Short biography of the father of metaphysical poetry John Donne and his literary works

John Donne was an English poet, scholar, soldier, and secretary who later became a cleric in the Church of England. He was appointed Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, under royal patronage. John Donne is widely regarded as the foremost representative of metaphysical poets. He is the father of metaphysical poetry.

John Donne was born in 1572 in London, England. He is known as the founder of metaphysical poetry. Metaphysical Poets, the loosely associated group, also includes George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Andrew Marvell, John Cleveland and Henry Vaughan.

It should be clarified what metaphysical poetry is: Metaphysical poetry is a group of  poems that are all highly intellectualized, use rather strange imagery, use frequent paradoxes and contain extremely complicated thoughts. The term ‘metaphysical poetry’ was first coined by literary critic and poet Samuel Johnson in his book Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (1179-1781).

Of the most famous quotes by John Donne is “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent. ”With his exacting and ingenious conceits, John Donne advanced the exploratory spirit of his time, transcending the rational and hierarchical structures of the seventeenth century.

John Donne was born during a time of theological and political unrest in both England and France; a Protestant massacre occurred on Saint Bartholomew’s Day in France, while Catholics were the persecuted minority in England. Donne was born into a Roman Catholic family, and his personal relationship with religion was turbulent and passionate, and it was at the heart of much of his poetry. In his early adolescence, he attended both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He did not pursue a degree at either institution because doing so would have required him to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles, the doctrine that defined Anglicanism. He studied law at Lincoln’s Inn when he was twenty years old. After his younger brother died in prison for his Catholicism, he succumbed to religious pressure and joined the Anglican Church two years later. Donne wrote most of his love lyrics, erotic verse, and sacred poems in the 1590s, producing two major volumes of work: Satires and Songs and Sonnets.

John Donne was appointed private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton in 1598, after returning from a two-year naval expedition against Spain. Donne secretly married Anne More, Lady Egerton’s sixteen-year-old niece, while sitting in Queen Elizabeth’s final Parliament in 1601. The marriage was opposed by Donne’s father-in-law. As a punishment, he did not provide a dowry for the couple and imprisoned Donne briefly.

As a result, the couple became isolated and reliant on friends, relatives, and customers. Donne experienced social and financial insecurity in the years following his marriage, which was exacerbated by the birth of numerous children. He kept writing and published the Divine Poems in 1607. Donne demonstrated his extensive knowledge of Church and state laws in Pseudo-Martyr, published in 1610, arguing that Roman Catholics could support James I without jeopardizing their faith. In 1615, James I forced Donne into the Anglican Ministry by declaring that he could not work outside of the Church. Later that year, he was appointed Royal Chaplain. His wife died in 1617, at the age of thirty-three, shortly after giving birth to their twelfth child, a stillborn child. The Holy Sonnets are also attributed to this phase of his life.

He was appointed dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in 1621. Donne’s writing in his later years reflected his impending death. During a period of severe illness, he wrote his private prayers, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, which he published in 1624. His learned, charismatic, and inventive preaching made him a powerful figure in London.

John Donne died on March 31, 1631 in London, best known for his vivacious, compelling style and thorough examination of mortal paradox.

John Donne’s Literary Works

Poems by John Donne

Some of the best poems he has written includes:

  • Go and Catch a Falling Star
  • The Good Morrow
  • A Valediction Forbidding Mourning
  • The Canonization
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Death Be Not Proud
  • Sunne Rising

Letters by John Donne

Although he wrote many love poems and holy sonnets, he also tried his hands on letters. Some of his famous letters include:

  • To Mr. Christopher: The Storm
  • To Mr. Christopher: The Calm
  • To Sir Henry Wotton
  • To Mr. T. W.
  • To Mr. Samuel Becket
  • To Mr. I. L.

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