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  • Ifwerevisitthegenreoflyricalpoetrywhereweleftitseveralweeksago,wemustrecallthatwetalkedaboutPetrarchanconventionsandhowtheywereembracedanddevelopedonEnglishsoilbyWyatt,Surrey,Sidney,SpenserandShakespeare.Toquicklyremembersomeoftheseconventions:thematically,amatorylyricsdealtmostlywiththepangsandsorrowsoflove,thepainofrejection,theincomparablebeautyoftheladyandherunwaveringcruelty;stylistically,thisisexpressedthroughaseriesofrecurringimages,suchaswarfareorhunting;antitheses,suchasfireandice;allusionstoVenusandCupid,CynthiaandApollo,DianaandActaeon;abstractions,suchasLoveandFortune,BeautyandDisdain;mythicalcreatures,suchasthePhoenixandtheBasilisk,etc.WehavepaidattentiontosomeoftheinnovationsofEnglishpoets:WyattsallegoricaladaptationofPetrarchssonnetUnacandidacerva tothehistoricalrealityatthecourtofHenryVIII;Surreysastutesenseofprosodyandrhythm;SidneyslearnedimageryandconceitsinAstrophelandStella;SpensersformalprecisionandformalexperimentationinAmoretti;ShakespearesrethinkingofthePlatonicmodeinhissonnetsaddressedtothefairyouth(Othou,mylovelyboy),andhisrevoltagainstconventionsinhissonnetsaddressedtothedarklady(Mymistresseyesarenothinglikethesun),aswellasinhislongerpoems.However,itisgenerallyacceptedbycriticsthatthepoetwhochallengedandtransformedthePetrarchantraditioninEnglandwasJonDonne.

    ThelabelwithwhichDonneisassociatedinthehistoryofEnglishliteratureismetaphysicalpoetryandheisregardedasthefirstofthemetaphysicalpoets:

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  • METAPHYSICALPOETS,thenamegiventoadiversegroupof17thcenturyEnglishpoetswhoseworkisnotableforitsingenioususeofintellectualandtheologicalconceptsinsurprisingconceits,strangeparadoxes,andfarfetchedimagery.TheleadingmetaphysicalpoetwasJohnDonne,whosecolloquial,argumentativeabruptnessofrhythmandtonedistinguisheshisstylefromtheconventionsofElizabethanlovelyrics.OtherpoetstowhomthelabelisappliedincludeAndrewMarvell,AbrahamCowley,JohnCleveland,andthepredominantlyreligiouspoetsGeorgeHerbert,HenryVaughan,andRichardCrashaw.Inthe20thcentury,T.S.Eliotandothersrevivedtheirreputation,stressingtheirqualityofwit,inthesenseofintellectualstrenuousnessandflexibilityratherthansmarthumour.Thetermmetaphysicalpoetryusuallyreferstotheworksofthesepoets,butitcansometimesdenoteanypoetrythatdiscussesmetaphysics,thatis,thephilosophyofknowledgeandexistence.(OxfordDictionaryofLiterary Terms)

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  • Portraitmotto:Illuminatenebras nostras domina :Lightenourdarkness,lady

    BBCdocumentary:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXHuVGKJNWc

    JohnDonnebelongstothesecondgenerationofElizabethanwriters:thegenerationofShakespeareandJonsonwhoreachedtheirmaturityinthe1590sandthefirstdecadeofthe17th century.So,fromastrictlytemporalpointofviewDonnesworkisbothElizabethanandJacobean.However,itisimportanttobearinmindthatalthoughtheywerewidelycirculatinginmanuscript(eventothepointofbecomingcollectiblewondrousrelics)veryfewofDonnespoemswerepublishedinhislifetime.Mostofthemwerepublishedposthumouslyintwosubsequenteditionsin1633and1635.

    JustlikethelivesofShakespeareandJonson,thatofDonneprovidesanamazingrecordoftheturbulenttimesinwhichhelivedandwhichshapedhisliterarytaste:

    1572 Donnewasborninthe1572inaLondonmiddleclassfamily.Hisfather,John,wasaprosperousironmonger(ironmerchant)andhismother,Elizabeth,wasdaughtertoplaywrightJohnHeywoodanddescendentofThomasMore theoutstandinghumanist,LordChancellorofEngland,whodiedrefusingtogiveuptheRomanCatholicfaith.DonnesfamilywerealsoRomanCatholicandtheywereincreasinglyfindingitdifficulttoaccommodatetheirreligiontothelessandless

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  • tolerantpolicyoftheElizabethanstate.

