An Analysis of John Donne's Elegy XIX.

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Professor Hester, the foremost expert on the poetry of John Donne, analyzes Donne's Elegy XIX, "To His Mistress Going to Bed".


"[T]his concern with the correct interpretation of America derives, as suggested by the three examples with which I began, from Donne's exploration of the traditional view of America as the type, emblem, or "Hieroglyphick of our Adamitical or Primitive situation" and of the "essential joyes" of "the kingdome of heaven, … the Booke of Life" (Franklin, p. 36; Second Anniversary; Sermons, 4:281). Donne's New Work is—as recent accounts, old legends, biblical typologies, and that multitude of Renaissance sanctimonious propaganda claimed—El Dorado, Utopia, Eden, Paradise, the New World. To this coda of commonplaces Donne adds the emphasis of Ralegh, John White, and even De Bry on the "nakednesse" of America—as implicit in his lyric, central to the sermon, and "fully" emphasized in his elegy. But more significant than what he accepted in the canonical view of America is his concern with the amatory motives and hermeneutic choices that discovered this view/interpretation. Just as the preacher portrays Virginia as a Pauline type of Apostles' mission to "vttermost parts," just as the lyricist discards the principles of Copernican cosmology in order to affirm the centrality of "old" amatory truths about the center of man's world, so the elegist dis-locates the declamations of both the discoverers of the New World and the Petrachist/Neoplatonic philosophers about the locus of "divine" treasures in order to replace the world view of misguided wanderers with his own witty "Book of Life." My major concern in the following pages, however, is not just with Donne's thematic (mis)treatment of accepted views of America; rather, my exploration strives to trace the manner in which Donne's texturing of America in Elegy XIX and "Cales and Guyana" displaces man's desire for the "rest" of beatific joy in order to locate it in the reader's experience of the "wondrous" empire of metaphor. My concern, in other words, is not just with Donne's uses (or colonization) of the America trope (and the personal, political, and pulpit traces in those figures), but with manner in which Donne's New World conceits protect and project the book of America as a playful discovery of "the pursuit of desire itself" (Franklin, p. 183)."

Table of Contents

Elegy XIX. "To His Mistress Going to Bed"

John Donne's Mythic Vision of America: An Analysis of His Elegy XIX

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