John Donne's Holy Sonnets by John Donne

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What are some of the typical elements of John Donne's "Holy Sonnets," including formal elements, moods, themes, imagery, and situations?

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Although each of John Donne’s “Holy Sonnets” is by definition a unique and distinctive poem, the “Holy Sonnets” as a group nevertheless often share common traits. Among these traits are the following:

FORMAL ELEMENTS:

  • All the poems are sonnets with the conventional 14 lines and with a division between the first eight lines (the octave) and the last six lines (the sestet). The octave rhymes in the manner associated with the Italian poet Petrarch: abbaabba. The sestet closes with a couplet. Lines 9-12 can vary in rhyme patterns. The sonnets' lines typically consist of ten syllables with a basic iambic pattern (in which the even syllables are emphasized), although Donne plays wonderful variations on this basic scheme.  Other formal elements frequently consist of puns, paradoxes, similes, metaphors, alliteration , assonance, etc. – in other words, the full arsenal of techniques that make for...

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