John Donne (1573-1621)

 “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.”  (The Good Morrow)

The last decade of the sixteenth century represents the poems of John Donne, possessed one of the keenest most powerful and intellectual person of the time. His early manhood was largely wasted in dissolute way of life. He studied theology and law from Oxford and Cambridge and joined in military service. It was during this period that he wrote his love poems. Then while living with his wife and children he moved into religious poet. He entered the Church became famous as one of the most eloquent preachers. King James I promoted Donne as the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1621.

The general characteristic of Donne’s poetry is the remarkable combination of forceful intellectuality with the lyric form and spirit. Whether true poetry or mere intellectual cleverness is the predominant element may be questioned. To many readers Donne’s verse gives a unique attraction. Its certain peculiarities are outstanding.

1. By a process of extreme large and minute elaboration Donne carries the Elizabethan concepts, what Dr. Samuel Johnson described as “enormous and disgusting hyperboles”.

2. He draws the material of his figures of speech from highly unpoetical sources, especially from the science and school-knowledge of the time. The material is abstract, but Donne gives it full poetic concept. Thus he speaks of one spirit overtaking another at death as one bullet shot out of a gun may overtake another which has lost its velocity earlier. It was because of these last two characteristics that Dr. Johnson applied to Donne and his followers the clumsy name of ‘Metaphysical’ poets. ‘Fantastic’ would have been a better word.

3. Donne generally followed faint and rhythmical ideas of his own for nearly in every poem.

4. In his love poems, while his sentiment is often ‘Petrarchan’. He also emphasizes the English note of independence, describing on the fickleness of woman.

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Perhaps the best of his works is An Anatomy of the World (1611) an elegy. Others are Epithalamium (1613), Progress of the Soul (1601) and Divine Poems. Collections of his poems appeared in 1633 and 1649. He exercised a strong influence on literature for over half a century after his death.

Andrew Marvell (1621–1678)

“But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.”

Educated in Cambridge and thereafter travelled in various continental countries. He sat into the parliament and known as a powerful and fearless political writer. After the restoration he wrote against the government. He was also the author of Historical Essay Regarding General Councils. His controversial poetic style was lively and vigorous. His fame rests on his poems which though few, have many of the highest poetical qualities. Among the best known are The Emigrants in the Bermudas, The Nymph complaining for the Death of her Fawn, Thoughts in a Garden, and Horatian Ode on Cromwell’s Return from Ireland.

He saved his friend Milton (The author of ‘Paradise Lost’) from royal wrath of execution. Because of Milton was a republican. Marvell also wrote some lines in praise of ‘Paradise Lost’ which published in the second edition of the book. T.S. Eliot praises Marvell for his poetry.

George Herbert (1593 – 1633)

“Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning

If I lacked anything.” (Love – III)

Herbert wrote ‘the Temple’ and ‘Virtue’. He belonged to the metaphysical school and was mainly preoccupied with the religious themes.

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About VIKRAM ROY

Hi, I am Vikram, a friend of you! I would like to take this opportunity of personally welcoming you to my blog! You can read my book “The Alchemist A Mystery In Three Acts” Available now on Amazon.com : http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005IDUD4C Always love, Vikram Roy

22 responses »

  1. “The Flea” is my favorite Donne poem!

  2. renjiveda says:

    there are innumerable things around me which make me fascinating and and some times
    quite doubtful. One among that is this “Metaphysical Poetry “. Why ? Poetry itself is metaphysical. That which is not metaphysical is never poetical…..!

  3. thomag1 says:

    In writing our ‘Declaration of Independence,’ Thomas Jefferson ‘borrowed’ certain phrases and thoughts from John Donne, many believe, which goes to show the influence of John Donne in his day and his intellectual insights influence on the new ‘america.’ Not as many may be acquainted with his poetry. This is a great post, Vikram, and thanks for this suggested reading.

  4. procerin says:

    I am a ’96 Oxford graduate on Medieval English. I see you have a great summarized article on Metaphysical English poets. Hope to read and learn more from you. Keep it up! 🙂

  5. I like the metaphysical poets for their willingness to grapple with the newly emerging scientific ideas and express them in poetry. The idea that there’s a cognitive division between arts/humanities and science is still with us today and still wreaking havoc. C. P. Snow wrote about in Two Cultures. They have different methods, but one mind is capable of both. Look at Jonathan Miller for an example.

  6. Mark Thomas says:

    Great post, Vikram. Donne’s poems are wonderful though I have always found a certain sadness within them. They are still wonderful to read though.

  7. granbee says:

    Vikram, you are most wonderful to bring to us this consise and information post on John Donne and Andrew Marvell. Many often forget that John Donne was the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and that Marvell (I always think of Marvel Comics!) wrote such high-flying poems as “Horatian Ode on Cromwell’s Return from Ireland.” We appreciate your good scholarship here today.

  8. so enjoyed reading your post…excellent…

  9. Doraz says:

    Wow…just wow. 🙂

  10. HI! I nominated you for a Sunshine Award. Hope you can check out the list of things to do on my post and enjoy the award. You inspire us all.

  11. Noel Williams says:

    Very interesting, or perhaps I should say, very intriguing. A cup of tea anyone? You are awesome my friend.

    Thanks for sharing. God bless.

  12. willowdot21 says:

    Thank you Vikram for awakening my long lost interest in John Donne and Andrew Marvell, a very well written post! excellent. x

  13. db johnston says:

    “No man is an island entire of itself…” and the Blogosphere helps connect us.

    Thanks for the post.

  14. Judy says:

    Excellent post! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Great Post Vikram, I shall make sure I visit the South Coast Gallery, seeing as I live in NZ!

  16. alphatalk says:

    I’m a fan of George Herbert, especially his poem “Affliction” … there’s something about poetic accounts of people struggling with their faith that tickles my fancy

  17. SEO Serivces says:

    Metaphysics is a part of organic chemistry and philosophy. Biological love is all about sex but to me, Donne’s poetry is all about artistic-love. Great!

  18. I know it may sound strange, but I was introduced to Donne by “accident” while watching the movie Wit with Emma Thompson. Just like the movie, which most of the people I know never heard of and they resist watching it, so Donne’s poems have become a treasure just for myself. Though Donne is hard to read, decipher and understand, and keeping in mind English is not my first language, but yet I use it all the time in conversations with myself, my writings and other things. Back to Donne, I don’t believe there ever was any writer so good at intertwining the fear towards life, death, salvation and God all into one, and I truly believe some of his rhetorical questions in his poems show a certain disdain towards God and his so called “wrath” towards mere human beings. Thank you for checking out my blog, and for posting this article about Donne. Lucianus

  19. Paul Andrew Russell says:

    To His Coy Mistress & The Sunne Rising are two of my favourite poems. Great post!

  20. xyzauto says:

    Very good post. So glad i found you!

  21. Having been ‘forced’ to write poetry and study the poets at school, I fell in love with the Metaphysical Poets. Like opera, you either love them entirely or you hate them!

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