and the Metaphysicals
madams (at) wcu.edu, Instructor
Course Syllabus, Fall 1997
Donne and the Metaphysicals Links
return to top
Authors we will read
John Donne: love poems, divine poems, &
Assignments for this course
Final (both objective/ essay) 20%
Research Paper 20%
Research Presentation 10%
Term Paper 25%
Misc Small Writings 15%
Possible research topics:
Jacobean and Caroline Politics
Baroque Art, Architecture, or Music
Gender, literary misogyny, and sexuality
cosmology and science
Readings for Week 1
Friedrich, Carl. "Baroque in Life and Letters."
(We will read the following poems first, doing
as many as we can each session)
"The Sun Rising" (62)
"The Canonization" (62)
"The Flea" (65)
"Valediction: of Weeping" (65)
"The Apparition" (67)
"The Funeral" (68)
"The Blossom" (69)
"Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" (67)
"Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy's Day" (66)
All Elegies (70-72)
return to top
A critical approach to a single author, e.g.:
- a feminist reading of Donne, Herbert, or Vaughan, or one of the metaphysicals.
- a new historical reading of any author, such as Herrick, Jonson,
- a look at the issues of patronage, hetero- and homoerotic imagery
in one poet
- an exploration of paradox in one writer's work
- a reading of one writer's work in terms of contemporary politics
(their contemporary, not ours)
- an examination of meditation techniques in one metaphysical poet
- issues of social class in one poet
- An investigation of science images (e.g. cosmology, navigation, medical)
in one poet
- An investigation of the political use of masque
- An investigation of one aspect of philosophy or religion in one poet
A comparison of two interesting figures, e.g.
- two metaphysical poets with different backgrounds, such as Herbert
- two metaphysical poets with different attitudes toward the body (e.g.
Donne and Crashaw)
- a comparison of an English metaphysical poet with an American (e.g.
Taylor or Bradstreet, or Michael Wigglesworth)
- a comparison of a male poet with a female (see Kissing the Rod--examples
are Aphra Behn and Rachel Speght)
- A comparison of a 17th century religious poet with a 20th century
poet, such as T.S. Eliot, Anne Sexton, or Timothy Liu (a Chinese gay mormon
poet, just for an extreme)
- A comparison of one poet and one visual or musical artist (presupposes
you have some grounding in art history or musical appreciation)
Some More Interesting Books (feminist and political); see also attached
Taylor, Edward W., 1931-
Donne's Idea of a woman : structure and meaning in Anniversaries /
Edward W. Taylor. (Feminist theory)
Klawitter, George, 1942-The enigmatic narrator : the voicing of same-sex
love in the poetry of John Donne / 1994. (Patronage/ queer theory)
Barbara Everett: Poets in their time : essays on English poetry
from Donne to
Stimpson, Catharine R. (foreword). Rewriting the Renaissance: Discourse
of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986.
Goldberg, JonathanJames I and the Politics of Literature: Jonson, Shakespeare,
Donne, and Their 1983.
Goldberg, Jonathan "The Politics of Renaissance Literature: A Review
Essay." ELH (ELH), Baltimore, MD. Article in: vol. 49 no. 2, 1982 Summer.
return to top
||Donne love poems
||Donne sacred poems
||9/1 Labor Day
RESEARCH PAPER DUE
||10/9 last day to drop with a W
||Cavaliers--Suckling & Carew
||Marvell, Women Writers
||Women writers & Americans
||11/26-30 Thanksgiving Holiday
||Review; SEMINAR PAPER DUE
return to top
Hill, Christopher. The Century of Revolution,
1603-1714. Edinburgh: T. Nelson, 1962.
DA375.H5 (extra copy in library)
Beer, Patricia. An introduction to the Metaphysical
Poets. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1972.
Women and the English Renaissance. By Woodbridge,
PR429.W64 W66 1984
Greer, Germaine, et al., eds. Kissing the Rod:
An Anthology of 17th Century Women's Verse. NY: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux
Rivers, Isabel. Classical and Christian
ideas in English Renaissance poetry : a student's guide. London ;
New York : Routledge, 1994.
PR535.R4 R58 1994
Protestant poetics and the seventeenth-century
religious lyric / Barbara Kiefer Lewalski. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton
University Press, c1979.
John Donne, coterie poet / Arthur F. Marotti.
Madison, Wis. : University of Wisconsin Press, 1986.
