John Donne (1572-1631) was the most outstanding of the English Metaphysial !oets
and a hu"hman famous fo" his spell#inding se"mons$
Donne was #o"n in %ondon to a p"ominent &oman 'atholi family #ut on(e"ted to
)nglianism du"ing the 15*+s$ )t the age of 11 he ente"ed the ,ni(e"sity of -.fo"d/
whe"e he studied fo" th"ee yea"s$ )o"ding to some aounts/ he spent the ne.t th"ee
yea"s at the ,ni(e"sity of 'am#"idge #ut too0 no deg"ee at eithe" uni(e"sity$ 1e #egan the
study of law at %inoln2s 3nn/ %ondon/ in 15*2/ and he seemed destined fo" a legal o"
diplomati a"ee"$ Donne was appointed p"i(ate se"eta"y to 4i" 5homas Ege"ton/ 6eepe"
of the 7"eat 4eal/ in 15*8$ 1is se"et ma""iage in 16+1 to Ege"ton2s niee/ )nne Mo"e/
"esulted in his dismissal f"om this position and in a #"ief imp"isonment$ Du"ing the ne.t
few yea"s Donne made a meage" li(ing as a lawye"$
Donne2s p"inipal lite"a"y aomplishments du"ing this pe"iod we"e Di(ine !oems (16+7)
and the p"ose wo"0 9iathanatos ($ 16+8/ posthumously pu#lished 16::)/ a half-se"ious
e.tenuation of suiides/ in whih he a"gued that suiide is not int"insially sinful$ Donne
#eame a p"iest of the )nglian 'hu"h in 1615 and was appointed "oyal haplain late"
that yea"$ 3n 1621 he was named dean of 4t$ !aul2s 'athed"al$ 1e attained eminene as a
p"eahe"/ deli(e"ing se"mons that a"e "ega"ded as the most #"illiant and elo;uent of his
Donne2s poet"y em#"aes a wide "ange of seula" and "eligious su#<ets$ 1e w"ote ynial
(e"se a#out inonstany/ poems a#out t"ue lo(e/ =eoplatoni ly"is on the mystial union
of lo(e"s2 souls and #odies and #"illiant sati"es and hymns depiting his own spi"itual
st"uggles$ 5he two >)nni(e"sa"ies> - >)n )natomy of the ?o"ld> (1611) and >-f the
!"og"ess of the 4oul> (1612)--a"e elegies fo" 15-yea"-old Eli@a#eth D"u"y$
?hate(e" the su#<et/ Donne2s poems "e(eal the same ha"ate"istis that typified the
wo"0 of the metaphysial poetsA da@@ling wo"dplay/ often e.pliitly se.ualB pa"ado.B
su#tle a"gumentationB su"p"ising ont"astsB int"iate psyhologial analysisB and st"i0ing
image"y seleted f"om nont"aditional a"eas suh as law/ physiology/ sholasti
philosophy/ and mathematis$
Donne2s p"ose/ almost e;ually metaphysial/ "an0s at least as high as his poet"y$ 5he
4e"mons/ some 16+ in all/ a"e espeially memo"a#le fo" thei" imaginati(e e.pliations of
#i#lial passages and fo" thei" intense e.plo"ations of the themes of di(ine lo(e and of the
deay and "esu""etion of the #ody$ De(otions upon Eme"gent -asions (162:) is a
powe"ful se"ies of meditations/ e.postulations/ and p"aye"s in whih Donne2s se"ious
si0ness at the time #eomes a mi"oosm whe"ein an #e o#se"(ed the stages of the
wo"ld2s spi"itual disease$
-#sessed with the idea of death/ Donne p"eahed what was alled his own fune"al
se"mon/ >Death2s Duel> <ust a few wee0s #efo"e he died in %ondon on Ma"h 31/ 1631$
4ome that ha(e deepe" digg2d lo(e2s mine than 3/
4ay/ whe"e his ent"i happiness doth lie$
3 ha(e lo(ed/ and got/ and told/
9ut should 3 lo(e/ get/ tell/ till 3 we"e old/
3 should not find that hidden myste"y$
- D 2tis impostu"e all B
)nd as no hemi yet th2 eli.i" got/
9ut glo"ifies his p"egnant pot/
3f #y the way to him #efall
4ome odo"ife"ous thing/ o" mediinal/
4o/ lo(e"s d"eam a "ih and long delight/
9ut get a winte"-seeming summe"2s night$
-u" ease/ ou" th"ift/ ou" honou"/ and ou" day/
4hall we fo" this (ain #u##le2s shadow payE
Ends lo(e in this/ that my man
'an #e as happy as 3 an/ if he an
Endu"e the sho"t so"n of a #"ideg"oom2s playE
5hat lo(ing w"eth that swea"s/
25is not the #odies ma""y/ #ut the minds/
?hih he in he" angeli finds/
?ould swea" as <ustly/ that he hea"s/
3n that day2s "ude hoa"se minst"elsy/ the sphe"es$
1ope not fo" mind in women B at thei" #est/
4weetness and wit they a"e/ #ut mummy/ possess2d$

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