    1576 AlthoughDonnesfatherdiedin1576,themoneyhehadearnedboughtJohnandhisyoungerbrotherHenryexcellenteducation.Theyweretaughtathomebyprivatetutorsandattheageof11theywenttostudyatHeartHall,Oxford.LaterDonnemovedtoCambridge,butleftbothuniversitieswithouttakingadegreebecauseherefusedtotaketherequiredOathofAllegianceandOathofSupremacywhichmeanttorenounceCatholicism.HecontinuedhiseducationasalawstudentatThavies InnandLincolnsInninLondon.

    1593 In1593,whenanoutbreakoftheplaguewasravagingLondon,hisbrotherHenrywasarrestedonchargesofharbouring aCatholicpriest.HewasputinNewgate prisonanddiedinjail:

    Mostoftheinmates,however,foundthemselvespackedtogetherinchains,untriedandconvictedalike,regardlessoftheclassofcrimeforwhichtheyhadbeenarraigned.Grubbycandleshadtoburnallday,andnofreshairgotin.Inthegaolsbasement,swarmingwithverminandcreepingthings,prisonerslaylikeswineupontheground,oneuponanother. Thespreadofplaguewasunstoppableinsuchconditions.Aninfectedprisonerwouldfeelthesweatandache,thendiscoverthebubonicswellingsandulcerousblotchesontheneck,underhisarmsandinhisgroin;andknowitwasallover.Itwasamatterofdays.(JohnStubbs,JohnDonne: TheReformedSoul)

    Thisisprobablythetimewhen hewrotehisfivepoeticSatires.Satires1and2recordDonnesreactiontotheriseofcapitalismandthevanityofthetimes,whileSatires4and5hisresentmentofauthoritarianpracticesofthegovernment.Satire3isusuallyregardedasthemostinterestingofthefive.ItdealswiththeclashbetweenRomanCatholicismandProtestantismanddemonstratesDonnesthoughtfulcriticismofboth:

    Keepthetruthwhichthouhastfound;mendonotstandInsoillcase,thatGodhathwithhishandSign'd kings'blankcharterstokillwhomtheyhate;Noraretheyvicars,buthangmentofate.Foolandwretch,wiltthouletthysoulbetiedToman'slaws,bywhichsheshallnotbetriedAtthelastday?Oh,willitthenboottheeTosayaPhilip,oraGregory,AHarry,oraMartin,taughttheethis?IsnotthisexcuseformerecontrariesEquallystrong?Cannotbothsidessayso?(Satire3)

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  • 1596 AsDonnewasgrowingdisappointedwith thegovernmentandthereligiousoppositioninhisnativeEngland,andashisinheritancefromhisdeadfatherwasrunningout,newpotentiallylucrativeopportunitiesfortravellingabroadappearedonthehorizon.

    In1595SirWalterRalegh,thesoldier,poetandfavourite oftheQueen,hadledacolonialexpeditiontoSouthAmerica.HewasfascinatedbythevastspacesthatwerestilljustappearinginpartialoutlineintheEuropeanconsciousness.Raleghs accountoftheBewtiful EmpyreofGuianarevealedalandwithawhollynewspectrum,birdsofallcolours,somecarnation,somecrimson,orangetawny,purple,green...itwasuntousagreatgoodpassingofthetimetobeholdthem.Ithadanunspoiltlushness:Ralegh claimeditwasthemostbeautifulcountrythatevermineeyesbeheld...plainsoftwentymilesinlength,thegrassesshortandgreen,andindiverspartsgrovesoftreesbythemselves,asiftheyhadbeenbyalltheartandlabour intheworldsomadeofpurpose.Therewasoneothermassiveattraction:wealth.Thiswasacountryofgoldaswellasgreen.TheemperorofGuiana,itwasreported,possessedhollowstatuesofgoldwhichseemedgiants,andthefiguresinproportionandbignessofallthebeasts,birds,treesandherbs,thattheearthbringeth forth.(JohnStubbs,JohnDonne: TheReformedSoul)

    DonnefailedtoenlistwithRalegh,butin1596enlistedwithRobert Devereux,theEarlofEssex,wholeadapreemptivenavalattackonCadizagainsttheSpanish whowerebuildinganewarmadatolaunchagainstEngland.Thecampaignwassuccessfulandin1597Donneenlistedagain thistimewithRalegh andtheexpeditionwastargetingthetownofFerrolandtheAzores.

