John Donne (1572-1631) was the most outstanding of the English Metaphysical Poets and a churchman famous for his spellbinding sermons.
Donne's poetry embraces a wide range of secular and religious subjects. He wrote cynical verse about inconstancy, poems about true love, Neoplatonic lyrics on the mystical union of lovers' souls and bodies and brilliant satires and hymns depicting his own spiritual struggles. The two Anniversaries - An Anatomy of the World (1611) and Of the Progress of the Soul (1612)--are elegies for 15-year-old Elizabeth Drury.
Whatever the subject, Donne's poems reveal the same characteristics that typified the work of the metaphysical poets: dazzling wordplay, often explicitly sexual; paradox; subtle argumentation; surprising contrasts; intricate psychological analysis; and striking imagery selected from nontraditional areas such as law, physiology, scholastic philosophy, and mathematics.
Obsessed with the idea of death, Donne preached what was called his own funeral sermon, Death's Duel just a few weeks before he died in London on March 31, 1631.[展开]