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The Complete English Poems (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 28 Oct 1976


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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (28 Oct. 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140422099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140422092
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

John Donne was born into a Catholic family in 1572. After a conventional education at Hart Hall, Oxford and Lincoln's Inn, he took part in the Earl of Essex's expedition to the Azores in 1597. He secretly married Anne More in December 1601 and was imprisoned by her father, Sir George, in the Fleet two months later. He was ordained priest in January 1615 and took a Doctorate of Divinity at Cambridge the same year. He was made Dean of St Paul's in London in 1621, a position he held until his death in 1631. He is famous for the sermons he preached in his later years, as well as for his poems.

A.J. Smith was Professor Emeritus of the University of Southampton. His book include Literary Love (1983) and Metaphysical Wit (1992). He died in Salisbury in 1991.


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First Sentence
Twice or thrice had I loved thee, Before I knew thy face or name; So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame, Angels affect us oft, and worshipped be; Still when, to where thou wert, I came, Some lovely glorious nothing I did see, But since my soul, whose child love is, Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do, More subtle than the parent is Love must not be, but take a body too, And therefore what thou wert, and who I bid love ask, and now That it assume thy body, I allow, And fix itself in thy lip, eye, and brow. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Marcia Hunt on 9 July 2009
Format: Paperback
Here we see the English language at its most beautiful exposing the many facets of love with courageous honesty and stunning insight. The human condition has never been better expressed and love has never had such a worthy exponent. For poetry lovers from Wordsworth to TS Eliot, Donne demonstrates how wonderful the English language is at expressing every nuance of our existence and what an amazing servant it can be in the right hands.
You will treasure this book and dip into it often throughout a variety of moods. It will never let you down nor cease to surprise.
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Format: Paperback
John Donne was perhaps the most eminent representative of that group of late sixteenth and early seventeenth century poets known as the “metaphysical poets”, although it has often been pointed out that they were never a self-conscious literary school or movement, and would never have referred to themselves by that epithet, which was invented by Samuel Johnson in 1781, inspired by a criticism of Donne made by John Dryden about a hundred years earlier.

Some of the metaphysical poets, such as George Herbert, wrote exclusively on religious themes, but with Donne this was not the case, although it is true that one of his two great themes was man’s love for God, the other being man’s love for woman. Donne does, however, display two common “metaphysical” traits. One was a taste for philosophical speculation, even in his secular verse, and it was this for which he was taken to task by Dryden, who said of him that “"He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign”.

The second is his use of the metaphysical conceit, an extended metaphor combining two very different ideas. I remember being taught at school that the classical example of a conceit was Donne’s comparison of his wife and himself in "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" to a pair of compasses, joined even when they are physically separated. At least, we were taught that the lady in the poem is Mrs Donne, but that may just have been prudery on the part of the teacher. Like many of Donne’s poems this one cannot be precisely dated, and we know that he wrote poems to other mistresses before his marriage to Anne More in 1601.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Doc Barbara TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 13 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
John Donne is widely appreciated for his combination of wit (meaning agility of mind) and emotion, uniting the two in crisp yet melodic poetry - although for centuries his verse was thought to be unmusical. A unified sensibility is what T.S Eliot found in him, meaning that a thought was an experience to him just like the scent of a rose. He is my favourite poet with certain lines lingering forever in the mind: "Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,/ Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time" where the last line drags out its rhythm to echo the sense. A poem such as "The Will" requires a decoding of each stanza: read the final line in each verse first so that you see why he is bequeathing a certain aspect of himself to a particular recipient - and yet it is also a moving poem from a disappointed and cynical lover. Donne is valued for his conceits (extravagant analogies); the drama in his treatment of topics; the density of his language; the immediacy even colloquialism of his language; the range of his references, many scientific; his intellectual capacites along with strength of emotion; his variety of sentence structures; the deft skill of the way he changes direction in argument and his direct appeal to a reader. His contemporaries thought him original though Dr Johnson found "the most heterogenous ideas...yoked by violence together". This volume contains his complete poetic works and is an authoritative text yet a reader might be happier with a selection of the best poems (love and religious) with explanatory footnotes. If you do not need the Verse Letters and/or Anniversaries in their fulness you might want the Songs and Sonnets only and concentrate on them before moving on to this exhaustive compilation. Another possibility is "The Metaphysical Poets" where selected poems can be read in context. (I have reviewed the Helen Gardner edition on this site also.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jenny on 7 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, the authorative text; used, with yellowing, soft pages, was a delight to receive, arrived promptly well packaged, and as described.
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