Glossary of Terms
apostropheThe poetic strategy of addressing an inanimate object. This differs from personification in that the object does not necessarily have human qualities.
caesuraa stop in a line of poetry, either with punctuation or as recited
canonizationIn the Catholic Church, recognition of superior virtue, a step below sainthood. In literary studies, the canon is the body of texts recognized to be enduring due to their high quality.
compassA V-shaped tool for drawing arcs and circles. The center leg remains stable, grounded with a sharp point, while the moving leg, attached to a writing implement, draws the arc.
conceitA poetic metaphor in which two seemingly unlike things are compared at some length. A successful conceit shows the poet's abilities and allows the poet to stretch the boundaries of reality and persuasion. The use of the conceit perhaps reached its zenith with John Donne.
cosmographera person who maps out the cosmos--the heavens and the earth--mainly using astronomy and geography
enjambedadjective for poetic lines in which one line of poetry flows into the next without stopping
heterogenousconsisting of different kinds
hyperbolegreat exaggeration, which in Donne often suggests a metaphysical rather than literal reading of the subject of the poem
litanyA pattern of prayers, or the order of a Christian worship service, followed in the same way each time. More generally, it is anything frequently repeated. Since the Catholic prayers included addressing so many subjects, the term also is used for tedious lists.
lyricusually short poetry reflecting a personal experience
metaphorA literary device in which one thing is said to be another, which helps reveal the qualities of the main object. For example, if a man is a lion, he may be strong and loud, but if he is a mouse, he is timid.
metaphysicalbeyond the natural world, usually meaning something spiritual or mystical
metaphysical conceitmetaphor that tends to reveal a more purely conceptual, and thus rather tenuous, relationship between the things being compared
Metaphysical poetsThe group of poets to which Donne belonged, including George Herbert, Andrew Marvell, George Chapman, and others. These poets were concerned generally with the universe including the spiritual realm, and they used learned and sometimes far-fetched metaphors to describe their observations. For example, Donne compares his soul to a moving planet in "Good Friday."
meterThe number of beats (stressed syllables) in a line of poetry. Very common in Donne is pentameter, a pattern of five "feet" or beats alternating with unstressed syllables, with the result that a line has 10 syllables.
paradoxA statement or idea that seems self-contradictory or absurd but actually expresses a deeper reality (such as the idea that one must "lose his life" in order to "save" it, which means giving up a life of sin in order to gain a better life, or to give up control over one's life to God so that God will bring salvation to the person). Paradox has a special place in poetry because it places contradictory or opposite ideas together in short scope.
personificationGiving human qualities to an inanimate object. Donne personifies the sun in "The Sunne Rising" as a "busy old fool" with human emotions.
PhoenixA mythical bird that would die each year in a burst of flames only to rise again, reborn, from its own ashes. It often symbolizes rebirth or the eternal cycle of the universe.
polemiccombative piece of writing against a target of ire
straita narrow passage of water, or a "narrow" position of difficulty or distress with limited options
stressterm used to denote the long ("stressed") or short ("unstressed") syllables in a line of poetry
sublunarytemporal or earthly; literally, "under the moon"
threescoresixty (one score equals twenty)
versificationthe meter, rhyme, and other structural characteristics of a poem and its verses or stanzas
viceroyhead of a province or city who acts as the representative of a wider sovereign
witPoetic wit, among the metaphysical poets, was a brilliant verbal cleverness that turned poetic conventions upside down, drew strange but carefully drawn comparisons, and layered elaborate puns into lyric poetry.
John Donne: Poems Essays and Related Content
- John Donne: Poems: Major Themes
- John Donne: Poems: Essays
- John Donne: Poems: Questions
- John Donne: Poems: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- John Donne: Biography
- John Donne: Poems Summary
- About John Donne: Poems
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of "The Flea"
- Summary and Analysis of "Lovers' Infiniteness"
- Summary and Analysis of "Litanie"
- Summary and Analysis of "The Sunne Rising"
- Summary and Analysis of "Song: Goe, and catche a falling starre"
- Summary and Analysis of "The Indifferent"
- Summary and Analysis of Holy Sonnet 10, "Death be not proud"
- Summary and Analysis of "The Anniversary"
- Summary and Analysis of "Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward"
- Summary and Analysis of "Song: Sweetest love, I do not goe"
- Summary and Analysis of Meditation 17
- Summary and Analysis of "The Bait"
- Summary and Analysis of "The Apparition"
- Summary and Analysis of "The Canonization"
- Summary and Analysis of "The Broken Heart"
- Summary and Analysis of "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"
- Summary and Analysis of "Hymn to God, My God, In My Sickness"
- Summary and Analysis of Holy Sonnet 14, "Batter my heart"
- Summary and Analysis of Holy Sonnet 11, "Spit in my face"
- "For whom the bell tolls"
- Related Links on John Donne: Poems
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources