Themes in Elegie

Poet and priest

Carew's chief theme in An Elegie is thinking about Donne's vocation as poet and priest, though he mainly focuses on his role as a poet. This is interesting, in that in his own day, and certainly at his death, Donne was known much more as a preacher. It shows just how well known his poetry was, even though it had not been properly published, but just circulated in manuscript. Carew does not feel there is any gap between poetry and sermon, either; there is no sense of apology that somehow the poetry was not very ‘holy'.

Carew clearly never knew Donne personally, so does not try to claim some privileged insight. His praise is from a fellow poet and someone concerned with the state of literature in England. As far as he was concerned, the final flowering of Elizabethan poetry was over. We cannot blame him for his pessimism. Milton had not yet arrived on the scene, nor the second generation Metaphysical poets.

Investigating Elegie
  • Look at the themes in Elegie
    • Do you find English ‘a stubborn language' (l.50)?
  • Look at Donne's own elegies
  • Elegie XIX: Going to Bed and Elegie XVI: On his Mistris are both analysed on this website
    • In what ways does the very difference of Donne's elegies from those of Carew illustrate what Carew says?
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