Laura Lojo Rodríguez
UNIVERSIDADE DE SANTIAGO
John Donne (1572-1631) “ committed” a mistake that neither his contemporaries nor later critics would forgive him: being born in the age of the greatest master of English Literature, William Shakespeare. Donne himself was aware of the oddity of the situation, as well as of the totally new kind of poetry he was creating, utterly different from what had been previously made by, namely, Sidney and Spenser. His conception of poetry also differed a great deal from that of his contemporaries: he supposed that his poetry would be understood only by those friends for whom he wrote, and even in 1614, when he was thinking of publishing his poems, this was to be not for a public view, but a few copies at his own cost. Donne himself was, therefore, aware of the difficulty that his poetry conveyed; however, far from choosing a tendency towards simplification, he would continue to create poetry for an elite of educated people trained in the same tradition as his. Any twentieth-century reader who is, for the first time, confronted with Donne’s poetry, has to be aware of the limitations to be undergone if not acquainted with the main issues of discussion in classical Rhetoric and Dialectics, Ramistic Logic, the Aristotelian distinction between body and soul, Renaissance Magic, Astrology and Alchemy, and, of course, those current issues related to Elizabethan Philosophy. Donne proves to his contemporaries to be ahead of his time: he considered his verse a suitable vehicle, in the same way Latin had been before, to use those devices borrowed from the classical tradition, those taken from the trobadour poetry and those which converged in the use of imagery drawn out from the new-born science. All this kind of poetry was, in 1600, an unexpected challenge for the English language. To begin with, it would be accurate to say that John Donne did not conceive a work of poetry outside the... [continues]
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