Four Metaphysical Poets: Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw

By Joan Bennett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
DONNE'S TECHNICAL ORIGINALITY

Sensibility alters from generation to generation, whether we will or no, expression is only altered by a man of genius. T. S. ELIOT

DONNE'S technique was in many ways a new thing in English poetry and his most important innovations, although they found imitators among his immediate successors, afterwards remained in abeyance for two centuries. The practice of Milton and his many imitators, of the eighteenth-century poets, or of the nineteenth century, with the exception of Gerard Manley Hopkins, show small trace of Donne's influence. Milton's Eve is

Like a wood nymph light
Oread or Dryad, or of Delia's train.

Burns sings of one of his lady-loves:

I see her in the dewy flowers
I see her sweet and fair:
I hear her in the tunefu' birds,
I hear her charm the air:

Shelley tells of

A Lady the wonder of her kind,
Whose form was upborne by a lovely mind
Which, dilating, had moulded her mien and motion
Like a sea-flower unfolded beneath the ocean.

However much they differ, these poets use what seems like the same language compared with Donne, who likens his mistress to a hemisphere or one arm of a pair of compasses, speaks of her hair as a viceroy and her tears as coins or maps.

-30-

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Four Metaphysical Poets: Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION v
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii
  • Contents ix
  • Chapter I - Introductory 1
  • Chapter II - John Donne, 1573-1631 13
  • Chapter III - Donne's Technical Originality 30
  • Chapter IV - George Herbert, 1593-1633 49
  • Chapter V - Henry Vaughan, 1622-1695 71
  • Chapter VI - Richard Crashaw, 1613?-1649 90
  • Chapter VII - Religious Poetry: A Postscript 109
  • BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 121
  • Index 123
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