John Donne: An Influential English Poet

1257 words - 5 pages

John Donne, one of the greatest English poets and preachers of the 1600’s, greatly impacted the writing field through his works. In the first half of 1572 (actual date is unknown) he was born in London to John Donne, a merchant, and Elizabeth Heywood Donne, the daughter of the poet and playwright John Heywood. His father died when Donne was about four years old. His younger brother, Henry, also died in John Donne’s early life. John Donne was raised in a Catholic family. Both of his parents were devout Roman Catholics. During Donne’s early adult life he converted to Anglicanism.
The education of John Donne is somewhat confusing because the records are incomplete. There is record of his attending Cambridge and Oxford, but he never received a degree from either. At the time Donne was still a Roman Catholic. A requirement of graduation was to swear the oath of allegiance to the Protestant Queen. Because of being Catholic he was not able to meet this requirement (Pi 178). He continued his education at Lincoln’s Inn and The Inns of Court where he studied law. Having completed school, Donne began to work for the Earl of Essex by sailing on board the ships. This led to him working for Sir Thomas Egerton, “the lord keeper of the Great Seal and a member of Elizabeth’s Privy Council,” (Langstaff 347) as secretary. During this time Donne converted to Anglicanism and was made lord keeper. Donne also began writing but no poetry yet. He began writing his Paradoxes and Problems. He also fell in love with Egerton’s second wife’s niece, Anne More. Anne More’s father, Sir George More was the chancellor of the garter (Pi 178). The two secretly got married. John Donne did not tell her father for months after they were married. This caused John to lose his job and did not receive her dowry. Donne was then lost because he had no steady employment for ten years. During this time his family was growing. They had a total of twelve children, but sadly five did not live long. Through his misery John Donne began to write and study, producing several religious prose and poetry.
John Donne’s poetry added to the traditional way of writings through its use of extended metaphors. John Donne used “a lengthy, complex image to express precisely his view of a person, object, or feeling” (Stringer 308) called a metaphysical conceit. Herbert, Vaughn, and Donne are called the metaphysical poets, from where the name for Donne’s conceit comes. Donne also extensively used paradoxes, contrasts, and diverse imagery. Donne’s poems are complex in two ways the first being in diction because it is “intelligent talk” and the second that he “blends colloquial accents and a personal feeling with the complex turns of a full, uninhabited intelligence” (Langstaff 348). His poems were non-traditional in that they strayed from the traditional English and Latin poems which were very strict in form, rhyme, and rhythm.
The poems of John Donne have striking...

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