Donne's "Anniversaries" and the Poetry of Praise: The Creation of a Symbolic Mode

Donne's "Anniversaries" and the Poetry of Praise: The Creation of a Symbolic Mode

Barbara Kiefer Lewalski
Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 397
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    Donne's "Anniversaries" and the Poetry of Praise: The Creation of a Symbolic Mode
    Book Description:

    In his occasional poetry, and especially in his two elegaicAnniversarypoems, Donne created a special symbolic mode in seventeenth-century poetry of praise and compliment. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski's reading of theAnniversarypoems recognizes them as complex mixed-genre works which weld together formal, thematic, and structural elements from the occasional poem of praise, the funeral elegy, the funeral sermon, the hymn, the anatomy, and the Protestant meditation.

    Focusing especially on theme and structure, her reading demonstrates the coherent symbolic method and meaning of these poems and also their careful logical articulation, both as individual poems and as companion pieces. Essentially, the author discovers their thorough and precise exploration, through the poetic means of figure and symbol, of the nature of man and the conditions of human life.

    In order to discuss the significant contexts for and influences on theAnniversarypoems, the author has studied sixteenth- and seventeenth-century epideictic theory and practice, Protestant meditation, Biblical hermencutics, and funeral sermons. She is also concerned with the effect of the poems, and of Donne's other writings of a similar kind, on contemporary and subsequent developments in the poetry of praise, especially that of Marvell and Dryden. This is a lucid and learned book that provides a major context for theAnniversarypoems and gives new significance to the designation of Donne as a Metaphysical poet.

    Originally published in 1973.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7005-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Barbara Kiefer Lewalski
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Donne’s twoAnniversaries,panegyrical and elegiac poems written to commemorate the death of a fifteenyear-old girl, Elizabeth Drury, are at once the longest and most ambitious poems Donne wrote, as well as being among the very few poems he published during his lifetime.The First Anniversarieappeared in 1611, with the title, “An Anatomy of the World. Wherein, By Occasion of the untimely death of Mistris Elizabeth Drury the frailty and the decay of this wholeworld is represented.” In 1612 this work was reprinted, together with a companion poem entitled, “The Second Anniversarie. Of the Progres of the Soule....

  5. Part I: Literary Contexts and Donnean Innovations

    • Chapter I Contemporary Epideictic Poetry: The Speaker’s Stance and the Topoi of Praise
      (pp. 9-41)

      Although their oddity and complexity make Donne’s .Anniversariesappear to besui generis,a large number of generic alignments have been proposed for one or both of them: funeral elegy, epideictic lyric, Menippean satire, Ignatian meditation, epistomological poetry, medieval complaint, hymn.¹ This startling diversity of opinion as to the poems’ kind gives much force to Rosalie Colie’s view of them as impressive examples ofgenera mixta,creating a new coherence out of the elements of several generic traditions.² Nonetheless, it seems evident that the poems are in some basic sense epideictic or panegyric works; at all events this is...

    • Chapter II Donne’s Poetry of Compliment: Meditative Speaker and Symbolic Subject
      (pp. 42-70)

      Though Donne’s several occasional poems of praise and compliment provide what is in some respects the most obvious context for theAnniversaries,they have, curiously enough, been virtually ignored by critics.¹ In this category I include the Epicedes and Obsequies and several verse letters, especially those written to patronesses; excluded are the Epithalamia, which celebrate marriages rather than individuals, and those verse letters which give advice on moral conduct in the forthright terms of manly friendship and thereby differ from the others in tone and intention.²

      The remaining poems can properly be considered together as a body of poetry whose...

  6. Part II: Theological Contexts and Donnean Developments

    • Chapter III Protestant Meditation and the Protestant Sermon
      (pp. 73-107)

      The meditative stance Donne characteristically employs in his poetry of compliment might seem to invite consideration in terms of the traditions of meditation which Louis L. Martz has explored in his important study,The Poetry of Meditation.¹ Martz has traced the widespread seventeenth-century fascination with meditation to Counter-Reformation influences, asserting that the failure of English Protestants to produce methodical treatises of their own on private devotion and meditation led them to adopt and make constant use of the continental Jesuit and Salesian manuals. Asserting the relevance of the Ignatian or Jesuit method of meditation for Donne’sHoly Sonnetsand especially...