Summers, Joseph H. George Herbert, his religion
and art. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1954.
PR3508 .S8 1954a
The heirs of Donne and Jonson [by] Joseph H.
Summers. New York, Oxford University Press, 1970.
Henry Vaughan : the unfolding vision / Jonathan
F.S. Post. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1982.
PR3744 .P67 1982
Warren, Austin. Richard Crashaw: a study in
baroque sensibility. Ann Arbor [Mich.] University of Michigan Press [1957,
Religion and the decline of magic / Keith Thomas.
New York : Scribner, c1971.
BR377 .T48 1971b
Harris, Victor. All coherence gone; a study
of the seventeenth controversy over disorder and decay in the universe.
London, Cass, 1966.
BT875 .H32 1966
Patronage in the Renaissance / edited by Guy
Fitch Lytle and Stephen Orgel. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press,
CB361 .P27 1981
The godly man in Stuart England : Anglicans,
Puritans, and the two Tables, 1620-1670 / J. Sears McGee. New Haven : Yale
University Press, 1976.
Poets and Cavalier Poets
return to top
John Donne, Ben Jonson
- Both rebeled against "pictorial fluidity,
decorative rhetorical patterns, and half-medieval idealism"
- Highly experimental forms as opposed to
conventional (sonnet) forms
Style of the Metaphysicals:
- Metaphysical Conceit: Relate "symbolic
philosophy" where world symbolizes underlying truths. Herbert uses emblems
from emblem books. Man as Microcosm very important to Donne. "Sensuous
beauty in the face of things was to be apprehended and then turned to sudden
symbolic meaning which obliterated its sensuality"
- conceit typically plays off commonplaces:
Donne's method is to take the terms of a convention as actual, and then
use his wits. Love's Martyrdom--takes amorous martyrdom in light of actual
religious martyrdom of 1590's; Kenner calls this "secondhand bits of machinery
employed by a decadent poeticizing"; in particular, left over from Italian
sonnet tradition (WS as typical user of conventional imagery)
- Donne used classical realism but no allusions.
Irony and cynicism.
- ornament lies in elaborating the figure
more formally than in prose discourse, typically individual measuring place
in cosmos, and measuring their reality by his experience.
- use of classical witty paradox transforms
typical Christian paradox.
- paradox "epigrammatically brief" and thus
- expressive but not beautiful or smooth words/rhythms--often
- reversed feet, harsh alliteration, arbitrary
- Marvell and Herbert combines "masculine"
or intellectual qualities of Jonson (smooth, succinct language) with Donne
- Metaphysicals are "baroque": finite spaces
give way to deeply recessed perspectives.
- variety of subject matter and even personae:
two are written in the voice of a woman, one of them arguing wittily for
absolute female promiscuity ("Good is not good, unless/ A thousand it possess")
and forms of address: advice, satire, celebration, imagines future canonization
of self as saint of new Love religion, laments death of loved one, he images
his own burial, he makes his will"; explores both scholastic and Neoplatonic
metaphysics, yet no sense of the appropriate. Tenderness and justice are
Style of Jonson and Cavalier poets
- celebration of England using personifications,
myths, and legends
Cavalier Poet Tradition:
- Jonson turned from medieval and romantic
to adapt CLASSICAL FORMS: he chose forms which would serve to define and
celebrate social ideals, praise of blame good or bad people, to criticize
- forms were epigram, conversation or epistle,
ode (moral statement)
- terse, severe, and tender lines
- normal if formal speech
- myth is used for natural or moral allegory,
never for ornament
- whole poem turns on it. Prose language more
- Jonson thinks personal love poems are embarrassing
and amateurish. Devotional poems are bores
Sir John Suckling
Issues for the Renaissance
return to top
Rise of the city-state in Italy
Solidification of aristocratic system; system
1. Courtly ideal of the middle class artist
Rise of merchant class and middle class mobility.
2. Elizabeth as central of court patronage
3. Platonic love metaphor for courtier/patron
Renewed contact with eastern empire (under
moslem control) and rediscovery of classical texts
Humanism--new emphasis on the SECULAR (vs.
the sacred) seen in literature and art.
Protestant Reformation and religious conflict
Professionalization of the Theater.
Politics: A Mirror for Magistrates. New interest
in the role of kingship.
Nationalism/ Capitalism/ Individualism/ Originality
Sonnet. Calendar. Lyric. Verse drama (closet
Political tracts and literary criticism (Sidney).
