Metaphysical poets, selected poems Contents
- Donne, John
- John Donne's early life
- John Donne - from Catholic to Protestant
- John Donne's marriage and its aftermath
- John Donne - The Reverend Dean
- Herbert, George
- Crashaw, Richard
- Vaughan, Henry
- Marvell, Andrew
- King, Henry
- Lovelace, Richard
- Cowley, Abraham
- Philips, Katherine
- Cleveland, John
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- Literary context: ideas and innovations
- Aire and Angels
- A Hymn to God the Father
- A Hymn to God, my God, in my Sicknesse
- A Nocturnall upon St. Lucies day
- At the Round Earth's Imagin'd Corners
- A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Synopsis of Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Commentary on Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Language and tone in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Structure and versification in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Imagery and symbolism in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- Themes in Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
- A Valediction: of Weeping
- Batter my heart
- Death be not Proud
- Elegie XIX: Going to Bed
- Elegie XVI: On his Mistris
- Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward
- Lovers' Infiniteness
- Oh my blacke Soule!
- Satyre III: 'On Religion'
- Show me Deare Christ
- Since She Whom I Lov'd
- Song: Goe, and catche a falling starre
- The Anniversarie
- The Dreame
- The Extasie
- The Flea
- The Good-morrow
- The Sunne Rising
- This is my playes last scene
- Twicknam Garden
- What if this present
- Affliction I
- Easter Wings
- Jordan I
- Jordan II
- Love II
- Prayer I
- The Church-floore
- The Collar
- Hymn in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
- Hymn to St Teresa
- St Mary Magdalene, or the Weeper
- To the Countesse of Denbigh
- Ascension - Hymn
- The Night
- The Retreate
- The Water-fall
- A Dialogue between Soul and Body
- On a Drop of Dew
- The Coronet
- The Definition of Love
- The Garden
- The Mower Against Gardens
- The Mower to the Glo-Worms
- The Mower's Song
- The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Faun
- The Picture of Little T.C. in a Prospect of Flowers
- To his Coy Mistress
- Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax
Commentary on Elegie
The elegy falls into three sections:
- Donne the preacher (ll.1-24)
- Donne the poet: his achievement in English poetry (ll.25-59)
- What will happen now to English poetry (ll.60-94)
plus a four-line epitaph at the end.
Donne the preacher
Donne will be memorialised by some preacher at his funeral in a half-baked prose sermon – Carew is not complimentary at any point to Donne's fellow poets or preachers. Donne was not just the best, he was the only one who knew what he was doing. No doubt sermons will continue to be preached (‘The Pulpit may her plaine/And sober Christian precepts still retaine'), but the fire of Donne's rhetoric and his ability to convey deep truths will be lost.
Donne the poet
If this is true of preaching, it is even more true of verse. Donne took the English poetic tradition by the scruff of its neck, as it were, and threw out all the old classical conventions to produce a new form of expression. He lists eight achievements:
- He stopped the playing around with expressions and emotions that were poor imitations of classical models (ll.25-33)
- He stopped using grammatical constructions and word play based on Greek and Latin (ll.33-36)
- He opened up the true originality of the English language (ll.37-38)
- He brought new strength and vitality to English poetry (ll.38-39)
- He broke with a run-down poetic tradition (ll.40-44)
- He has made his name pre-eminent (ll.45-48)
- His wit has made English poetry do new things in its expression of difficult concepts (ll.49-53)
- He has managed to say more in the exhausted condition of English poetry than all the previous poets who had a new language at their disposal (ll.49-60).
What happens next?
‘But thou art gone' is a traditional opening to the final section of an elegy. What will happen now to English poetry? Basically, it is back to the bad old days of imitation and lack of originality. Especially he fears poets will go back to classical models and topics, though Donne's momentum may continue for a little longer.
Carew finishes by saying he cannot possibly express all his sense of loss. The final epitaph is a noble sentiment: Donne was a king, both of poetry and of preaching.
- Read through Carew's Elegie
- Can you think of other achievements of Donne that Carew omitted?
- What indication is there of Carew's sincerity?
- What are successful marks of a poem written at someone's death, do you think?
- Has Carew fulfilled them?
- Was Carew right to be so pessimistic about the future?
- Or is it just a natural feeling which occurs when someone you admire has died?
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