John Donne: Poems
The Value of Donne's Poetry
Donne is sick and his poetry is sick.
- Stanley Fish
Fish's comment, though extreme in its reductive appraisal, is nevertheless understandable. He may find Donne's poetry objectionable on three accounts: style, explicitness, and morbidity. With regards to style, Fish says Donne "is bulimic...someone who gorges himself to a point beyond satiety, and then sticks his finger down his throat and throws up." And Fish is certainly not alone in this sentiment.
C.S. Lewis called Donne the "saddest" and most "uncomfortable" of our poets, whose verse "exercises the same dreadful fascination that we feel in the grip of the worst kind of bore - the hot-eyed, inescapable kind." For his "not keeping of accent," Ben Jonson said that Donne "deserved hanging." And if Jonson finds fault with the way Donne ran roughshod over conventional rhythm, Deborah Larson finds his renegade semantic scope bewildering. "There is nothing," bewails Larson, "not even the ugly and disgusting, which his verse will not say, no manner, not even the rudest, which it will not adopt to attain its almost impossible ends." Added to this is Donne's apostasy. "The first thing to...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 753 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4779 literature essays, 1495 sample college application essays, 189 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in