John Donne as a metaphysical poet
John Donne was the most outstanding of the English Metaphysical Poets and a churchman famous for his spellbinding sermons. His poetry is noted for its ingenious fusion of wit and seriousness and represents a shift from classical models toward a more personal style. Donne's poetry embraces a wide range of secular and religious subjects. He wrote cynical verse about inconstancy (for example, Go and catch a falling star and I can love both fair and brown); poems about true love, such as The Good-Morrow and Sweetest love, I do not go/For weariness of thee; Neoplatonic lyrics on the mystical union of lovers' souls and bodies, such as Air and Angels and The Ecstasy; brilliant satires; hymns and holy sonnets depicting his own spiritual struggles, such as A Hymn to God the Father, Batter my heart, three-personed God, and I am a little world made cunningly, in which he begs God to purge him of sin. The two Anniversaries--An Anatomy of the World (1611) and Of the Progress of the Soul (1612)--are elegies for 15-year-old Elizabeth Drury, whose death epitomized for Donne the decay of the world, physically and morally, and whose entry into heaven heralded its potential regeneration.
The last decade of the sixteenth century presents also, in the poems of John Donne, a new and very strange style of verse. Donne, born in 1573, possessed one of the keenest and most powerful intellects of the time, but his early manhood was largely wasted in dissipation, though he studied theology and law and seems to have seen military service. It was during this period that he wrote his love poems. Then, while living with his wife and children in uncertain dependence on noble patrons, he turned to religious poetry. At last he entered the Church, became famous as one of the most eloquent preachers of the time, and through the favor of King James was rapidly promoted until he was made Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral. He died in 1631 after having furnished a...
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