John Donne (1571-1631) was a English metaphysical poet, whose work is characterized by subtle imagery and figurative language.
In 1615 Donne took orders in the Church of England and as dean of St Paul's Cathedral, London, was noted for his sermons. His poetry includes the sonnets 'No man is an island' and 'Death be not proud', elegies, and satires.
Donne was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, and matriculated early at Oxford to avoid taking the oath of supremacy. Before entering Lincoln's Inn as a law student in 1592 he travelled in Europe. During his four years at the law courts he was notorious for his wit and reckless living.
In 1596 he sailed as a volunteer with Essex and Raleigh, and on his return became private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerto
n, Keeper of the Seal. This appointment was ended by his secret marriage to Ann More (died in 1617), niece of Egerton's wife, and they endured many years of poverty. The more passionate and tender of his love poems were probably written to her.
From 1621 to his death Donne was dean of St Paul's. His sermons rank him with the century's greatest orators, and his fervent poems of love and hate, violent, tender, or abusive, give him a unique position among English poets. His verse was not published in collected form until after his death, and was long out of favour, but he is now recognized as one of the greatest English poets.
Why is John Donne famous?
John Donne was a pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets.
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