The Poetry of John Donne: A Study in Explication

By Doniphan Louthan | Go to book overview
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3
Off With That Girdle!

THIS CHAPTER is concerned with the matter of sensuous imagery in Donne. The poems to be analyzed here are "Elegie XVIII," "Elegie XIX," and the Valentine epithalamium--possibly Donne's nearest approach to Spenser in the field of sensuous imagery. It so happens that all three poems are concerned, in situation, with physical love. For that reason the title of this chapter may not be inappropriate. Someone may object that Girdle here has for the reader a modern, not a 17 c., sense. Quite true, but the context of the phrase in "Elegie XIX" leads us to believe that the phrase-meaning (if not the word-meaning) had the same force for Donne's contemporaries that it now has for us.

In his book on Donne's imagery, Rugoff notes the relative scarcity of images drawn directly from the senses, and concludes that too much attention has been paid to the language of the senses in Donne. Has Rugoff been betrayed by statistics? Or is Eliot's famous dictum (". . . a direct sensuous apprehension of thought. . . .") the product of a snap judgment?--In his review of Rugoff's book, George Williamson has an interesting comment on this matter: "When we are told that the number of images which issue from the direct experience of the senses

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