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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Donne was born into a Catholic family in 1572. After a conventional education at Hart Hall, Oxford and Lincoln's Inn, he took part in the Earl of Essex's expedition to the Azores in 1597. He secretly married Anne More in December 1601 and was imprisoned by her father, Sir George, in the Fleet two months later. He was ordained priest in January 1615 and took a Doctorate of Divinity at Cambridge the same year. He was made Dean of St Paul's in London in 1621, a position he held until his death in 1631. He is famous for the sermons he preached in his later years, as well as for his poems. A.J. Smith was Professor Emeritus of the University of Southampton. His book include Literary Love (1983) and Metaphysical Wit (1992). He died in Salisbury in 1991.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (August 25, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140422099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140422092
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.2 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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The notes are excellent and very helpful.
G. Klawitter
Donne on the other hand is different; most of what he writes in English sounds good and is immediately understandable.
Vincent Poirier
If you love John Donne's poetry, then this is a must have collection of his poetry.
Michael D Reese

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By S. Anderson on January 4, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am greatly enjoying this book. The notes at the end explain some of Donne's more obscure imagery. A potentially controversial choice by the editor was to change the spelling of many words to more modern forms, which makes the poems easier to read at the expense of authenticity. Some people will like that and some people won't. Another odd choice was to list the poems in alphabetical order, instead of grouping them by subject matter or attemp to list them in approxiamte chronolgical order.

Buy this book and enjoy the breathtaking poems. You could do a lot worse with your time.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Poirier on November 29, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Finally, I've found a poet I really like reading. Donne's poems suit me more than Shakespeare's sonnets or Poe's verse, and apart from someone like Yvor Winters, I just don't get modern poetry (apologies to Sylvia Plath fans).

What rings well with me is, well, ringing well! Reading a poem out loud with a bit of drama should just sound good. That's why rap and hip hop can really be considered poetry (well, some rap and hiphop anyway).

A great example of this is Shakespeare's sonnet 129 (The expense of spirit in a waste of shame/Is lust in action; and till action, lust...). Most (not all) of Shakespeare's sonnets are harder to understand than this one, which is why they don't resonate with me as well as I'd like. Donne on the other hand is different; most of what he writes in English sounds good and is immediately understandable.

Not that I understand everything in these poems, there are many contemporary allusions that are lost on me, but there's enough in there that sounds very good to allow me to right away enjoy myself. Here are two great lines, which open the sonnet "Community", to illustrate what I mean by good sound.

Good we must love, and must hate ill,

For ill is ill, and good good still...

There are problems, themselves interesting, that bring discord to a poem. For instance in Donne's England "love" rhymed with "prove" but because today these words don't, a couplet with this rhyme is marred to our 21st century ears.

A personal note: I was in bed reading "Soul Made Flesh" about the discovery that the brain is the seat of consciousness, made by Oxford scholars in 17th century England. I had reached an account of how large audiences of curious onlookers gathered to see doctors perform autopsies.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Muirnin on January 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful collection of Donne's poetry. It's excellent for any reader, experienced and first-timers alike. Even with no previous exposure to Donne, this collection offers extensive introductions and footnotes for all of collections contained in this book. And for more experienced Donne readers, this collection really is complete. Excellent for collectors, students, readers, and newcomers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Fr. Charles Erlandson on March 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
John Donne wrote some of the most beautiful, intelligent, and passionate poetry in the English language! With some poets you get 1 or 2 of these qualities: with Donne you get all 3, and so I highly recommend his poetry to all lovers of poetry and English literature. The language is archaic and at times difficult, but that's also some of its beauty and charm. What's more noteworthy but less noticed than the oldness of the language is how fresh and alive it still seems and must have seemed in centuries past! While I love Donne's poetry especially because of his intelligent and beautiful passion for God, even those without religious faith will appreciate the brilliance and glory of Donne's poetry.

If you're able to keep up with Donne's poetry, you'll discover startling phrases and juxtapositions which were frowned upon in ages past but which I find helps invigorate the modern reader. Whether your primary way of apprehending poetry is religious, intellectual, or aesthetic, Donne will be a delight to you as it does me. Donne's poetry also has a very personal association with me: when I was courting my wife and in the early years of my marriage, I would read her the poetry of Donne and George Herbert. She not only loved the poetry but loved me more for having read it to her!

This Penguin Classics edition is a wonderful one because it not only includes the poems but also very useful and concise introductions to the poems, as well as notes on the meaning of more obscure words and phrases.

Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
John Donne was perhaps the most eminent representative of that group of late sixteenth and early seventeenth century poets known as the “metaphysical poets”, although it has often been pointed out that they were never a self-conscious literary school or movement, and would never have referred to themselves by that epithet, which was invented by Samuel Johnson in 1781, inspired by a criticism of Donne made by John Dryden about a hundred years earlier.

Some of the metaphysical poets, such as George Herbert, wrote exclusively on religious themes, but with Donne this was not the case, although it is true that one of his two great themes was man’s love for God, the other being man’s love for woman. Donne does, however, display two common “metaphysical” traits. One was a taste for philosophical speculation, even in his secular verse, and it was this for which he was taken to task by Dryden, who said of him that “"He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign”.

The second is his use of the metaphysical conceit, an extended metaphor combining two very different ideas. I remember being taught at school that the classical example of a conceit was Donne’s comparison of his wife and himself in "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" to a pair of compasses, joined even when they are physically separated. At least, we were taught that the lady in the poem is Mrs Donne, but that may just have been prudery on the part of the teacher. Like many of Donne’s poems this one cannot be precisely dated, and we know that he wrote poems to other mistresses before his marriage to Anne More in 1601.
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