1. Historical facts

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John Donne (1572-1631)

  • starts as a satirist and a love-poet (Songs and Sonnets), later deeply religious works (Divine Poems: Holy Sonnets, ”The Progress of the Soul”) in 1633: Poems

  • less classical, more physical, erotic, without mythological imagery, atonal

  • on the inconstancy of the lovers (”The Flea”); witty ones (”The Good-Morrow”); tone of the conventional Petrarchan lover (”The Blossom”)

His followers:

  • George Herbert’s poems with more harmonious tunes, personal spiritualism + shaped verses eg. ”The Altar” (1633: The Temple) – 2 disciples: Henry Vaughan and Richard Crashaw

  • Andrew Marwell: Puritan, love poems (”To His Coy Mistress”); nature poems (”The Garden”, ”The Bermudas” 1650s); Cromwell-poems (”An Horatian Ode Upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland”) then satires against the Cavalier world of Restoration

Questions on the assigned poems:

  • What is the central metaphor and conceit in Donne’s ”The Flea”? What other images are related to it? What different layers of experience are united here? Why do you think?

  • In what sense Donne’s ”The Blossom” can be a traditional love poem?

  • Explain the title: ”The Good-Morrow”! What different phases are distinguished in the relationship described in the poem? What imagery is used to heighten the effect of the conceit? Give the rhyme schemes of the three Donne-poems.

  • How and why are the three parts in Marvell’s ”To His Coy Mistress” marked in the grammatical structure of the sentences? What is the relation between the parts? What figures are used in the parts? Try to find classical and Biblical allusions as well.

Milton’s sonnets (for Week 3):

  • What are the characteristic features of the Miltonic sonnet? (See rhyme scheme, rhythm, structure)

  • What rhetorical figure is used to provide a shocking ending in ”On His Deceased Wife”? Find the elements of the poet’s vision of his wife.

  • In what sense Milton’s defect (cf. his blindness) becomes a metaphor/conceit of Puritanism in ”On His Blindness”?

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