The Poetry of John Donne: A Study in Explication

By Doniphan Louthan | Go to book overview
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4
The Poet as Lawyer

IN HIS REVIEW of Rugoff's book on the imagery of Donne, George Williamson questions Rugoff's assumptions regarding the legal imagery: ". . . Although Donne was interested in law, legal imagery is not very prominent in his work; hence he must have felt that legal imagery had been overworked. To this inference some readers might oppose the proposition that legal casuistry appears in the dialectical mode of his work."1 This chapter will be concerned, in a non-technical way, with three poems which utilize the dialectical mode. Of course, we have already encountered Donne's use of argumentation in verse. Here we will observe the operation of the mode in "The Flea," a lucid poem which is typical of Donne's dialectic, and in "The Extasie" and "Satyre II," problem-poems which are not particularly typical of the mode.

In all three poems the speaker is arguing a case; in poems of this type he may of may not resort to casuistry. If he does we may be called on to decide whether or not the listener is taken in. If the listener is a woman, seduction--or, at least, amorous persuasion--is likely to be involved. After a session with the technical language of Donne's love lyrics, we are amused to find "Satyre II" ridiculing the poet-lawyer's inept attempts at love

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