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Additional info for John Donne: The Critical Heritage (The Collected Critical Heritage : Renaissance Poets)
That he lumps Donne with Cowley and Cleveland and treats all three poets on a par is a telling circumstance in itself which some nineteenth-century commentators sharply pointed out; and his indifferent intermingling of gobbets from all three of them suggests what he evidently believed, that metaphysical poets are to be distinguished only by the degree of their ingenious absurdity. He 16 INTRODUCTION has nothing to say of Herbert, Vaughan, Marvell, whom he either didn’t know or didn’t think of as metaphysical poets.
Canst thou tell me why the night Weeps out her eyes? If for the sight Of the lost Sunne, she put on blacke, Post to his fall, and turne him backe, If not for him, then goe and finde A widdow, or all woman kinde, Like to their outward shew, and he More then a Delphian Deity. 1616 William Browne in Part ii of Britannia’s Pastorals recalled phrases in Donne’s poems. Song iv speaks of Xerxes and the plane-tree, a ‘lank purse’ (Elegie ix, ‘The Autumnall’, lines 29–30 and 38), and the Indias of spice and mine (‘The Sunne Rising’, lines 17–18).
No doubt there is a novel sensibility at work here but a changed attitude to the past has as much to do with this powerful reversal of established views. Poets 18 INTRODUCTION who themselves looked for metaphysical correspondences in nature found something to admire in the wit of Shakespeare and Donne, so lately dismissed as mere clever quibbling. For Coleridge Donne was a member of a ‘race of Giants’; and it was to be just such an attitude that took many nineteenth-century critics and editors to our older writers, especially our seventeenth-century writers.
John Donne: The Critical Heritage (The Collected Critical Heritage : Renaissance Poets) by A.J. Smith