Pastoral, urban, tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy,
The Temple 1633
return to top
(sent poems to friend Nicholas Ferrar "to be
either published or burnt" (died not knowing which--lifelong conflict of
pride in fame vs. self-abnegation; so last act is a compelling expression
of incompatibility; poems are always both a record of a true struggle and
a testament to pride. Gave up the decision)
"Donne's most original disciple"--Kenner
- distinguished Welsh family; mother a friend
- married Jane Danvers 1629, took order in
- known as "holy Mr. Herbert"--3 year stint,
died of consumption
- The Temple published posthumously.
- works w. religious imagery and xian typology
- Donne=poet of religious doubt, strain, anxiety;
Herbert=poet of religious faith, of submission, of acceptance (outdated?)
- poet of "inner weather"--Aldous Huxley
- Herbert works out conflicts in poems
- claims of God and the great world (had a
distinguished court career first, "too great" a pride in great wealthy
welsh family; liked clothes, court-like company; very loyal, even obsequious,
to the king (Walton's biography)
Joseph Summers on Herbert
- poems about struggle "to make the will of
a proud and passionate Herbert bend gladly"
- impression of being overheard rather than
read (seems unaware of audience)
- last illness magnified sense of unfitness
and futility; sense of God's distance
- skilled musician
- gives us a picture of order, strength, and
beauty of best of 17th c. Anglicanism
- quiet endings "So I did sit and eat"
- friend of Donne and Bacon, but no imagery
of science. "Highest truth must be plainly dressed"
- also avoided Jonsonian "surface classicism"
(esp. of pastoral)
tried to be a courtier; as Latin Orator wrote
ornamental poems to individuals: King James, Bishop Andrews, Prince Henry,
Prince Charles, Queen Anne, Bacon, yet English poems do not mention surviving
English poetry addressed, sometimes indirectly
but usually directly to God
The Temple had big impact on Laudians, Puritans,
royalists and parliamentarians --first book for which each poem had a title
selected by author. Also it is structured as a kind of narrative--unique.
"Rash of volumes" after 1633 containing only devotional poems (as opposed
to mixed--Donne)--as influential as 1590's Astrophil and Stella sequence
3 sections: The Church-porch, The Church, and
the Church militant, "long and rather strange 'prophetic' poem about the
westward movt. of both the Church and Sin. We should read great lyrics
of central section--The Church--in terms of churchporch--long didactic
poem 462 lines.
Opening stanza conceives of a reader "who is a
worldly young man of the contemporary ruling class. He assumes his intelligence,
his pleasure in verse and wit, and his more-or-less-enlightened self-interest."--so
incentive will be in worldly terms.
Thou, whose sweet youth and early hopes enhance/
Thy rate and price, and mark thee for a treasure;/ hearken
unto a Verser, who may chance/ Rhyme thee to go, and make a
bait of pleasure.
begins with Lust, "least important of deadly sins"--will
proceed through other flesh sins--to sloth and avarice, which affect society,
to spiritual sins, anger, envy, and pride.
Emphasizes both Aristotelian and Xian virtues
which oppose sins; ends with love of neighbors and love of God. This is
an ascent, after which youth arrives at Church.
Stupidity of evil" "It is most just to throw that
[third drink] on the ground, / Which would throw me there, if I keep the
round." Self defense. "If God's image move thee not, let thine."
Strives to be engaging and entertaining: Gentry
like sheep are "gone to grass, and in the pasture lost."
Jonsonian: identifies good morals with good manners:
"COURTESY is the desire to
make things easy for others and to please them--and
surely that is congruent with charity: "Conversation and argument should
be polite, not angry or hoggish.
You should sacrifice all for a friend, but not
if you are married: "married man...has no right to sacrifice primary obligations
to sentimental allegiances not to be generous with what does not belong
"sharpness of judgment, examination of popular
assumptions, deflation of high-flown sentiments"
Eclectic: widsom="take all that is given" (love,
wealth, language)--you can use it
POETRY AS PUBLIC PRAYER; Jonsonian--"public has
more promises, more love"
Plainness: When once thy foot enters the church,
BE BARE..../Kneeling ne'er spoiled silk stockings: quit thy state."
