Unsurpassed John Donne: ‘Thou hast made me, and shall thy work decay?’

John Donne is the greatest English love poet and unparallel metaphysical poet.

John Donne outpoured poetry about his life and circumstances, consciousness and inquisition. His earlier work used to circulate in manuscript within a small group of enthusiasts. Most of his work was published posthumously therefore not dated precisely.

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In the 1590s, at age 20 he wrote Satires and Songs and Sonnets about love lyrics, erotic verses, and sacred proses. In 1601, he secretly married Anne More and, on her death, he wrote the Holy Sonnets (Divine Meditations). In this, he achingly verbalizes personal anxiety and grief, where he also touched religious themes of sacred love, dictum, mortality, and subdued penance.

Some of his exceptional metaphysical poetries are The Rising Sun, The Flea, The Dream, The Ecstasy, and Death be not Proud, etc.

“Death Be Not Proud” is a witty argument that contains paradoxical elements like the ultimate death of death itself. Here death is personified as a cosmic force. At first, he argues with death later he tries to pull down and challenge it with logic. In the final dichotomy, John Donne defeats death by arguing that souls are immortal and death has no power over them.

              Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
              Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
              For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
              Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

His anticatholic prose “Pseudo-Martyr won him King’s approval and was appointed as Royal Chaplin. He was a great preacher and vicar known for religious symbolism and unfaltering sermons. During illness, he wrote, “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions” and “Hymn to God my God, in my Sickness” concerning his pain and health. Before death, he delivered his famous sermon “Death’s Duel” as he became obsessed with death in the end.

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“For God's sake hold your tongue, and let me love”                                                                                                                                              (The Canonization) 

   “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.”       
                                       (Devotions Upon Emergent Occassions)

Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
(The Rising sun)

                                    Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
                                    How little that which thou deniest me is;
                                    It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,
                                    And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
                                                                   (The Flea)                                                            

His ethereal metaphors, contrasting analogies, supercilious conceits, imagery, and witty argumentation allured distinct poets. In the Twentieth century, his works were revived by T.S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats. 

When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language.

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Written By: Anisha Singhania

Editor and Team Lead: Ashutosh Sharma

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About The Author(s)

Chemistry major with self-proclaimed good taste in Books and Music.

Anisha Singhania
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