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John Donne

John Donne

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Published by Bikash Sharma
how to understand Donne's poems it is necessary to think and connect.
how to understand Donne's poems it is necessary to think and connect.

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Published by: Bikash Sharma on May 03, 2012
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10/13/2014

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 JOHN DONNE; An introduction
 John Donne was born in London in 1572, the son of a rich ironmerchant, at a time when the merchants of England werecreating a new and higher kind of princes. On his fathers side hecame from an Old !elsh famil", and from his mothers side fromthe #e"woods and $homas mores famil". %oth families were&atholics. 'n those da"s &atholics were s(b)ected to se*erepersec(tion. +o m(ch so, that his ed(cation co(ld not becompleted at the Oford and &ambridge beca(se of his religion. &hronologicall", he li*ed thro(gh the Jacobean -ge i.e. thereign of James ', 1/01/253 and died in 1/1. $h(s he is aconnecting link between the Eli4abethan -ge 15501/03 andthe (ritan -ge 1/61//03. $he age of Donne comprising of thelast decade of the 1/
th
 cent(r" and earl" decades of the 17
th
cent(r" is therefore, an age of transition. %" this time the8enaissance imp(lse has eha(sted itself, the Eli4abethane(berance and optimism has been s(cceeded b" a mood of apprehension, disill(sionment and defeat. -ll these are e*identin his literar" works which we shall disc(ss later. -s alread" said the chief in9(ence on his childhood was(ndo(btedl" 8oman &atholicism, a religion which had beende*al(ed b" the atrocities of :ar" $(dors reign and ;s(ppressedand a<ictedsince Eli4abeths act of =niformit". #is maternalrelations incl(ded the famo(s and the persec(ted #e"wood and8astell families and, more distantl", the heromart"r +ir $homas:ore himself. Donnes earl" ed(cation was attended to b" apri*ate t(tor and was contin(ed for three "ears at Oford 15>615>73, followed b" a slightl" shorter spell at &ambridge. %(t d(eto the religio(s pre)(dices of those times, he was compelled todiscontin(e his co(rse. -s a res(lt, in 151, he )oined $ha*iesand then Lincolns 'nn, where he remained at least (ntil 156. 'twas at the 'nns he had an intense eistence, a st(dent not onl"of law b(t of theolog" his 8oman &atholic beliefs were beingprogressi*el" (ndermined b" (neas" c"nicism3, lang(ages,literat(re, drama, people, lo*e ? in short, of life@ and it wasd(ring this period also he Arst became known b" hiscontemporaries as ;a great writer of conceited *erses. $ho(ghthe term metaph"sics was coined later b" Dr"den in his
Discourse Concerning Satire
, in 1/ when he said BDonneaCects the metaph"sics3 and pop(lari4ed b" +am(el Johnsonfor he was the one to etend the term Bmetaph"sical fromDonne to a school of poets in 1773, it was also at the 'nn thatthe birth of a metaph"sical poet in John Donne took place. #istwo
satyres
, ma)orit" of Elegies, the
Epithalamion made at Lincoln’s Inne
 and an indeAnite n(mber of +ongs and +onnetswere written in this time.
 
 D(ring this time, he wrote poetr" and also shared his wealthwith need" &atholic relati*es. #e )oined the epedition of Essefor &adi4 in 15/ and for the -4ores in 157. $wo of his bestpoems,
The Storm
 
