I have studied John Donne. I have enjoyed reading John Donne. I have envied John Donne’s art of poetry. I truly admire John Donne! In short, he is one of my favourite poets all the time. Why am I going gaga over John Donne’s poetry? Well, to understand this relation, you will have to go through some of his poems. And today I am writing a review of The Collected Poems of John Donne, published by Wordsworth Classics (Editions). Are you ready, guys?
“Yet stay with mee since thou art come,
Circle this fingers top, which did’st her thombe.
Be justly proud, and gladly safe, that thou dost dwell with me,
She that, Oh, broke her faith, would soon breake thee.”
Such was the cunning and precise art of poetry practised by John Donne that he could cut a satire out of nothing. How cunningly he takes the concept of marriage rings to pride and faith is simply unchallengeable! The above-mentioned stanza is from the poem A Jet Ring Sent, page number 45.
John Donne began as a cynical poet who cared for nothing but his personal fancies. He expressed the conventional things or ideas with unconventional imagery in his poems and that’s his trademark style which no one could copy. However, with time, his poetry saw wonderful changes and he began knocking the doors of the world beyond this world. It is clearly evident from his poems of the later phase.
“As the trees sap doth seek the root below
In winter, in my winter, now I goe,
Where none but thee, th’Eternal root
Of true Love I may know.”
By all possible means and angles, and looking from various different perspectives, any poetry reader will understand what might have been through the mind of John Donne when he may have composed these lines – ripe, in the 90s of poetic art, mature and mature and ever close to God.
Donne’s collection by Wordsworth Classics isn’t complete. However, I have never come across a collection more comprehensive than this. It has most of the well-known and lesser-known poems by Donner and it has distributed them rather well. You will have the liberty to read any poem you want – in isolation or in a group associated with the particular poem.
Well, to assess John Donne, one has to have the capabilities of Dr Johnson or Pope or Dryden or Eliot. I am nowhere near them. However, I do believe that art is liberal enough to grant space to any particular person who attempts a critique. John Donne’s poetry, as a whole, to me, has certain phases. He writes about body, then mind and heart and ultimately about the soul. This is a progression that comes naturally to any poet who is open to what comes from above or around. I am sure you will realise what I am saying once you read the collection of poems by Donne. All the best!
review by Rahul for Egoistic Readers, Poetry Desk