A reviewer of Geoffrey Keynes's Bibliography of Donne questioned whether Donne justifies Keynes's labour ('Donne', Saturday Review, 21 August 1915, pp. 178-9).
Is Donne sufficiently an immortal to have made [the bibliography] worth while?… Donne is not everybody's reading. Dryden pronounced him 'our greatest witt, though not our greatest poet', and Jacobean 'wit'-though the word must not be taken in its present narrow sense-had often too much preciosity for modern enjoyment, especially when fantastic conceit is conveyed in a gnarled and unmelodious medium. If one compares Donne with an epigrammatic poet of the nineteenth century, Coventry Patmore, the advantage is wholly with the latter in respect of a tender sweetness and charm of style, as well as elevation and gracefulness of thought, and though the older writer has more flame it is often a murky one, and not seldom a make-believe….
Rough lines like the following are a frequent jar:-
Thy beauty and all parts which are thee
Are unchangeable firmament;
The taper's beamy eye
Amorously twinkling beckons the giddy fly;
These rhymes too bad
To be counted children of poetry,
Except confirmed and bishoped by thee.
Donne rhymes 'danger', 'carpenter', and 'ambassador'. On the other hand, the modern reader has to allow for many archaisms of pronunciation….
Donne is fond also of archaic words….
Picturesque phrases abound in his verse…. And there are many alluring lines…. And especially in the 'Divine Poems' are found pregnant and happy expressions.