The Poetry of John Donne: A Study in Explication

By Doniphan Louthan | Go to book overview

1
An Invocation to the Donne Canon

CHARLES LAMB ONCE referred to the meaning of Donne's poems as "uncomeatable . . . without a personal citation from the dead."1* The situation is perhaps not so desperate as all that. We cannot assemble each atom of Donne's mortal dust, to interview him on the meaning of his poems, but-until such is possible--we can (and sometimes must) audit each atom of evidence which has come down to us, in the effort to clarify his meaning, before going on (if need be) to determine values to which his conscious meaning is irrelevant Specifically, we must often study each atom in the structure of a poem, and each poem in the context of the canon. Sometimes we will need a prose citation from Donne the priest or Donne the person, but we will almost certainly have to disentangle Donne's poetry from his public or private life.

As a research project, this essay received the title "Studies in

____________________
*
This is the first and only footnote in this essay. Superior numbers refer to notes appearing in the section which begins on p.176, below. These notes are purely bibliographical (sources of quotations, places and dates of publication, etc.). I have due respect for documentation, but rebel against the idea of a reader's tripping over a footnote every ten words. One parenthetical passage, however, has proved too long for inclusion in the body of the easy, and hence appears as the Appendix.

-13-

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The Poetry of John Donne: A Study in Explication
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Foreword 7
  • Contents 9
  • 1 - An Invocation to the Donne Canon 13
  • 2 - Patterns of Parting 35
  • 3 - Off with That Girdle! 58
  • 4 - The Poet as Lawyer 81
  • 5 - In Sonnets Pretty Romes 105
  • 6 - Lightness Depresseth Us 139
  • Notes 176
  • Bibliography 183
  • Index 189
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