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The poetry and reputation of john donne

Donne has been taken to be the apex of the 16th-century tradition of plain poetry, and certainly the love lyrics of his that parade their cynicism, indifference, and libertinism pointedly invert and parody the conventions of Petrarchan lyric, though he courts admiration for his… Life and career Donne was born of Roman Catholic parents.

John Donne

Donne was four when his father died, and shortly thereafter his mother married Dr. John Syminges, who raised the Donne children.

At age 12 Donne matriculated at the University of Oxfordwhere he studied for three years, and he then most likely continued his education at the University of Cambridgethough he took no degree from either university because as a Roman Catholic he could not swear the required oath of allegiance to the Protestant queen, Elizabeth.

There he turned to a comparative examination of Roman Catholic and Protestant theology and perhaps even toyed with religious skepticism. After his return to London in 1597, Donne became secretary to Sir Thomas Egertonlord keeper of the great sealin whose employ Donne remained for almost five years. The appointment itself makes it probable that Donne had become an Anglican by this time.

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For this offense Sir George had Donne briefly imprisoned and dismissed from his post with Egerton as well. Because of the marriage, moreover, all possibilities of a career in public service were dashed, and Donne found himself at age 30 with neither prospects for employment nor adequate funds with which to support his household.

  • His speakers range from lustful men so sated by their numerous affairs that they denounce love as a fiction and women as objects—food, birds of prey, mummies—to platonic lovers who celebrate both the magnificence of their ladies and their own miraculous abstention from consummating their love;
  • Donne, however, transformed the conceit into a vehicle for transmitting multiple, sometimes even contradictory, feelings and ideas;
  • Though no records of his attendance at Cambridge are extant, he may have gone on to study there as well and may have accompanied his uncle Jasper Heywood on a trip to Paris and Antwerp during this time;
  • Oh make thyself with holy mourning black, And red with blushing, as thou art with sin;
  • The verse letters and funeral poems celebrate those qualities of their subjects that stand against the general lapse toward chaos;
  • On the contrary, the Anniversaries offer a sure way out of spiritual dilemma:

All the while he repeatedly tried and failed to secure employment, and in the meantime his family was growing; Anne ultimately bore 12 children, 5 of whom died before they reached maturity. As early as 1607 friends had begun urging him to take holy orders in the Church of Englandbut he felt unworthy and continued to seek secular employment.

Upon their return from the European continent, the Drurys provided the Donnes with a house on the Drury estate in London, where they lived until 1621. By this time Donne himself had come to believe he had a religious vocation, and he finally agreed to take holy orders. He was ordained deacon and priest on Jan.

Two years after his ordination, in 1617, Anne Donne died at age 33 after giving birth to a stillborn child. Grief-stricken at having lost his emotional anchor, Donne vowed never to marry again, even though he was left with the task of raising his children in modest financial circumstances at the time.

Instead, his bereavement turned him fully to his vocation as an Anglican divine. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London In 1623 Donne fell seriously ill with either typhus or relapsing feverand during his sickness he reflected on the parallels between his physical and spiritual illnesses—reflections that culminated during his recovery in the prose Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, published in 1624.

Life and career

He returned to his sickbed and, according to Walton, had a drawing made of himself in his shroud, perhaps as an aid to meditating on his own dissolution. From this drawing Nicholas Stone constructed a marble effigy of Donne that survived the Great Fire of 1666 and still stands today in St.

Most of his poems were preserved in manuscript copies made by and passed among a relatively small but admiring coterie of poetry lovers.

  1. Eliot and William Butler Yeats , among others, discovered in his poetry the peculiar fusion of intellect and passion and the alert contemporariness which they aspired to in their own art. So complex or downright contradictory is our state that quite opposite possibilities must be allowed for within the scope of a single assertion, as in Satire 3.
  2. The Songs and Sonnets were evidently not conceived as a single body of love verses and do not appear so in early manuscript collections. This poem moves forward as a kind of dramatic argument in which the chance discovery of the flea itself becomes the means by which they work out the true end of their love.
  3. So complex or downright contradictory is our state that quite opposite possibilities must be allowed for within the scope of a single assertion, as in Satire 3.
  4. There he turned to a comparative examination of Roman Catholic and Protestant theology and perhaps even toyed with religious skepticism.

