John Donne Poetry: British Analysis
The traditional dichotomy between Jack Donne and Dr. Donne, despite John Donne’s own authority for it, is essentially false. In the seventeenth century context, the work of Donne constitutes a fundamental unity. Conventional wisdom may expect devotional poetry from a divine and feel a certain uneasiness when faced with love poetry, but such a view misses the point in two different ways. On one hand, Donne’s love poetry is philosophical in its nature and characterized by a texture of religious imagery; and on the other hand, his devotional poetry makes unexpected, bold use of erotic imagery. What Donne presents is two sides of a consistent vision of the world and of the mortality of man.
In the nineteenth century, when Donne’s poetry did occasionally attract some attention from the discerning, it was not for the lyrics but for the satires. The satirical mode seemed the most congenial use that Donne had found for his paradoxical style. This had also been the attitude of the eighteenth century, which, however, valued metrical euphony too highly to accept even the satires. In fact, Alexander Pope tried to rescue Donne for the eighteenth century by the curious expedient of “translating” his satires into verse, that is, by regularizing them. In addition to replacing Donne’s strong lines and surprising caesurae with regular meter, Pope, as Addison C. Bross has shown, puts ideas into climactic sequence, makes particulars follow generalizations, groups...
(The entire section is 5386 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of John Donne Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!