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I've been reading John Donne's Song (Go And Catch A Falling Star) and my query is on the usage of to in the line "to two or three."

Yet she
Will be False,
ere I come, to two or three.

I understand this means she will be false, before I come, with two or three others, so is the usage of "to" instead of "with" common for the time?

Are there other meanings I've not got?

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John Donne is definitely not Old English, by the way. Modern English speakers need to learn Old English, just like they need to learn German or French. Here's Beowulf, for example (fordham.edu/halsall/basis/beowulf-oe.html): HWÆT, WE GAR-DEna in geardagum, / þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon, / hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon! –  JPmiaou Mar 16 '11 at 13:59
    
@JPmiaou, I changed the title, because it stuck out like a sore thumb to me, too. –  Marthaª Mar 16 '11 at 14:21
    
We are interpreting a Poem, So It's Going To Be Open Ended! –  n0nChun Mar 16 '11 at 14:24
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4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

To answer your question: "to be false to somebody" is perhaps not a very common expression, but it makes at least as much sense to me as "to be false with somebody".

Perhaps more, because the "to" has the connotation of playing her falseness towards them.

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so you're implying she is two-timing or rather three-timing them all? Thanks for answering my actual question, by the way –  JoseK Mar 17 '11 at 6:04
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I would see this as a form of counting. The first example (of a woman who is true) that could be cited is "one" — but Donne is claiming the woman will be false before he can get to "two" or "three". The counting may refer to the second or third example woman, but it also may simply be a form of "Before you can count to three".

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I believe Mr. Donne is saying that the lady in question will practice serial infidelity, not just with him, but with another, and another, and another. So first she is unfaithful to Mr. Donne with Mr. Eliot (while maintaining the first relationship). Then she is unfaithful to Mr. Eliot with Mr. Pound (while maintaining the first two relationships). Then she is unfaithful to Mr. Pound with Mr. Ginsberg (OK, that last is a bit of a stretch, but at this point she would be maintaining the first three relationships, unfaithful to each). Each link in the chain thinks of the lady as "his", not knowing that there is both a predecessor and a successor.

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As I understand, till the time his friend writes him a letter about one true and fair lady he had met, that lady will become Untrue(False, symbolic of faith, fidelity maybe), and instead he will go on the search for another(two) and another(three) woman who'd be true woman.

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