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John Donne. Poetry.
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About the author
John Donne (pronounced "Dun"; 1572 - March 31, 1631) was a
major English poet and writer, and probably the greatest of the meta-
physical poets. His works include sermons and religious poems, Latin
translations, epigrams, elegies, songs, and sonnets.
Donne was born and raised in a Roman Catholic family. Two of
Donne’s relatives had been punished for their Catholicism; his brother
had died of a fever in prison after harboring a priest, and an uncle, a
Jesuit, executed by being hanged, drawn, quartered and disembow-
eled. Queen Elizabeth’s government, though by contemporary stan-
dards tolerant, still uniformly burdened Catholics with harassment
and financial penalties.
Donne was educated at both Oxford (Hertford College) and Cam-
bridge. As a young man he travelled on the Continent and in 1596–97
accompanied the Earl of Essex on his expeditions to Cádiz and the
Azores. On his return he became secretary to Baron Ellesmere and
began to achieve a reputation as a poet. His writings of this period
include many of his songs and sonnets, and they are notable for their
realistic and sensual style. Donne also composed many satirical verses
that betrayed a searching and sometimes caustic outlook.
The account of Donne’s life in the 1590s that comes down to us
through Donne’s own poems and an early biographer, Izaak Walton,
gives us a picture of a young rake. Scholars believe this picture almost
certainly misleading, since the account was given by the older Donne,
after he had been ordained; he may have wanted to separate, more
cleanly than was possible, the younger man-about-town from the older
clergyman. Walton tells us that Donne, after making a diligent study of
theology, coverted to Anglicanism at some point in the 1590s.