JOHN DONNE, 1573-1631
The greatest difference between the poet and the ordinary person is found, as has often been pointed out, in the range, delicacy, and freedom of the connections he is able to make between different elements of his experience.
I. A. RICHARDS, Principles of Literary Criticism
BY the time Donne began to write, the Petrarchan fashion had had its day. He was by no means the first to feel restive about it; Sir John Davies had written his Gulling Sonnets, others, and Shakespeare among them, had challenged and reversed the conventional pose of selfdepreciation and adulation of the mistress. There was, for the moment, little more to be said about love in those terms. But there was still much to be said about love. Donne experienced that 'human bondage' in most of its forms and he extended the range of lyrical expression to give tongue to what he suffered and enjoyed. The precise relation of his poetry to his biography is insoluble and not very important; what matters is that he knew enough to portray and analyse a wider range of emotion than any other English poet except Shakespeare. His Songs and Sonets and the Elegies may be dramatic or they may be subjective, more probably they are a mixture of the two, for experience and detachment are equally essential to a poet. Donne had enough experience to realize love's many moods, from the most brutally cynical to the most idealistic, and enough dramatic power to escape from the limits of anecdote into the expanses of poetry. That he scorned, hated, lusted after, loved, worshipped, there can be little doubt for anyone who has read his poetry; and his biography confirms it. To conjecture that particular