John Donne and the Seventeenth-Century Metaphysical Poets

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

LOUIS MARTZ
Henry Vaughan

MODES OF COMMUNION

In the year 1649 Richard Crashaw died in exile at Loreto, a little more than six months after his master King Charles died on the scaffold at Whitehall.An era had ended for English political and religious institutions, and also for English religious poetry. With Crashaw's death the power of liturgical and eucharistic symbols died away in English poetry of the seventeenth century: the symbols earlier celebrated by Southwell, Alabaster, Donne, and Herbert.These poets had their doctrinal differences, and I do not wish to minimize those differences; but they had something more in common: a devotion to the mysteries of the Passion and to a liturgy that served to celebrate those mysteries. All five of these poets entered into holy orders; all five would have agreed with George Herbert's vision of "The Agonie":

Who knows not love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquour sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I as wine.

In 1650 Andrew Marvell wrote his famous "Horatian Ode" in honor of the man who

Could by industrious Valour climbe
To ruine the great Work of Time,

____________________
From The Paradise Within: Studies in Vaughan, Traherne, and Milton. © 1964 by
Yale University. Yale University Press, 1964.

-139-

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