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gradually passed. As he grew older he used more conventional metres, and his verse became smoother, until in his middle period very few discords appear, if he be read carefully. Coleridge was the first to note this fact. He points out that Donne has two methods of handling rhythm. In songs and purely lyrical pieces he arranges the words so that the stresses fall correctly whether the sense be much regarded or not; but in poems where he is thinking, and expects the reader to think, the sense emphasis has to be made for the verse to run properly. When allowance is made for the shockingly, corrupt state of the manuscripts this disposes of the contention that Donne had no ear. In “The Satyres,” of course, his verse is rugged of set purpose. By the time we reach his last period, that of the “Divine Poems,” it is only seldom that Donne exacts of his reader the tribute of paying attention to his meaning. There is but one example (line 9) in the sonnet from “La Corona " quoted below. The rest runs smoothly; in fact, there is something seductive about the movement of this series, in spite of the rimeclosed couplet at the end, which always, even in Shakespeare, feels like a sigh of relief for a finished task. Perhaps the impression of melody is increased by the device of connecting each sonnet with the previous one by repeating the last line with a change of accent.
It may seem at first sight curious that Donne turned to the sonnet for his religious poetry. Yet it will be seen from his work that the instinctive artist in him chose measures suitable to the various types of poetry which he attempted -a harsh couplet for satire, a smooth one for complimentary verse, a sonorous stanza for the “Metempsychosis." By the time he came to write the “ Divine Poems ” he was long past the stage of avoiding a measure merely because it was popular. His own thought was mature, and his ideas had dissociated and become clear cut. It is unity of idea above everything that the sonnet form demands, and Donne doubtless felt its appropriateness to divinity, which
abounds in conceptions capable, for the purposes of poetry, of being isolated. The “ La Corona" series conveys a satisfying completeness, dealing as it does with points in Christ's career, the “Annunciation," "Nativity," "Temple, " “Crucifying," "Resurrection," "Ascension." This effect is increased by the interlinking already mentioned. The line which begins and ends the series is very attractive :
Deigne at my hands this crown of prayer and praise. Very appropriate too is the epithet of sincerity' in
But doe not, with a vile crowne of fraile bayes,
The poetical standard of the whole is not high, but the last sonnet ends in an address much finer than the rest. O strong Ramme, which hast batter'd heaven for
mee, Mild Lambe, which with thy blood, hast mark'd
the path ; Bright Torch, which shin'st, that I the way may
see, Oh, with thy owne blood quench thy owne just
wrath, And if thy holy Spirit, my Muse did raise, Deigne at my hands this crowne of prayer and praise.
The “ Holy Sonnets,” which have been much more freely quoted here, though they lack the surface completeness of “La Corona," and
seem perhaps a little less carefully written, contain several things which far surpass any part of the latter series. The best of all is Sonnet VII, already quoted. The development of the idea is perfectly modulated, the movement of the octet is so dignified as to be almost Miltonic, and the normal effect of the last couplet is avoided by the happy device of beginning the period in the middle of the twelfth line. In the next sonnet he says that his
fathers soule doth see, And adds this even to full felicitie,
That valiantly I hels wide mouth o’rstride. Images like this last assure Donne of his place, in spite of much which is mere ingenuity.
Donne continued with his preaching before the King, Queen, and the Benchers until 1619, when he was so worn down by work and continual inward struggle that he was thought to be in a decline.
The King therefore appointed him chaplain to Lord Hay, who was going into Germany as ambassador. After his appointment there was a period of delay before starting, during which Donne wrote “ A Hymne to Christ.”
A HYMNE TO CHRIST, AT THE AUTHOR'S
LAST GOING INTO GERMANY
JOHN DONNE & HIS POETRY
Though thou with clouds of anger do disguise
They never will despise.
I sacrifice this Iland unto thee,
winter now I goe,
Of true Love I may know.
Nor thou nor thy religion dost controule,
Alas, thou lov'st not mee.
Seale then this bill of my Divorce to All,
An Everlasting night.