English Literature » John Donne

John Donne

Biography

John Donne is known as the founder of the Metaphysical Poets, a term created by Samuel Johnson, an eighteenth-century English essayist, poet, and philosopher. The loosely associated group also includes George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Andrew Marvell, and John Cleveland. The Metaphysical Poets are known for their ability to startle the reader and coax new perspective through paradoxical images, subtle argument, inventive syntax, and imagery from art, philosophy, and religion using an extended metaphor known as a conceit. Donne reached beyond the rational and hierarchical structures of the 17th century with his exacting and ingenious conceits, advancing the exploratory spirit of his time.

Donne’s poetry embraces a wide range of secular and religious subjects. He wrote cynical verse about inconstancy, poems about true love, Neoplatonic lyrics on the mystical union of lovers’ souls and bodies and brilliant satires and hymns depicting his own spiritual struggles. The two “Anniversaries” – “An Anatomy of the World” (1611) and “Of the Progress of the Soul” (1612)–are elegies for 15-year-old Elizabeth Drury.

Whatever the subject, Donne’s poems reveal the same characteristics that typified the work of the metaphysical poets: dazzling wordplay, often explicitly sexual; paradox; subtle argumentation; surprising contrasts; intricate psychological analysis; and striking imagery selected from nontraditional areas such as law, physiology, scholastic philosophy, and mathematics.

Poems by John Donne

  1. A Burnt Ship
  2. A Hymn to God the Father
  3. A Lame Begger
  4. A Lecture upon the Shadow
  5. A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day
  6. A Valediction of the Book
  7. A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
  8. A Valediction: of Weeping
  9. Air and Angels
  10. An Anatomy of the World
  11. Batter My Heart
  12. Break of Day
  13. Elegy IX: The Autumnal
  14. Elegy V: His Picture
  15. Elegy VII: Nature’s lay idiot, I taught thee to love
  16. Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward
  17. Holy Sonnets: At the round earth’s imagin’d corners, blow
  18. Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud
  19. Holy Sonnets: I am a little world made cunningly
  20. Holy Sonnets: If poisonous minerals, and if that tree
  21. Holy Sonnets: Show me dear Christ, thy spouse so bright and clear
  22. Holy Sonnets: Since she whom I lov’d hath paid her last debt
  23. Holy Sonnets: This is my play’s last scene
  24. Holy Sonnets: Thou hast made me, and shall thy work decay?
  25. Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness
  26. Love’s Alchemy
  27. Love’s Deity
  28. Love’s Growth
  29. Lovers’ Infiniteness
  30. Of the Progress of the Soul: The Second Anniversary
  31. Satire III
  32. Song: Go and catch a falling star
  33. Song: Sweetest love, I do not go
  34. The Anniversary
  35. The Apparition
  36. The Calm
  37. The Canonization
  38. The Dream
  39. The Ecstasy
  40. The Expiration
  41. The Flea
  42. The Funeral
  43. The Good-Morrow
  44. The Indifferent
  45. The Relic
  46. The Sun Rising
  47. The Triple Fool
  48. To His Mistress Going to Bed
  49. Twicknam Garden
  50. Woman’s Constancy