Church-porch is pre-xian: Church is xian. first
is a "ceremonial cleansing" --no profane or evil readers allowed. "Avoid,
Profaneness, come not hear:? Nothing but holy, pure, and clear,/ Or that
which groaneth to be so,/ May at his peril further go"--Milton's fit though
The church: subject is love of God, not activities
of Man--The Altar "built of the poet's broken heart" is emblem of volume.
First person: reader to identify or overhear voice.
a PICTURE OF SPIRITUAL CONFLICTS--pictorial
Forms: hymns, complaints, cries, laments, examinations,
quarrels, rejoicings, promises.
Winding of "The Star" ("Winding is their fashion/
Of Adoration") extends to echo poem "Heaven", hidden acrostic "Our life
is hid with Christ in God", poems based on puns on initials, syllables,
words, a "pruning" poem--Paradise, "A Wreath" (Marvells' coronet), a circular
poem ("Sin's Round"), different kinds of "broken forms ("Denial" and "Grief")
inner transformation of external form, dissolution
of form in Church monuments, pattern poems.
Except for sonnets, Herbert rarely repeated a
form--29 different stanzaic patterns
"herbert devoted his 'utmost art' to the making
of his poems--yet problem in Jordan about writing for the self. Predicament
about personal fame. Donne's regrets.
In some ways best combines Donne and Jonson (personal
AND rhetorical) but doesn't really reflect either in style. Donne in conceits,
relation to God; Jonson in public sense of religion. Judgement.
Great monosyllabic lines: "I struck the board
and cried, 'No more" etc.
return to top
- doctrine of mystic correspondence (analogical
relations between the world of creatures and the world of spirits; Welsh
- felt a strong tie or kinship w. creatures
- published 2 books, Silex Scintellans or
the Fiery Flint (1650)
- Olor Iscanus or The Swan of Usk 1651--titles
refer to Welsh ancestry
- Herbert big influence; echoes of The Temple
- Vaughan's twin brother, an alchemical philospher,
also big influence
- imagery of light (God, Election, Heaven,
life, happiness) and darkness (Devil, damnation, death, misery); Sandbank
essay "HV's apology for Darkness"
- Vaughan only meets himself in solitude,
not in dialogue w. a Mistress or Master. His self-awareness is a self-expression
in reverie and sympathy
- like Crashaw, he goes out of himself; unlike
Crashaw, he returns
- similes, intensify emotions rather than
defining or clarifying
- self-examination (Browne) conducted through
allegory, not aimed at self-discovery but a kind of contemplation?
- like Xian mystics, yearns to recapture something
- pervasive water-symbolism suggests longing
- 1650 Silex Scintillans "disowned his secular
muse" (lots or tragedies, public war, and death of brother, contributed
to a "conversion")
Joseph Summers on Vaughan
- inheritor of Herbert: combines "Herbertian
religious poet [of conflict] and the timeless...Neoplatonist" (mysticism)
- strength and centrality of his intuitions
of the invisible
Provincial--Welsh culture; early poems of first
2 books 1646 are labored and pretentious, Olor Iscanus 1647--Swan of Usk
Silex Scintillans (2 parts 1650, 1655) are big
departure. Religious poetry, not courtly--137 poems within 7 yr. period.
Then no more for 27 years. 1678 more bad secular poems, a few others.
Vaughan has a story about a Welsh shepherd's bardic
seizure: Awen is welsh for Raptus or poetic fervor. Sleep "in which
he dreamt, that he saw a beautiful young man with a garland of green leafs
upon his head, and a hawk upon his fist-...[hawk got into his mouth and
inward parts, and he woke up scared] but possessed with such a vein, or
gift of poetry, that he left his sheep and went about the country...the
most famous bard in all the country"
Title of Silex Scintillans (Flashing, or Sparking,
Flint) from Jesuit John Nieremberg: Certain Divine Rays break out of the
Soul in adversity, like sparks of fire out of the afflicted flint"--AFFLICTION
MAKES FLINT SPARK--death of wife, brother, illness of himself--Also adds
that G. Herbert's "holy life and verse" diverted the foul stream.