The Calm
, belong to this period. Fet hetra*eled in E(rope for three "ears, b(t occ(pied himself withst(d"  poetr". 8et(rning home, he became +ecretar" to LordEgerton, fell in lo*e with the latters "o(ng niece, -nne :ore,eloped with her and married her 1/013. Gor this Donne was castinto prison. 't is interesting to note that his work at this timewas not a song of "o(thf(l romance rather it was
The Progresseof the Soule
, a st(d" of transmigration. 'n the "ear 1/02, Donne got released from the prison and hismarriage with -nne :ore was ratiAed. 'nstead of en)o"ing hisnew fo(nd life, he grew more ascetic and intellect(al in histastes. #e ref(sed also the 9attering oCer of entering the &h(rchof England and of recei*ing a comfortable ;li*ing. %" his
Pseudo-Martyr 
 1/103 he attracted the fa*or of James ', who pers(adedhim to be ordained, "et left him witho(t an" place oremplo"ment. !hen his wife died 1/173, her allowance ceasedand Donne was left with se*en children in etreme po*ert". $henhe became a preacher, rose rapidl" b" sheer intellect(al forceand geni(s, in fo(r "ears 1/213, he was the greatest of English preachers and Dean of +t. a(ls &athedral in London.B$here he carried some to hea*en in hol" r(pt(res and led othersto amend their li*es,  as he leans o*er the p(lpit with intenseearnestness is likened b" '44ak !alton to Ban angel leaning froma clo(d. #e died on 1
st
 :arch 1/1. $he reason for this biographical emphasis at the o(tset as anecessar" backgro(nd is, ;tho(gh art li*es be"ond the compassof time, "et it is a b"prod(ct of its time. $he )(stiAcation ma"not go well with the critics who belie*e ;it is necessar" todi*orce art completel" from its contet. 'f not done, some wo(ldcall it an
 
intentional fallacy
. $o elaborate, !imsatt and%eardsl" in their essa" 'ntentional Gallac" 16/3 sa" that ;thebiographical acco(ntHintentions of the a(thor is neither a*ailablenor desirable as a standard of )(dging a poem for the p(blishedpoem itself is the intention of the poet. +ome wo(ld term it asan
Aective Fallacy
 i.e. it is a fallac"Herror to )(dge a poem b"the ps"chological responses it incites in its readers. !hat isdesirable is, instead of describing the eCects of a work, foc(ssho(ld be on the feat(res, de*ices, and form of the work b"which s(ch eCects are achie*ed. 
Critics’ Views 
E*en &leanth %rooks, in his preface to
The Well Wrought rn
sa"s that ;there is something to be said for concentrating on the
 
poem itself as a constr(ct, with its own organi4ation and its ownlogic, b(t he also sa"s thatI B$o stress the poet is, of co(rse, a perfectl" *alidproced(re and it is interesting and ma" be (sef(l to consider hisideas, his historical conditioning, his theories of composition,and the backgro(nd, general and personal, which (nderlies hiswork. 'nfact most of the critics agree that Donne criticism is balkednot so m(ch b" a disregard of a biographical information as b" alack of it. #elen ardner in her anal"sis of
 !ire and !ngels
, in
The "usiness of Criticism
 concl(desI B!ith a great poem, its centre, its (nit" of moral tone or feeling, sho(ld be selfe*ident. %(t there arepoems, where there is an (ncertaint" of the central conceptionwhich no amo(nt of arg(ment can settle with Analit". 'f we readthe poem one wa", the point seems cheap one@ if we read it theother, it does not seem s(Kcientl" important to warrant itsposition as the poems Anal statement. $his is a kind of occasionon which biographical information co(ld be of help. #ere ' cr"o(t for some dates. 'f ' co(ld date this poem and date Donnesother l"rics, ' might be able to s(pport one or the other readingb" reference to the poems which Donne was writing abo(t thesame time. Or if ' knew how old he was when he wrote it andwhether he wrote it to an" partic(lar person, ' might (se thisinformation to arg(e that this or that reading is the more likel"in the circ(mstances in which the poem is written. +impl" p(t, ardner too agrees that to (nderstand the poetr"of John Donne, it is necessar" to think i.e. to ha*e a s(b)ecti*e*iew3 and to connect, not onl" to his own times b(t to o(r timeand li*es as well ob)ecti*e *iew3. Fow we shall proceed towards *alidating the aforementionedstatement that ? it is necessar" to think and connect if a readerreall" wants to (nderstand Donnes poetr", with specialemphasis on three of his poems ?
Song# $oe and Catche a %allingStar& Ecstasy& and Death 'e not Proud(
 
Son; !oe and Catc"e a Fallin Star
 't seems fr(itless, at least to me, to interpret the poem
Song
 iwe are (nable to think and connect. !hat #elen ardner sa"s inthe contet of
 !ire and !ngels
 holds good e*en for this literar"piece. 't is tr(e that if we read it one wa", the point seemsordinar" one, b(t if we read it the other wa" b" thinking andconnecting3 we are eposed to a *ast gam(t of knowledge alongwith aesthetic pleas(re.

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