    • Chapter IV The Ordering Symbol: The Restored Image of God in Man
      (pp. 108-141)

      If the speaker in Donne’s poems of compliment, including theAnniversaries,proposes to meditate upon a particular individual as the embodiment of the poetic subject at hand, it is important to discover just what symbolic meanings attach to the personage celebrated, and on what basis. In criticism of theAnniversaries,the significance of Elizabeth Drury has been approached from four principal directions. One approach takes her as simply a point of departure for a poem about some other identifiable person or persons: for Marjorie Nicolson “shee” is Queen Elizabeth primarily, with archetypal overtones of Astraea and the Blessed Virgin; for...

    • Chapter V Donne’s Poetic Symbolism and Protestant Hermeneutics
      (pp. 142-173)

      Recognizing that the symbolic dimension of Elizabeth. Drury—and of several other personages celebrated in Donne's poetry of praise—involves the manifestation of the restored image of God in man, we are ready to examine Donne’s symbolic method in some detail. I suggest that the scope and function of Donne’s symbolism in theAnniversarypoems evidently derives from and can best be illuminated from certain contemporary trends in Protestant hermeneutics. But investigation of this context leads also to a recognition of the significant role of Donne’s own sermons and poems in developing and exploiting the potential for symbolic expression inherent...

    • Chapter VI The Funeral Sermon: The Deceased as Symbol
      (pp. 174-216)

      TheAnniversarypoems have occasionally been discussed in relation to certain kinds of oratory. George Williamson has suggested that the poems bear some structural resemblance to the classical funeral oration and especially to the Christian funeral sermon, whose two parts, according to Puttenham, are instruction and eulogy—”teaching the people some good learning, and also saying well of the departed.”¹ arold Love has proposed the judicial oration, with its special emphasis upon argument and proof, as generally relevant to the form of theAnatomy.² I wish to examine here a specific, contemporary context as the principal channel through which such...

  7. Part III: The Symbolic Mode of Donne’s Anniversaries

    • Chapter VII The First Anniversarie
      (pp. 219-263)

      The trends we have been examining in the poetry of praise and in Protestant meditation, doctrine, hermeneutics, and funeral sermons—trends which Donne himself in various ways furthered and redefined—are brought together in theAnniversarypoems, in a highly complex and sophisticated way. Accordingly, we may now examine how these and some other literary and intellectual traditions illuminate those remarkable poems. My reading of theAnniversariesfocuses primarily upon the theological ideas and generic forms which give substance and structure to the central metaphysical argument of the poems, and this focus has led inevitably to some scanting of the...

    • Chapter VIII The Second Anniversarie
      (pp. 264-304)

      Donne’sSecond Anniversariewas evidently in print early in 1612. Joseph Hall produced a new prefatory poem for TheSecond Anniversarie,and also, in all probability, conducted the book containing that poem as well as the second edition of the “Funerall Elegie” and theAnatomyof the World through the press in Donne’s absence.¹ In his “Harbinger to the Progres” much more than in his introductory poem for theAnatomy,Hall emphasizes the mediating role of the poet, thereby underscoring the central importance for The SecondAnniversarieof the progress of the speaker’s soul, as an imitation of Elizabeth’s progress,...

  8. Part IV: The Legacy of Donne’s Symbolic Mode

    • Chapter IX The Tradition of the Anniversary Poems: Tributes, Echoes, and Imitations
      (pp. 307-336)

      That Donne’sAnniversarypoems had a profound effect upon the idea of praise and the conception of occasional poetry in the seventeenth century seems abundantly clear. As Hardison points out, there is little evidence to support the often repeated assertion that these poems proved embarrassing to their author and incomprehensible or repugnant to his Jacobean audience.¹ They were virtually the only poems Donne gave to the press himself: hisFirst Anniversarie,published in 1611, was reissued with its new companion poem in 1612, and these works went through two more editions in Donne’s lifetime, in 1621 and 1625. Subsequently, they...

    • Chapter X The Tradition of the Anniversary Poems: Major Poetic Responses and Re-Creations
      (pp. 337-370)

      Major poets, like minor poets, respond to poetic influences, but they normally draw upon a wide range of literary materials and conventions, welding them into surprising new syntheses informed by a powerful controlling vision—even as Donne himself did in theAnniversarypoems. Jonson, Dryden, and Marvell are poets markedly different from Donne in that they tend to be classicists in their conceptions of genre, of decorum, and of the idea of praise itself. Yet they all responded to and used Donne’sAnniversariesin significant and creative ways. The most fascinating debt is Marvell’s inUpon Appleton House,which reworks...

  9. Index
    (pp. 371-386)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 387-387)