No other poet so influenced by Herbert--certainly
poems less ordered, more shapeless than herbert;
also writes like D. Thomas--a lot of description of nature (pastoral?)
none in Donne, Herbert, or Jonson
couldn't display "systems" of thought (Herbert's
book)--lack of court polish="oddly unrhymed lines, lines so twisted to
achieve their rhymes, such imperfect rhymes, awkward shifts" nor such flights
as in "The World"--says first stanza is the best. Miltonic.
themes of innocence and nautre, light (darkness)
and greeness, heavenly and human and even vegetative glory (in Welsh same
word for White, fair, and blessed)
"The Retreat"=WW's Immortality Ode
Likes to use "shoots" like Thomas--light=vegetative
Loosely associative structure unlike logical Donne
structure or near articulated Herbert Jonson structures. "Often framed
by a meditation--or a vision--and a prayer, the central section represents
various movements of a mind"--we have to intuitively leap.
"They are all gone into the world of Light"--3
stanzas that describe vision; 1 apostrophe to hope and humility; 1 apostrophe
to Death; 1 exemplum of birds nest and negative argument; analogy of star
in tomb and application; concludes w. 2 stanza prayer. Yeats' Among School
return to top
- two realities: Love and Strife. For him,
unlike Donne and Herbert, Love prevails.
Symbolism--See Austin Warren's Richard Crashaw:
A Study in Baroque Sensibility.
- turns from classical to Jesuit epigram tradition--New
Testament religious themes
- "Over-ripeness is all"--Douglas Bush
- mystical tradition of erotic imagery
- communal Christian symbols
- mellifluously musical, lavishly imagistic
- ascetic life, devoting senses to the service
- Magdalene "changed her object, not her passion"--Augustine
- uninhibited and uncensored
- little or no classical imagery (like Herbert)--deliberate
surrendering of erudition
- paradoxes (Incarnation--father becomes son
of Mary who is her father)
Imagination operates like love--synthesizing power:
- no "homely" fireside images (unlike Herbert)
- financial metaphors
- breakfast (but of angels, not men)
- conventional flora (lily, rose, balsam)
and fauna (bee, eagle, dove, lamb, phoenix)
- Colors: red or purple=pasion, fire
black=sin, mortality, mourning
white=purity, synthesis of all colors
No green (nature) or blue (truth, Virgin)
- Senses -- less sight than sound, especially
taste and feeling
- "sweet" and "delicious" mingle fragrance
and taste--symbolic of heightened,
transcended divine senses; liquids can be
drunk (milk, blood, water (tears), and wine;
-touch, similarly (sexual passion, pain,
heat, chill--supremities of touch are "experienced in the mystical wound
of love in martyrdom and nuptial union)
". . . his aesthetic method may be interpreted
as a genuine equivalent of his belief, as its translation into a rhetoric
of metamorphosis. If, in the Gospels, water changes to win and wine to
blood, Crashaw was but imaginatively extending this principle when her
turned tears into pearls, pearls into lilies, lilies in pure Innocents.
Style must incarnate spirit." Crashaw engages senses to "intimate a world
that transcends them"--Austin Warren
- sensory is transcended, not rejected.
- Poetry frequently unites opposites: fire
and water, milk and blood=untion of passion and purity, pain and pleasure
- Frequent phantasmagorical blending of disparate
return to top
- Izaak Walton called him "a poet of note and
a great libertine in life and talke"
- Clarendon called him "a person of pleasant
and facetious wit"
- disciple of Jonson
- did not collect or edit his poems (as Jonson,
- intelligence, poise, and strength--"taugtly
imagined celebrations of pleasurable transience"
- first to combine toughness of metaphysical
verse w. polish and elegant lightness of Jonson; Marvell will do this after
- no high spiritual seriousness--Puritans
despised this kind of wit
- clever, amusing, very, very, very obscene
- probably ablest of CAVALIER poets
- narrow range, courtly reserve [unlike Herrick's
excess] and metaphysical strain
Joseph Summers on Carew
- 2/3 of poems deal with love: essentially
a "classical amorist"
- most extravagant conceits; restrained poems
are best (Jonsonian discipline)
1. friend John Hales refused him the
sacrament when he died of syphilis at age 45.
2. like many "cavalier" poets took no
active art in civil war.
3. In Suckling's "session of poets"
Carew has no sprezzatura:
Tom Carew was next, but he had a fault
4. Did care about poetry
That would not well stand with a Laureate;
His Muse was hard bound, and th'issue
Was seldom brought forth but with trouble
All that were present there did agree
A Laureate Muse should be easy and
Also wrote a dialog between himself (suckling)
and Tom Carew--who "find the placed inspired" but Suckling is "not
born, sir, to the bay".
