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by Albert James Smith,John Donne

'The first poet in the world in some things', is how John Donne was described by his contemporary Ben Jonson.

Yet it is only this century that Donne has been indisputably established as a great poet—and even, many feel, the greatest love poet of them all. Jonson went on to remark that 'That Donne, for not keeping of an accent, deserved hanging', yet Donne's rhythms, once thought 'unmusical' are now recognized as the natural rhythms of the speaking voice; his 'eccentricity' as a complex self-doubt; his 'obscurity' the reflection of a brilliantly learned and allusive mind. Poets such as Eliot and Empson have found Donne's poetry profoundly attuned to our modern age, while Yeats' glowing comment will always be true: 'the intricacy and subtlety of his imagination are the length and depth of the furrow made by his passion.'

This volume, superbly edited by Professor Smith, is the first complete edition to make a serious attempt to guide the reader closely through the complexities of Donne's poetry. Considerable attention has been paid to the text, and a selection of the important manuscript variants are included. This edition is also the first to make use of the newly discovered manuscript of the verse letter to Lady Carey and Mistress Essex Rich.

Download The Complete English Poems epub
ISBN: 0713905719
ISBN13: 978-0713905717
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Poetry
Author: Albert James Smith,John Donne
Language: English
Publisher: St. Martin's Press; New edition edition (March 28, 1974)
Pages: 680 pages
ePUB size: 1681 kb
FB2 size: 1658 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 306
Other Formats: lit lrf mbr txt

To those who love Donne, there can be only one equivalent poet - Shakespeare. Donne's intellect, understanding of human emotion and sensitivities are remarkable, and his use of language to evoke and describe emotion is wonderful. But let's be honest; Donne to the modern reader can be opaque. Footnotes serving as a virtual translation are essential, and only a few will put up with this. But what a reward! Donne to the attentive listener is a wonderful guide to human nature and its intricacies.
What a glorious experience!
If you love John Donne's poetry, then this is a must have collection of his poetry. If you have a Kindle, this is a functional way to take this collection with you. I have the paper volume and it is significantly larger than a Kindle Fire. So, after a "look inside" I purchased this for my Kindle. The Kindle version is as accessible as the paper volume and it retains the same page layout and spacing for the poems. The five stars are weighted towards the contents, which consist of his religious, irreligious, social, insightful, and comical poetry - usually with multiple catagories coexisting in the individual poem you're reading. The fact that the Kindle version does a good job in retaining accessability and visual layout keeps the five star rating intact.
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. I put the book down and decided to dip into Donne before going to sleep. I flipped out when I read The Damp's opening lines:

When I am dead, and doctors know not why,

And my friends' curiosity

Will have me cut up to survey each part...

Talk about serendipity! Now if I had just read an explanation of these lines in the notes, they would not have meant much to me. But because reading "Soul Made Flesh" had transported me into Donne's England for a few moments, the dramatic effect of the opening was multiplied immensely.

In a nutshell, I find that I love Donne and I recommend this comprehensive easy-to-carry well-annotated edition. My only negative comment is that the editing is a bit unimaginative: the editor places the sonnets in alphabetical order of title simply because there is no accepted canonical ordering... Oh well.

Vincent Poirier, Tokyo
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.
Great book, but did not include the poem I was looking for, but contains many others just as good.
Got this for my mom. She loves Donne. She seemed happy to get it, said it was perfect reading material before going to sleep at nights. Short, peaceful poems...
One of the classic editions of the Donne poems. The notes are excellent and very helpful. This is a very good edition.
A bit pithy and brilliant. The explanation of the meaning of words in his day is very helpful. The more I read the rhythm became noticeable.