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John Donne - Life, Works


John Donne


John Donne was born in London in 1572. He never took a degree because of his religion, in fact his father was a Roman Catholic which means that he had to hide from the England Church who was trying to impose Anglicanism to English people. Although he studied at Oxford and Cambridge and went to London to became law student he never took a degree because the oath of supremacy was required for graduates. He travelled around Europe and followed the count of Essex on his expeditions, and become secretary to an Elizabeth's official, Sir Egerton. He was undertaking the career of diplomatic when he wasted everything by marrying a Sir Egerton's relative without permission. He got near to Anglicanism and become an emine 545f57f nt preacher whose sermons were very appreciated then he became Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral. He had a bad time and fell in paucity, his wife left him with several sons to look after. The death of his wife represented a  nasty shock for him and this state will influence also in his poetry.


He started as a love poet with his "songs and sonnets" , at that time this topic was very fashionable so he had quite success, due also to his capability of painting the society of the time. The second part of his life is dedicated at the writing of sermons (about 160) and religious poetry, like the "Divine meditation". Donne is famous because he belongs to the Metaphysical school which means he used wit, conceit and imagery. Wit means making comparison between terms and object that seemed to be so far from each other. Another key word is conceit: it is a figure of speech that uses concrete images to convey abstract ideas and is one of Donne's most important features: he starts from the particular and then go to the abstract. Others features of his language are paradox, pun, simile and metaphor. His main themes are a new conception of love, that is a mixture of physical attraction, passion and spiritual feelings, and the duality between contrasts that has to be balanced through compromises.

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

Some says this poem was written for his wife, some doesn't agree with that but the thing is Donne has shown all his knowledge in these verses and all the passion and the love he has for the person it refers to. In fact we can briefly say that Donne finds two type of lovers: the ones who found their relationship only on physical attraction and the ones who are true lovers like him who prefer a spiritual love that lasts despite departures and separations. He writes a great metaphor to explain that the parting of two lovers is like a virtuous man dying: he's calm and peaceful because he knows he will go to heaven, he will meet God and so the lovers: they aren't desperate because they know that the person they love will be always there for them so the separation is not so full of tears as it happens for normal people. The important and complicated conceit is made through a comparison between the two lover and a compass: the meaning is that the circle is the completeness of their love, its continuity and the centre of it is the equilibrium that the woman gives to the man. But the compass can also symbolize the marriage ring. I think this is a beautiful conceit that many may not understand but if you look deeper you will find how smart was Donne to figure this comparison out, because apparently a compass and two lover haven't anything in common but he's able to find the secret meaning of this elementary instrument. This is the beauty of his poetry ,this search for something that has to be dig to be understood. And I think that in his verses we can really see and read the love he put in this work.

Sonnet X - Death be not proud

In this sonnet Donne has a dramatic tone that he has probably taken thanks to the several years as a preacher. He uses an irreverent and harsh way of speaking, typical of him, and he brings many arguments that are helpful to support his cause. He talks about death and how she is seen by people. People thinks death is a bad and horrible thing, but in reality for the poet it is not so because when you die you are eventually peaceful and anyway death will arrive sooner or later, there is no reason to be scared from her. For Christians there is another important reason not to fear death: she is the beginning of eternal life and also a reunion with God. So why everyone takes death for a cruelty that comes without any factors influencing her? Because if he give a good look to the thing, we must admit that she is only a means, as he says "slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men".


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