DONNE'S LATIN EPIGRAMS
Donne's translated Latin Epigrams are important not merely for the biographical evidence they provide about his whereabouts and activities, but for what they show of his origins as a poet. However, there is almost no critical tradition attached to them. Attention to the Latin Epigrams has been deflected by the mistaken consensus (prevalent throughout the period of modern Donne studies) that Jasper Mayne's translations are spurious, and by the serious additional obstacle that so far there is no extant original text. In 1984, I set forth evidence that the translations are authentic; this evidence constitutes an argument for authenticity that has not yet been refuted. 1 The most desirable form of authentication would be discovery of a copy of Donne's Latin originals. In the meantime, even with translations alone, we need not remain silent about what were in all likelihood Donne's earliest poetic compositions.
The starting point for anyone writing about Donne's Epigrams must be M. Thomas Hester's seminal essays on the English Epigrams, which are generally thought to have been written in the 1590s. 2 The hallmark of Donne's epigrammatic style, as Hester points out, is his "compression of... utterance into as small a space as possible." Through such compression Donne's Epigrams "seem always to be testing the power or potentiality of words to signify." Already in the Latin Epigrams of the 1580s, these tendencies are evident, as is Donne's "manipulation of epigrammatic strategies and conventions ... to bring into question and open up the adequacy and the creativity of human forms and signs." 3
Most of Donne's Latin Epigrams must date from the period of his early travels, though some may have been written earlier, while Donne was still in England. In any case, the Latin Epigrams probably reflect the influence of Jasper Heywood on Donne's schooling. The connection is supported not only by the tradition in Donne's family of writing epigrams, but also by the particular way in which sixteenth-century Jesuit education was infused with humanist pedagogical values. The Jesuits were like other humanist educators in stressing the study of Greek and