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John Donne Essay

807 words - 3 pages

John Donne was born to John and Elizabeth Donne of Bread Street, London, in

1572. In his early years, John Donne was a wild lover and sensual writer. After finding

Christ, his writing style changed from sexual to spiritual. Despite the fact that Donne’s

earlier poetry was focused around lustful sensations, his later works utilized biblical

illusions, proclaiming his newly found belief in God.

Early in Donne’s life, his brother was incarcerated “for giving sanctuary to a

proscribed Catholic priest” and met his death through fever while serving his time

(Smith). The untimely and unfortunate death of his brother sent Donne down a path of

religious questioning. Though raised as a Catholic, Donne began to wonder what sort of

God would permit his brother not only to be arrested, but also to die for helping a fellow

believer. The ensuing uncertainty young Donne was struggling with can be seen reflected

in his first two volumes of work, Satires and Songs and Sonnets. Though those works do

not directly condemn religion or the government, Donne strays from the path he was

raised to walk, and speaks openly of sexual desires and women.

In “Indifferent,” a poem from the collection Songs and Sonnets, Donne openly

discusses his preferences, or lack thereof, when it comes to women. Poems such as “The

Curse” and “The Prohibition” all discuss love and women from objective and interesting

standpoints. In Donne’s poem “The Damp,” a woman is said to have no need to use any

means other than her body to overcome a man :

But these I neither look for nor profess ;

Kill me as woman, let me die

As a mere man ; do you but try

Your passive valour, and you shall find then,

Naked you have odds enough of any man. (68)

John Donne’s works focused primarily on praising women up until his employment in

1604 with the “religious pamphleteer Thomas Morton, later Bishop of Durham,” despite

the fact that he was married in 1601 (Smith).

Though Donne’s work began to turn more to religious matters in the early 1600s,

he was not focused on the positive aspects religion. Donne wrote sardonically of Christ.

This style is best exemplified in his work “A Hymn to Christ, At The Author’s Last

Going into Germany.” Donne writes of Christ as “a jealous lover to be castigated if He

withdraws His love just because it is not reciprocated” (Miller, 1058-1059).

That underlying negativity changed when, through very clever methods of

persuasion by the King (Donne was told he would not be offered any special placement

in any career unless it was through the Church), Donne agreed to enter priesthood...

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