5. Elegy on Donne uses Donnian language
(his flame "shot such heat and light,/ As burnt our earth, and made our
darkness bright,/ Committed holy Rapes upon our Will" and enjambs like
Donne, run-on couplets, rough "masculinity"
a. Praises Donne for exiling gods
and goddesses, but doesn't banish from his own work.
6. Carew's reply to Jonson's Ode to
Himself ("just indignation" about audience)
7. Clearer understand of BJ and JD than
anyone, but also departs--imagery
8. Says Carew had no "major fire"--refused
elegy on Death of King of Sweden in 1632 because while Germans may "bellow
for freedom and revenge, the noise/ Concerns nor us, nor should divert
our joys"--because we have peace in England and Halcyon days--right before
English Civil war!--Summers says tempted fate.
9. Considers switching to religious
verse, to "strive to gain from thence one thorn,/ than all the flourishing
wreaths by laureates worn"
10. wrote most elaborate masque in history:
Spaccio de la Bestia Trionfante: Charles I's courtiers become new
constellations--height of courtly masque. Comus the following year--a transformed
Contains "neo-Spenserian rejection of Hedone,
or Pleasure" contains admission that the poet knows nothing else:
"Tho thy self art Pain,/ Greedy, intense Desire,
and the keen edge/ Of thy fierce appetite, oft strangles thee,/ And cuts
thy slender thread; but still the terror/ And apprehension of thy hasty
end,/ Mingles with gall thy most refined sweets;/ yet thy Circean charms
transform the world."
"An Elegy upon the Death of Dean of Pauls's:
Dr. John Donne"
- earliest critical vocabulary--masculine;
strong lines : "Thou has redeemed...drawn a line/ Of masculine expression"
- "to the awe of thy imperious wit/ Our stubborn
language bends, made only fit/ With her tough thick-ribbed hoops to gird
about/ Thy giant fancy, which had proved too stout/ For their soft melting
- No surface classicism: Now Donne's dead,
"they will repeal the goodly exiled train/ Of gods and goddesses...now
with these/ The silenc'd tales o'th' Metamorphoses/ Shall stuff their lines
and swell the windy page"
- Donne is 2 priests:
"To Ben Jonson" (see BJ's "To Himself")
Here lies a king, that ruled as he
- Donne would be Carew's link to libertine tradition
The universal monarchy of wit;
Here lie two flamens [priests], and
both those the best:
Apollos' first [the poet], at last
the true god's priest.
- All about sex; moral is that all fabled
chaste lovers will have sex in Elysium
"There my enfranchised hand on every side/
Shall o'er thy naked polished ivory slide...but the rich mine to the enquiring
eye/ Exposed, shall ready still for mintage lie,/ And we will coin young
Cupids." (idea that matter is feminine, form is masculine).
- "Then will I visit with a wandering kiss/
the vale of lilies and the bower of bliss, / And where the beauteous region
both divide/ Into two milky ways, my lips shall slide/ Down those smooth
- "Yet my tall pine shall in the Cyprian strait/
Ride safe at anchor and unlade her freight;/ My rudder with thy bold hand
like a tried/ And skill ful pilot thou shalt steer, and guide/ My bark
into love's channel"
return to top
First collection published 1681 (by "widow"
- poems are "playful miniatures"--graceful,
- witty, casual tone--light metrical feel?--exact
diction, rhymes ring
- Marvell was assistant to Jon Milton, Latin
Secretary to the Commonwealth 1657
- few poems published in his lifetime; known
for his satires
- died of overdose of opiates--malpractice
- irony, not the paralyzing kind, is essential
to his poems (Summers)
- wrote "An Horation Ode upon Cromwell's Return
- was "vouchsafed the wit, the poise, and
the generosity of imagination to inventory and summarize, memorably, in
amber language, each of its modes."
