Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

John Donne

John Donne (1572-1631) was the most outstanding of the English Metaphysical Poets and a churchman famous for his spellbinding sermons.

Donne was born in London to a prominent Roman Catholic family but converted to Anglicanism during the 1590s. At the age of 11 he entered the University of Oxford, where he studied for three years. According to some accounts, he spent the next three years at the University of Cambridge but took no degree at either university. He began the study of law at Lincoln's Inn, London, in 1592, and he seemed destined for a legal or diplomatic career. Donne was appointed private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, Keeper of the Great Seal, in 1598. His secret marriage in 1601 to Egerton's niece, Anne More, resulted in his dismissal from this position and in a brief imprisonment. During the next few years Donne made a meager living as a lawyer.

Donne's principal literary accomplishments during this period were Divine Poems (1607) and the prose work Biathanatos (c. 1608, posthumously published 1644), a half-serious extenuation of suicides, in which he argued that suicide is not intrinsically sinful. Donne became a priest of the Anglican Church in 1615 and was appointed royal chaplain later that year. In 1621 he was named dean of St. Paul's Cathedral. He attained eminence as a preacher, delivering sermons that are regarded as the most brilliant and eloquent of his time.

Donne's poetry embraces a wide range of secular and religious subjects. He wrote cynical verse about inconstancy, poems about true love, Neoplatonic lyrics on the mystical union of lovers' souls and bodies and brilliant satires and hymns depicting his own spiritual struggles. The two "Anniversaries" - "An Anatomy of the World" (1611) and "Of the Progress of the Soul" (1612)--are elegies for 15-year-old Elizabeth Drury.

Whatever the subject, Donne's poems reveal the same characteristics that typified the work of the metaphysical poets: dazzling wordplay, often explicitly sexual; paradox; subtle argumentation; surprising contrasts; intricate psychological analysis; and striking imagery selected from nontraditional areas such as law, physiology, scholastic philosophy, and mathematics.

Donne's prose, almost equally metaphysical, ranks at least as high as his poetry. The Sermons, some 160 in all, are especially memorable for their imaginative explications of biblical passages and for their intense explorations of the themes of divine love and of the decay and resurrection of the body. Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624) is a powerful series of meditations, expostulations, and prayers in which Donne's serious sickness at the time becomes a microcosm wherein can be observed the stages of the world's spiritual disease.

Obsessed with the idea of death, Donne preached what was called his own funeral sermon, "Death's Duel" just a few weeks before he died in London on March 31, 1631.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

Forum Discussions on John Donne

Recent Forum Posts on John Donne

Holy Sonnet 10

I'm trying to write a paper on Donne's Holy Sonnet 10. I have to identify the tone of this poem. Can any one help me out? It's not dark and depressing, but it's also not skip through the flowers and watch the sheep. How would you describe the tone?...

John Donne's Meditation 17

I am a student teacher and am having a really tough time coming up with a lesson plan for teaching Meditation 17. Can anyone give me some ideas?...

Donne's Holy Sonnet 7

Hi everyone! I've been reading John Donne's Holy Sonnet no 7 over and over and can't, for the life of me, figure out what conceit or wit he uses in the poem. He is considered one of the greatest metaphysical poets. Would be very grateful, if someone could help me! It goes like this: At the round earth's imagined corners, blow Your trumpets, angels; and arise, arise From death, you numberless infinities Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow, All whom war, dearth (famine), age, agues (fevers), tyrannies, Despair, law, chance hath slain, and you whose eyes Shall behold God, and never taste death's woe. But let them sleep, ...

The Good-Morrow - Please Help!!

Hi, I am currently writing an essay on this poem but I am finding it really difficult to understand and get into. I know it is a Metaphysical poem, but I have had that many different explanations of what Metaphysical is I'm getting confused!! If you could please help me try to understand this poem in more depth I would really appreciate it!! Many thanks, Becky...

Question - Done and More

Can anyone tell me the name of the poem in which John Donne uses the words "done" and "more" as a play on his name and his wife's name? Thanks for any help!...

John Donne A Hymn to Christ, at the Author's last going into Germany

Hi! I am having great difficulty in finding a analysis for A Hymn to Christ, Author's last going into Germany In what torn ship soever I embark, That ship shall be my emblem of thy Ark; What sea soever swallow me, that flood Shall be to me an emblem of thy blood; Though thou with clouds of anger do disguise Thy face, yet through that mask I know those eyes, Which, though they turn away sometimes, They never will despise. I sacrifice this Island unto thee, And all whom I loved there, and who loved me; When I have put our seas 'twixt them and me, Put thou thy sea betwixt my sins and thee. As the tree's sap doth seek the root below In winter, in my winter now I go, Where ...

What is the significance of the aubade form?

In 'The Sunne Rising' or 'The Good Morrow' what is the significance of Donne using the aubade form? Is it merely to illustrate the sun's intrusion on the lovers or could it be a subtle allusion to the Ptolemaic idea of man being centre of the universe? I am interested to hear any responses, thank you....

Donne and 'The Other'

Does anyone else think of Donne as a slightly Other poet or at least having an element of tension in this area, growing up catholic, trying to set himself apart from the rest of the world with love, setting his poetry in private not public spheres, Occasional magical/supernatural elements? Opinions? Amy...

Scansion Help, Holy Sonnet 7

Hi all, For my english course I need to do an analysis of the meter and rhythm of Donne's Holy Sonnet 7. Here is the original poem. At the round earth's imagined corners blow Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise From death, you numberless infinities Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go ; All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow, All whom war, death, age, agues, tyrannies, Despair, law, chance hath slain, and you, whose eyes Shall behold God, and never taste death's woe. But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space ; For, if above all these my sins abound, 'Tis late to ask abundance of Thy grace, When we are there. Here on this lowly ground, Teach m...

Can any one help meeeeeeee ??!!??!!>>

Hiii allone this is the 1st time to me to ask help >> can any one tell somthing about>> the broken heart by: John donne ...

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

Why do you think Donne refers to irregular events on earth and in the heaves in line 9 - 12? The lines are: Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears; Men reckon what it did, and meant; But trepidation of the spheres, Though greater far, is innocent. It would be great if you could give an analysis of what these 4 lines mean....

The Anniversary

MY first post! I'm an A level English lit student currently studying Donne. I'm loving the course so far but am having great dificulty with 'The anniversary' Can someone provide me with a deep analysis and any possible connection between this poem and A Valediction? ta.....

Post a New Comment/Question on Donne

John Donne

Quizzes on John Donne
Related links for John Donne

Here is where you find links to related content on this site or other sites, possibly including full books or essays about John Donne written by other authors featured on this site.