Synopsis of Elegie


Thomas Carew (pronounced ‘Carey') (1594-1640) is usually considered a Cavalier poet, being associated with the courtly wits of Ben Jonson. He was an educated man, having graduated at Oxford in 1608, Cambridge in 1612, then attending law school at the Middle Temple, much as John Donne had done. He then became a courtier, writing a certain amount of witty, polished, and sometimes slightly scandalous verse, which was collected and published at his death in 1640.


Carew's elegy is one of a number of elegies written on Donne's death, and first published as part of Donne's complete poems in 1633. It was quite common then to ask a number of people to write elegies on someone's death, and to collect them together as memorial verses. John Milton's pastoral elegy Lycidas, written in 1637, is an example. Occasionally, as with Carew's and Milton's, the elegies achieve some greatness of their own.

This poem, however, is truly Metaphysical: not only does he appreciate Donne's metaphysical wit, but he sees clearly what Donne has achieved for English poetry. He also uses many conceits in the Metaphysical style, and his expression is forceful and intelligent in the way that Donne's is. Few modern critics have disagreed with Carew's assessment of Donne. One indeed, J.B. Leishman, has entitled his book on Donne after one of Carew's phrases- The Monarch of Wit.

Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.