- finest flower of secular and serious metaphysical
- blends "classical and metaphysical, continental
and English, epicurean and Puritan, civilized and simple" mingle without
fusion (except in his style)
- hard and dry (not damp--romantic)
- nature's cruelty
- aware he is " a man in the world of men"
- uses conceits but "remote from Donne is
theme and feeling and music"
- "Definition of Love": "poem is made up of
philosophic and verbal paradoxes, or realistic, cosmic, and geometrical
images. On the other hand, its thoroughly metaphysical thought and feeling
are welded with a classical clarity, rightness, and inevitability of evolution"
- "To His Coy Mistress" (paragraph 1) hyperbole
becomes rational--emotion interpenetrated with levity" (p. 2) change of
tone: serious theme of time and death developed with"soaring directness"
(p. 3) "wit takes over to weave its antitheses of macabre irony"
- exact contemporary of Vaughan
Joseph Summers on Marvel
- "On a Drop of Dew" : structure: soul like
dew rises up; resolves on comparison of soul with "heaven-sent" dew (or
manna): resolution depends on accepting first analogy. "Applies the dew
drop to the Xian soul as, in geometry, one triangle can be 'applied' to
another and found by a process of reasoning to be exactly congruent with
- Soul as Artist of Body: "Dialog between
the Soul and Body": uneasy partner, body has last word and "the fullest
statement of that predicament of the body. the soul's capacity to hope,
to fear, to love, to hate, to know, to remember, are the causes of sin....What
the soul does is to transform man's nature and Marvell suggests a parallel
with the artificer who transforms nature into art, for instance the gardener's
- Appleton House: Fairfax refused to fight
Scotland; a general. Garden a topiary arranged in the shape of "forts with
5 bastions" Marvell's poem discusses this in stanza 41 to 45. Garden opposed
to war: Marvell's politics important but uncertain.
- emphasizes Marvell less austere than Donne--courtliness
(T.C. in a prospect of Flowers) and use of color, esp. green and gold
Close to centers of power--observed them clearly
Always able to imitate Donne; quoted his whole
life, but never, except in verse satires, does he approach JD's harshness
of sound; Jonsonian elegance of tone
Eclectic: use of many influences. Coronet owes
a lot to GH's "A Wreath." "On a Drop of Dew" very close to Vaughan's "A
Wrote early versions of best English poems in
a poetic "magpie"
Range of forms: meditations, complaints, persuasions,
praises, satires, description of landscapes, definition, epitaph, heroic
ode, dialogues or debates, a framed monologue, songs with or without frames
(Bermudas), and "Upon Appleton House" which is disguised as Penshurst-like
complimentary poem--framed by guided tour) but includes all major themes--even
touches of masque and heroic.(?)
Ethical assoc. w. love, religion, or politics,
or a weird combination of two of those.
Popular poems mark a transition from one to another.
Romantics (Lamb, Emerson, Poe) loved Marvell first
in Donne tradition of amateur coterie poet: though
self-conscious and experimental aestheticism, didn't seem to intend to
publish his poems--last of this kind (Even Dickinson submitted a couple)
1660 is a break: before those he wrote the "good"
poems; afterwards, the public poems
(Eliot calls this a "dissociation of sensibility"--Summers
Defends these poems
Jonsonian strain cultivated by those who might
become suspicious of "roughness, strength, passionate and individual"
qualities--esp. after 20 years of political chaos. Jonson = discipline;
"measured and balanced tone appropriate to rational and compromising public
Marvell rejects the impassioned speaker and irregular
meter. Generally "metaphysical" poets were either Anglo or Roman Catholic;
Marvell hostile to both. Generally they were partisans of Charles; Marvell
served Cromwell, though we know he did well also in Restoration.
We suspect late poems because rhetorical, and
therefore without "ironic embracement of contradictory impulses"--but he
saw himself after 1659 as primarily a public person. Ironic admissions
would be weakness, not honesty.
Public poems most interesting if we read them
as destroying popular assumptions in order to plant his own.
Integrity: never praised Charles I nor denigrated
him. Never slandered Cromwell after the restoration. Ode to Cromwell was
just and balanced.
Good prefatory poem on PL as bird in flight:
and above humane flight dost soar aloft,/
With plume so strong, so equal, and so soft./ The bird named from
that Paradise you sing/ So never flags, but always keeps on wing.
Same bird as in The Garden? Soul in flight.--Miltonic
Defends Milton's blank verse to Drydenian detractors
(Dryden his bete noir):
-Well mightst thou scorn thy readers to
allure/ With tinkling rhyme..../ I too transported by
the mode offend,/ And while I meant to praise thee, must commend
[can't imitate blank]/ Thy verse created like thy theme sublime/
In Number, Weight, and Measure, needs not rhyme.
Recognizes that Milton's blank verse and high
style, divorced from greatness, could be windy or bombastic.
