John Donne delivered, like all of the other great poets of the renaissance era, an invaluable contribution to English literature. However, it is the uniqueness of this contribution that sets him apart from the rest. This statement seems somewhat ironic when one analyses the context of his life and the nature of his writing, for Donne is clearly the rebel in English poetry. He is the one poet that deliberately turned his back to the customs and trends of the time to deliver something so different to the reader that he will be remembered forever as a radical and unconventional genius. This is most probably the way that he would have liked to be remembered.
John Donne lived in an era when the lyric was at its pinnacle. Poets were writing well-rounded, almost musical poetry on subjects that ranged from all kinds of love to enchantment with nature. Donne could not help but revolt against this excess of fluency and melody. John Donne's style stands in such sharp contrast to the accepted Elizabethan lyrical style that it becomes difficult to accept the fact that his works date from the same era. To highlight this statement, one has to compare a typical Elizabethan lyric to one of Donne's works.
In Damelus' Song to His Diaphenia, by Henry Constable, the typical characteristics of the Elizabethan lyric are abundant. The poem is written in iambic pentameter with a solid, almost musical rhythm throughout the poem. The musical quality is reinforced by the prominent AABCCB rhyme scheme in each of the three equal length stanzas. The language is adapted especially for the poem to accommodate the unyielding rhythm and rhyme scheme. All of these mentioned characteristics speak of a set of concrete rules and guidelines that the poet had followed when he was writing this lyric. The tone that is set is one of joy and delight in love and life another characteristic of Elizabethan lyrics. The anonymous speaker is experiencing a buoyant... [continues]
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