Poetry is often cited as our greatest use of words. The English language has well over a million of them and poets down the ages seem, at times, to make use of every single one. But often they use them in simple ways to describe anything and everything from landscapes to all aspects of the human condition. Poems can evoke within us an individual response that takes us by surprise; that opens our ears and eyes to very personal feelings.
Forget the idea of classic poetry being somehow dull and boring. It still has life, vibrancy and relevance to our lives today.
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John Donne – An Introduction
John Donne was born on 22nd January 1572 in London into a Roman Catholic family when Catholicism was illegal in England and there was turbulence and unrest with both state and church throughout much of Europe. His father, also named John, died when he was 4 and his mother, Elizabeth Heywood married a wealthy widower, ensuring the family were looked after. He received a good education in both Oxford and Cambridge but was unable to obtain a degree without taking the Oath of Supremacy, which as a Catholic, he refused to do.
During the 1590's Donne wrote a wide range of verse including both erotic and sacred poems, creating two major volumes of work. His strong, vivacious and sensual style fusing intellect and passion as well as inventive use of subtle argument and syntax provided a new radical perspective that reached beyond his contemporaries and continues to chime and charm poetry lovers throughout the ages.
Difficult to believe that with this enormous talent, Donne, lived in poverty for many years, exacerbated by his secret marriage to Ann More, which meant no dowry, and their having twelve children. Later he served in Parliament and became Dean of St Pauls in 1621, noted for his learned and charismatic sermons.
John Donne died in London on 31st March, 1631 but leaves an enormous legacy of many splendid and influential poems. He was known as the founder of the Metaphysical Poets and is widely regarded as one of Britain's best loved poets.