Subjected private taste to rational examination,
"moves towards a balanced and witty poetry of public judgement."
return to top
- "The happiest of English poets"
- Son of prosperous London goldsmith
- Ben Jonson was hero; in "His Prayer to BJ"
he calls him "Saint Ben"
- Jonson taught Herrick "the art of the polished
trifle, the light touch, and the quiet mood"
- slowly found a career, took orders in church,
reluctantly moved to Devonshire
- many exotic imaginary mistresses; housekeeper
- drinking, socializing, city loving ("His
Farewell to Sack" & "Welcome to Sack" again)
- direct easy lines, rather than "ingenuities
and "strong lines"
- central theme of happy reconciliation of
nature and nature's god, as in Corrinna
- carpe diem poems
- book title, Hesperides, 1648, "connects
the poems' strange bright world of girls and flowers with the land of golden
apples at the western end of the world" [Kenner}
- most classical, least metaphysical; "bricklayer
[BJ] has given place to the goldsmith's apprentice, the master of filigree"
- content to mirror timeless epicurean Arcadia
- a "daughter" of Ben! "too sensuously and
smoothly Elizabethan for an age of 'strong lines'"
- ideal attitude of the cavalier
- Corinna: "variations on the brevity of youth
and love express more sentiment than passion"
- volume of 1648 offered "open challenge to
the spirit of civil war"
- Argument of his Book: "I sing of brooks,
of blossoms, birds, and bowers,/ Of April, May, of June, and July flowers"
- Secular religion, yet argument "sings...Of
heaven, and hope to have it AFTER ALL"
Summers on Herrick
return to top
Neither Donne nor Jonson gentlemen, though Donne
affected upper-class "anti-gentleman" who didn't want social rules to get
in way of sex, and Jonson interested in Literary aristocracy "above" courtly
Donne's libertine ideas of love attractive to
courtiers, but "speaker of them too passionate as well as too learned--he
cared too much." no sprezzatura; new style was "gentleman in moral as well
as stylistic deshabille....beyond commitment and surprise and even ridicule,
unless he gently and confidently directed the latter at himself."
Jonson's "linguistic and metrical polish" attractive
in style, but Jonson too learned, "overly moral and serious, as well as
laughably ambitious"--Suckling's Session of poets
Herrick wanted to be a courtier but failed
constructed his "proper speech" on St. Ben and
on Latin models (Catullus, Ovid, Horace, etc.), Seneca, Beaumont and Fletcher,
and Anatomy of Melancholy
Son of Ben, but only used his epigrams and lyrics--no
Herrick wrote 4 poems on BJ's death--mastered
lessons but more playful
comparison of two (bricklayer and goldsmith, big
social forms vs. miniaturist, masculine vs feminine sensibility)
CF. BJ's "Still to be Neat" with Herrick's "Delight
in Disorder"--BJ's "elegant, courteous, and devastating masculine judgment
on feminine over-neatness"; Herrick's does not judge but is "bewitched
into wanton distraction by disorderly (not to say messy) feminine attire"
Wrote 2500 epigrams and lyrics--like bonbons
"The Bad season makes the poet sad" --good poem
about the Civil War
Best when writes of EVANESCENCE: "concerned both
with the SURFACES of natural and human beauty and with the linguistic surfaces
of his poems....A man who so loves the surface beauties of this world almost
inevitably comes to feel the poignant brevity of such beauty and of this
- Faire Daffodils, we weep to see/
You haste away so soon:/ As yet the early-rising Sun/
Has not attain'd his Noon./ Stay, stay,/
Until the hasting day/ has run/
But to the Even-song;/ And, having prayed together, we/
Will go with you along.// We have short time to stay, as you,/
We have as short a Spring;/ As quick a growth to meet Decay,/
As you, or any thing./ We die,/
As your hours do, and dry/ away, Like
to the Summer's rain;/ Or as the pearls of Morning's dew/
Ne'er to be found again.
Poet who "accepts evanescence" is also trying
to defeat or redeem it
Carpe Diem poems have this sense. CORINNA: all
Herrick's themes together: Goddess Aurora and English "sweet Slug a bed";
All Religions--Apollo is present; flowers "bow toward the east"; Birds
sing English matens and thankful hymns; Hebrew and Roman booth constructed
of English whitethorne; Priest of betrothal ceremony.
Conventional restrictive religious attitudes reversed
or subordinated: "Tis sin, / Nay,
profanation to keep in"
Like Watteau: " Art...is no less valuable because
its usual world is remote, idealized, and fragile"
return to Mary Adams's