    AlthoughDonneneversailedtoAmerica,hisexperiencefromtheseexpeditionsfoundexpressioninhispoetry:

    Herswellinglips;towhichwhenwearecome,Weanchorthere,andthinkourselvesathome,Fortheyseemall:theresirenssongs,andthereWiseDelphicoraclesdofilltheear;Thereinacreekwherechosenpearlsdoswell,Theremora,hercleavingtonguedothdwell.These,andthegloriouspromontory,herchinOerpast;andthestraitHellespontbetweenTheSestosandAbydosofherbreasts,(Notoftwolovers,buttwolovesthenests)Succeedsaboundlesssea,butthatthineeyeSomeislandmolesmayscatteredtheredescry;

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  • AndsailingtowardsherIndia,inthatwayShallatherfairAtlanticnavelstay;Thoughthencethecurrentbethypilotmade,Yeterethoubewherethouwouldstbeembayed,Thoushaltuponanotherforestset,Wheresomedoshipwreck,andnofurtherget.Whenthouartthere,considerwhatthischaseMisspentbythybeginningattheface.(FromElegyXVIII:LovesProgress)

    Donnes lovepoetrypennedinthe1590ssupportstheimagecreatedforhimbyRichardBaker,oneofhisoldfriendsfromLincolnsInn:veryneat,notdissolute;agreatvisitorofladies,agreatfrequenterofplayes,agreatwriterofconceitedverses.Hereissomemore:

    Licence myrovinghands,andletthemgo,Before,behind,between,above,below.OmyAmerica!mynewfoundland,Mykingdom,safeliest whenwithonemanmannd,MyMineofpreciousstones,MyEmpirie,HowblestamIinthisdiscoveringthee!Toenterinthesebonds,istobefree;Thenwheremyhandisset,mysealshallbe.(FromElegyXIX:ToHisMistressGoingtoBed)

    1598 ThefactthatDonnehadjoinedthesideoftheEnglishProtestantsandfoughtagainstCatholicSpainhadcontributedtotheadvancementofhiscareer.OnofhiscomradesfromtheAzoresexpeditionwasSir ThomasEgerton aformerLincolnsInnman.Hisfather, SirThomasEgerton,theelder,was oneoftheQueensmostinfluentialcouncilors,theLordKeeperoftheGreatSeal thetoplawyer ofthekingdom.Itiswiththe latterthatDonnefoundemploymentin1598.Thejobwaslucrativeandplacedonanexcellentcareertrack.

    1601 Donne stayedwiththeEgertons atYorkHouseinLondonandthisiswherehemetSirThomasteenagenieceAnneMore,whowassenttheretolearnthewaysofthecapital:

    Iwonder,bymytroth,whatthouandIDid,tillweloved?Werewenotweanedtillthen?Butsuckedoncountrypleasures,childishly?OrsnortedweintheSevenSleepersden?Twas so;butthis,allpleasuresfanciesbe.IfeveranybeautyIdidsee,

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  • WhichIdesired,andgot,twasbutadreamofthee.

    Andnowgoodmorrowtoourwakingsouls,Whichwatchnotoneanotheroutoffear;Forlove,allloveofothersightscontrols,Andmakesonelittleroomaneverywhere.Letseadiscovererstonewworldshavegone,Letmapstoother,worldsonworldshaveshown,Letuspossessoneworld,eachhathone,andisone.(FromTheGoodMorrow)

    By1601shewashousedwithherdespoticfatherSirGeorgeMore,anambitioussquire,whowaslookingforanadvantageousmatchforher.Theyearwasfullofturbulence,EssexsRebellion,hissubsequentexecution,etc.,andtwoweeksbeforeChristmasJohnDonneandAnneMoremarriedsecretly.Astheanecdotethatemergedfromthisstoryhadit:

    DoctorDonneafterhewasmarriedtoaMaid,whosenamewasAnne,ina

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