters shall beseige thy brow

And trench deepe furrowes in that lovely feild

Thy youth faire liverie soe accounted now

Shall bee like like [sic] rotten weedes of noe worxth heild

    Then being askeit where all thy beauty lies

Where all the lustre of thy youthfull dayes

To say within thes hollow suncken eyes

were an all-eaten truth, and worthles pleasure.

How better were thy beaties use

If thou couldst say this prittie childe of mine

Saves my account and makes my old excuse

Making his beauty by succession thine

    This were to bee new borne when thou art old

    And see thy bloud war^me, when thou feelst it cold.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

┼ J.D. to his paper.

- - - - - - -

Flie paper kisse those hands

     when^ce I am barde of late,

shee quickly will unloose thy bands

    O wish mee then thy state

Appeare unto her eyes

    Though they doe turne to fumes

For happy is that sacrifice

    That heavenly fire consumes.

Yet even in thy depart

    With a soft dying breath

Whisper thes truthes unto her hart

    And take them one her death

    A Maides Deniall

Nay pish, nay pray, nay faith, & will you? fie

A Gent: & use mee thus, In faith He ay

God’s body what a man’s this? nay fie for shame

Nay faith away, nay fie, introth you are to blame:

Harke somebody comes, hands offe I pray,

He pinch, He scra^tch, ile spurne, nay runne away,

In faith you strive in vaine, you shall not speed,

You mare my ruffe, you hurt my back, my nose ^ will bleed

Looke how the doore is open, somebody sees;

What will they say, in faith you hurt my Knees -

Your buttons scratch, o what a quoile is here,

You make mee sweat in faith, here is goodly geare

Nay faith lett mee intreat y[o]u leave, if you list,

You hurt my head, be teare my smocke, but had I wist

So much before I would have Keept you out,

It is a proper thing you goe about,

I did not think you would have done mee this,

But now I see I tooke my aime amiss,

A little thing would make us not bee freinds,

You have used mee well, I hope youle make amen^ds

Hould still I’le wipe your face, you sweat amaine,

You have gott a goodly think with all this paine,

O God how hott am I, w[ha]t will you drinke,

If you goe sweating downe w[ha]t will they thinke,

Remember S[i]r how you have used mee now.

Doubt not ere long but I will meete with you,

If any manx but you had used mee so,

Would I hav putt it upp infaith S[i]r no:

Nay goe not yet stay here & supp with mee,

And then at cards wee better will agree.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Mr Hericks welcome to sacke

- - - - - - - - - - - -

So soft streames meet so springs with gladder smiles

Meete after long divorcment made by Iles

When love the child of likeness urgeth on

Their Christall water to an union

So meet stolne kisses when the moony night

Calls forth firce lovers tho their wisht delight

So Kings and Queenes meet when desire convinces

All thoughts save those th[a]t tend to getting Princes.

As I meet thee soule of my life & fame

Eternall lampe of love, whose radiant flame

Out darts the heavens Osyris & thy gemmes

Dart forth the splendor of his midday beames

Welcome o welcome my illustrious spouse

Welcome as are the ends unto my vowes

Full title:
A verse miscellany including 14 poems (plus one of doubtful authorship) by Carew, 22 poems by Corbett and 36 poems (plus three of doubtful authorship) by Strode.
17th century, Christ Church College, Oxford, Oxfordshire
Manuscript / Book / Duodecimo / Commonplace book
William Shakespeare, John Donne, William Herbert, Walton Poole
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Sloane MS 1792

Full catalogue details

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