He composed the hymns late in his life, in the 1620s. Even his early satires and elegies, which derive from classical Latin models, contain versions of his experiments with genreform, and imagery. His poems contain few descriptive passages like those in Spenser, nor do his lines follow the smooth metrics and euphonious sounds of his predecessors.

Donne replaced their mellifluous lines with a speaking voice whose vocabulary and syntax reflect the emotional intensity of a confrontation and whose metrics and verbal music conform to the needs of a particular dramatic situation.

One consequence of this is a directness of language that electrifies his mature poetry. Holy Sonnet XI opens with an imaginative confrontation wherein Donne, not Jesus, suffers indignities on the cross: Donne, however, transformed the conceit into a vehicle for transmitting multiple, sometimes even contradictory, feelings and ideas. And, changing again the practice of earlier poets, he drew his imagery from such diverse fields as alchemy, astronomy, medicine, politics, global exploration, and philosophical disputation.

Donne, by contrast, speaks directly to the lady or some other listener. His speakers may fashion an imaginary figure to whom they utter their lyric outburst, or, conversely, they may lapse into reflection in the midst of an address to a listener.

Taken together, these features of his poetry provided an impetus for the works of such later poets as Robert BrowningWilliam Butler Yeatsand T.

  • His witty conceit seeks to catch the working of Providence itself, which shapes our human accidents in the pattern of timeless truth;
  • Two years after his ordination, in 1617, Anne Donne died at age 33 after giving birth to a stillborn child;
  • Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone, Let maps to others, worlds on worlds have shown, Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one;
  • His speakers range from lustful men so sated by their numerous affairs that they denounce love as a fiction and women as objects—food, birds of prey, mummies—to platonic lovers who celebrate both the magnificence of their ladies and their own miraculous abstention from consummating their love;
  • Grierson and the interest of T.

Donne also radically adapted some of the standard materials of love lyrics. His speakers range from lustful men so sated by their numerous affairs that they denounce love as a fiction and women as objects—food, birds of prey, mummies—to platonic lovers who celebrate both the magnificence of their ladies and their own miraculous abstention from consummating their love. Men whose love is unrequited feel victimized and seek revenge on their ladies, only to realize the ineffectuality of their retaliation.

None of them shows him spiritually at peace. These poems subsume their ostensible subject into a philosophical meditation on the decay of the world. Through this idealized feminine figure, Donne in The First Anniversarie: In The Second Anniversarie: Of the Progres of the Soule, Donne, partly through a eulogy on Elizabeth Drury, ultimately regains the wisdom that directs him toward eternal life.

The treatise so pleased James I that he had Oxford confer an honorary master of arts degree on Donne. In 1611 Donne completed his Essays in Divinity, the first of his theological works. Upon recovering from a life-threatening illness, Donne in 1623 wrote Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, the most enduring of his prose works.

One-hundred and fifty-six of them were published by his son in three great folio editions 1640, 1649, and 1661. Donne brilliantly analyzed Biblical texts and applied them to contemporary events, such as the outbreak of plague that devastated London in 1625.

The power of his sermons derives from their dramatic intensity, candid personal revelations, poetic rhythms, and striking conceits. Robert Browning credited Donne with providing the germ for his own dramatic monologues.

By the 20th century, mainly because of the pioneering work of the literary scholar H. Grierson and the interest of T. The impression in his poetry that thought and argument are arising immediately out of passionate feeling made Donne the master of both the mature Yeats and Eliot, who were reacting against the meditative lyricism of a Romantic tradition in decline.