Imagery and symbolism in Elegie

Classical allusions

OrpheusThere is a certain irony about the imagery in An Elegie, in that Carew uses many classical allusions, the very thing he praises Donne for not doing! References to Orpheus, however slighting, and to Apollo, God of Poetry and the Arts, suppose a classical knowledge, as do literary allusions to Pindar and Anacreon, Greek poets; ‘the Delphique quire' and ‘Promethean breath'; and the Metamorphoses, a series of narrative poems by the Roman poet, Ovid.

Donne-like imagery

On the other hand, some of the imagery is quite Donne-like: ‘Committed holy Rapes upon our Will' (l.17) echoes Donne's Holy Sonnet Batter my heart. Other imagery is just forceful: ‘the jugling feat/Of two-edg'd words' (instead of ‘two-edged swords') and ‘The universall Monarchy of wit'. The image of Donne's language as ‘a line/Of masculine expression' was taken up in later critical discussion.

Investigating Elegie
  • Read the comments on Carew's ‘Donne-like images'
    • Can you find any other expressions or images that were inspired by Donne?
  • How did Donne ‘pay/ The debts of our penurious bankrupt age'?
  • Work out the extended metaphor of the ‘rifled fields' (ll.53-60)
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