After the splendor of the Elizabethan dramatists, we return now to pure poetry. And the first of the poets I will examine in these last few essays is still much read and admired, despite not being always easy to understand.
John Donne is the best known of the Metaphysical poets, who used unusual images to illustrate powerful emotions. These included, most impressively, love and religious fervor. In Donne’s case it is the love poems that are most popular, but – being the Dean of St. Paul’s – he was also able to convey a strong sense of spirituality, when he put his mind to it.
The best known perhaps of his love poems is The Good Morrow, with its unusual Renaisssance imagery. The Age of Exploration is evoked by the mention of sea-discoverers, but this is subordinated to the main idea of the sufficiency of love, satisfied with its own one world. Again, in the 5th line of the third verse, Donne uses a concept from alchemy, a less than scientific version of chemistry, to affirm the importance of a love that is equal on either side. Continue reading