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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The beauty of English
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...
Published on 9 July 2009 by Marcia Hunt

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Brown Study
I do not see why I cannot give no stars to items such as this which look as though they have been kept in a damp cellar for years and have turned to an excremental brown!
Published 7 months ago by Kevin Straw


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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The beauty of English, 9 July 2009
This review is from: The Complete English Poems (Penguin Classics) (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A difficult poet? Perhaps. A complex poet? Undoubtedly. But that complexity is part of his greatness., 5 Jun. 2014
By 
J C E Hitchcock (Tunbridge Wells, Kent, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Complete English Poems (Penguin Classics) (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.

Other well-known conceits include his comparison (in “The Flea”) of a flea biting two lovers to love-making and his description (in his “Elegy XIX: To His Mistris Going to Bed”) of his mistress as “my America, my new-found land”. In “A Lecture upon the Shadow”, perhaps less well-known but nevertheless a striking poem, he draws parallels between the shadows cast by two lovers at different times of the day and the progress of their relationship. Donne’s imagery is often drawn from the sciences, from astronomy (as here), from alchemy and from geography.

This volume includes all of Donne’s English-language poetry. (Besides English, he also wrote in Latin). Not all of his output consisted of religious verse or love-poems; he also wrote brief epigrams, verse epistles, satires and “epicedes and obsequies”, that is to say poems written to mourn the death of a particular person. These are not the poems by which he is best-known today, although his satires contain some pithy indictments of the corruptions and follies of late Elizabethan and Jacobean England. His Third Satire deals with the subject of true religion, something dear to Donne’s heart; he was brought up in a notable recusant Catholic family, being related by blood to both Jasper Heywood and Thomas More, but left the Catholic Church for Anglicanism, which he saw as a via media between the extremes of Catholicism and Protestantism, and was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest.

His mourning poems, and some of his epistles written to living persons, are not well-known today, even though they contain some elegant poetical writing, possibly because, to modern tastes, they can come across as insincere and fawning. If everything Donne wrote in these poems was meant sincerely, I can only say that he had the great good fortune not only to have been a contemporary of some of the greatest saints who have ever lived but also to have known them personally. (Strangely, none of these persons have been officially canonised by any Church, unlike Donne himself, who is commemorated in the calendar of the Church of England). In his two long poems entitled “The Anniversaries”, religious meditations occasioned by the death of a young girl named Elizabeth Drury, his language becomes so extravagant that one would think he were writing about God, Christ or the Virgin Mary rather than a teenage girl whom he does not appear to have known personally.

This insincerity contrasts strangely with Donne’s better-known poems in which emotional honesty is one of his hallmarks. Earlier erotic poets of the Petrarchan school could pen love-ballads, containing all the commonplaces of courtly love, to imaginary mistresses. A literal reading of Thomas Wyatt’s poems, for example, would suggest that he spent most of his life in the throes of unrequited love for a “cruel mistress” (in the poetic rather than the sexual sense) who refused to yield to his advances. A reading of Wyatt’s biography, however, would suggest that the poet, who was separated from his wife, was at the time living in a relationship with a real-life mistress (in the sexual rather than the poetic sense) who was presumably quite happy to yield to his advances.

With Donne, however, although we may not know whether his love poems were written to Anne or to some other person, they are so heartfelt that one is left with the feeling that they must have been written to a flesh-and-blood woman, not to some hypothetical descendant of Petrarch’s Laura. Some years ago my then girlfriend and I had a strange experience while saying goodbye late one evening. As we embraced, although nothing sexual actually took place, it seemed to us as though our personalities had joined and that we had become one person. When we eventually parted we discovered that an hour had passed even though it had only seemed like a few minutes. The only way I could describe the experience was by saying that we had made love without actually having sex- until I read Donne’s poem “The Ecstasy” which gives a perfect poetic description of an identical experience.

Donne had a great gift for finding the perfect description of emotional experiences, and not just joyous ones like this. His "A Nocturnal upon Saint Lucy's Day, Being the Shortest Day", is one of the most moving descriptions ever written of grief on the death of a loved one. (It may have been occasioned by the deaths of his daughter and his close friend Lady Bedford, who both died in 1627 and who shared the Christian name Lucy).

Donne’s love poems seem to have been written early in his career and are notable for their relatively free verse forms and rhythms which approximate to those of ordinary speech; they may have marked a reaction against the smooth, polished style of earlier Elizabethan poets such as Sidney. They were published after his death in a collection called “Songs and Sonnets”, although none is a sonnet in the strict sense of the word. His religious poems- the other main plank on which his reputation rests- were generally written later, and are stricter in their form; they include numerous strict-sense sonnets. Like his love poems, however, they are a record of deeply-felt personal experiences, not simply of a conventional piety, and like them often rely upon a startling juxtaposition of contrasting ideas.

Donne is sometimes thought of as a “difficult” poet, and there are good reasons for this. He is adept at compressing a great amount of meaning into a few lines, often relying upon paradoxes and double meanings to produce passages which are capable of being understood in more than one sense, and this can make his verse semantically complex, requiring several readings to be fully understood. His poems contain many allusions which are not always immediately transparent to the modern reader; this edition, edited by Professor A C Smith, contains copious notes, often longer than the poems they elucidate. And yet he was also capable of producing poetry of an elegant simplicity, a good example being the sonnet beginning “Death Be Not Proud”, a profound meditation on death and immortality. A difficult poet? Perhaps. A complex poet? Undoubtedly. But that complexity is part of his greatness.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complete for one of the best poets in English, 13 Mar. 2012
By 
Doc Barbara (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Complete English Poems (Penguin Classics) (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
4.0 out of 5 stars John Donne, a great poet, 7 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: The Complete English Poems (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars I love his love poetry, 13 Feb. 2015
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I love his love poetry, not so keen on his later works, but the beauty of it still has the power to draw me in. Studied Donne for English A level (a very long time ago) and have just rebought and reread this great collection after moving to a new country and needing periodic doses of Englishness to reconnect to. A great collection of verse from a wonderful poet, The information about his life and significant dates is a real bonus.
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5.0 out of 5 stars John Donne: The Complete English Poems, 24 April 2014
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This review is from: The Complete English Poems (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Very good condition book, thank you so much, very fast delivery, no problems whatsoever
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 3 Sept. 2014
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Great!
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Brown Study, 23 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: The Complete English Poems (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I do not see why I cannot give no stars to items such as this which look as though they have been kept in a damp cellar for years and have turned to an excremental brown!
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The Complete English Poems (Penguin Classics)
The Complete English Poems (Penguin Classics) by John Donne (Paperback - 28 Oct. 1976)
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