THE basis of the present text is the editio princeps of 1633, and every deviation is recorded in the Apparatus Criticus. A single square bracket following any word in the footnotes, e.g. bone], indicates that that is the reading of 1633, the MSS. agreeing with it unless otherwise stated. All the variant readings of B and W (see pp. l-lvi) are recorded except such varieties in spelling and punctuation as are without significance.
There is no uniformity, either in the MSS. or in 1633, in the use of initial capitals for pronouns referring to God, and the practice of 1633 is followed in our text, except where otherwise noted.
It was evidently the intention of the printer of the first edition to use the consonantal v instead of u, as is also generally done, though with less consistency, in the MSS., but seven instances of consonantal u occur in the text of 1633. This was clearly an oversight (e.g. in The Priesthood, l. 28, comuey and conveys are found in the same line), as all seven were corrected to v in the second edition. It was also his intention to use the consonantal j, but two instances (judgement, Ieat) escaped his eye in the first edition and were corrected in the second. All these corrections are adopted in the present text.
The preterite and participial -ed is always to be scanned as a separate syllable, except where the abbreviation 'd is found. The MSS. almost always observe this distinction, which is uniformly observed in 1633. The only possible exception is at the end of a line, where a feminine ending may or may not be intended. Prayer is always scanned as two syllables, but power and flower as one.
The form its is found twice only in B, in The Church-porch, l. 266 (where W has it's) and Josephs coat, l. 3 (the poem is not in W); 1633 follows B in these two instances, and has its also, where B has his, in Vertue, l. 7. Everywhere else the modern its is represented by his or her. The conjunction than is always printed then. The modern distinction between of and off is uniformly observed in 1633, but the form off is not found at all in the MSS. 1633 is more particular than the MSS. in differentiating loose and lose, but there remains an occasional ambiguity; such light as spelling can give is recorded in the footnotes.
The reader would do well to bear in mind that Herbert as often uses grief of physical as of mental pain, and that still generally means 'always'. He should also be prepared for Herbert's frequent use of to in the sense of 'compared with', e.g. Providence, l. 121: 'How harsh are thorns to pears!' and Confession, l. 30: 'They shall be thick and cloudie to my breast'; and after often means 'according to', e.g. Sighs and Grones, ll. 1-2: 'O do not use me After my sinnes', and Mans medley, ll. 17-18: 'should take place After the trimming, not the stuffe.' There is occasional ambiguity in Herbert's use of personal pronouns.