by Pierre Legouis
That Donne possessed dramatic power has generally been acknowledged.1 Indeed, one of the generation that came to manhood in the last decade of the sixteenth century might be credited with some measure of the instinct at work in Shakespeare and so many lesser playwrights, even before he had given evidence of it. In his fervid youth Donne was "a great Frequenter of Plays," 2 though the theaters probably found in him____________________
"The Dramatic Element in Donne's Poetry." From Donne the Craftsman, by Pierre Legouis ( Paris, 1928). Reprinted by permission of the author. [The pages reprinted (pp. 47-61 and 71-9) form the third section of Professor Legouis' defence of Donne as an artist. They omit his interpretation of "The Ecstasy" as a dramatic poem. This has, given rise to so much controversy that to reprint it would have necessitated printing rebuttals. For a summary of the debate, see my article "The Argument about 'The Ecstasy,'" Elizabethan and Jacobean Studies, edited by Herbert Davis and Helen Gardner ( Oxford, 1959). Professor Legouis approves this omission and has also kindly supplied me with some corrections and minor alterations of the text for this reprint. Ed.]
in bed fright thy Nurse
With midnight startings, crying out, oh oh,
Nurse, ô my love is slaine, I saw him goe
O'r the white Alps alone; I saw him I,
Assail'd, fight, taken, stabb'd, bleed, fall and die.
The passage is very beautiful and moving but it is not strictly dramatic since the lover merely conjures up a vision of the future as in "The Apparition" (see infra).
If then for change of howers you seem careles,
Agree with me to lose them at the playes.