On this day: John Donne

On this day in 1631, John Donne died. In Satire III, he asked about the Last Judgment:

Fool and wretch, wilt thou let thy soul be tied
To man's laws, by which she shall not be tried
At the last day? Oh, will it then boot thee
To say a Philip, or a Gregory,
A Harry, or a Martin, taught thee this?
Is not this excuse for mere contraries
Equally strong? Cannot both sides say so?

"Donne's Satire itself present a powerful argument against any who might accuse him of apostasy: it is not the continuing search for God's presence but rather faithfulness to an imperfect church or a human being--king ("Harry") or pope ("Gregory") or theologian Luther ("Martin") who claims religious authority/"Power"--that is the true apostasy."

--The Oxford Handbook of John Donne, edited by Jeanne Shami, Dennis Flynn, and M. Thomas Hester, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 675.

Searching The Oxford Handbook for "Catholic" will bring up 233 results. The pages following 377 are particularly enlightening. What did it mean to be Catholic? What was the difference between converting and conforming? Did John Donne inherit his wit from Thomas More? What happened to Thomas More's tooth? What happened to the Rastells and the Heywoods?

Searching for "women" brings up information about Donne's "deep-seated contempt for females". See Chapter 38, on "Donne, Women, and the Spectre of Misogyny", by Theresa M. DiPasquale:

"Less obviously playful are Donne's anti-feminist remarks in the Sermons, . . . 'God forbid', Donne says in a 24 March 1616/17 Sermon preached at Paul's Cross, that 'any should say, That the Virgin Mary concurred to our good, so, as Eve did to our ruine'. The point of this declaration, made by a former Catholic in the most public of preaching venues, is perhaps to display his Protestant convictions or perhaps to hint, through ironic hyperbole, that anti-Marian rhetoric is as excessive as Mariolatry." Page 680.

If John Donne hated women, how could he have written The Good-Morrow? Click here to hear Richard Burton reading it.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mix'd equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.


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