Four Metaphysical Poets: Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw

By Joan Bennett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
RELIGIOUS POETRY: A POSTSCRIPT

Contemplative piety, or the intercourse between God and the human soul, cannot be poetical.

DR JOHNSON, Life of Waller

THE poets to whom Donne's influence was most congenial were religious poets. Conceits reminiscent of his and poems influenced by his conception of structure and rhythm are common in the love poetry of the day; but, when one examines them more closely, the likeness to Donne proves often to be superficial:


Excuse of Absence.

You will not ask, perhaps, wherefore I stay,
Loving so much, so long away --
O do not think 'twas I did part,
It was my body, not my heart;
For, like a compass, on your love
One foot is fix'd, and cannot move:
Th'other may follow the blind guide
Of giddy Fortune, but not slide
Beyond your service, nor dare renter
To wander far from you, the centre.

The very closeness with which Carew has imitated here makes it easy to point to the difference. Donnes figure of the compass, in A Valediction: forbidding mourning, is more profound than Carew's adaptation of it. Its neat aptitude may be the first thing that strikes a reader; but he is soon carried beyond mere pleasure in a pretty fancy:

Thy soule the fixt foot, makes no show.
To move, but cloth, if the 'other doe.

-109-

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Four Metaphysical Poets: Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION v
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii
  • Contents ix
  • Chapter I - Introductory 1
  • Chapter II - John Donne, 1573-1631 13
  • Chapter III - Donne's Technical Originality 30
  • Chapter IV - George Herbert, 1593-1633 49
  • Chapter V - Henry Vaughan, 1622-1695 71
  • Chapter VI - Richard Crashaw, 1613?-1649 90
  • Chapter VII - Religious Poetry: A Postscript 109
  • BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 121
  • Index 123
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