RELIGIOUS POETRY: A POSTSCRIPT
Contemplative piety, or the intercourse between God and the human soul, cannot be poetical.
DR JOHNSON, Life of Waller
THE poets to whom Donne's influence was most congenial were religious poets. Conceits reminiscent of his and poems influenced by his conception of structure and rhythm are common in the love poetry of the day; but, when one examines them more closely, the likeness to Donne proves often to be superficial:
Excuse of Absence.
You will not ask, perhaps, wherefore I stay,
Loving so much, so long away --
O do not think 'twas I did part,
It was my body, not my heart;
For, like a compass, on your love
One foot is fix'd, and cannot move:
Th'other may follow the blind guide
Of giddy Fortune, but not slide
Beyond your service, nor dare renter
To wander far from you, the centre.
The very closeness with which Carew has imitated here makes it easy to point to the difference. Donnes figure of the compass, in A Valediction: forbidding mourning, is more profound than Carew's adaptation of it. Its neat aptitude may be the first thing that strikes a reader; but he is soon carried beyond mere pleasure in a pretty fancy:
Thy soule the fixt foot, makes no show.
To move, but cloth, if the 'other doe.