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____________________