A Short Analysis of John Donne’s ‘The Ecstasy’

Notes towards a commentary on Donne’s ‘The Extasie’ by Dr Oliver Tearle

John Donne (1572-1631) didn’t write ordinary love poems. Arguably the first of the ‘metaphysical poets’, Donne writes about love in a refreshingly direct and honest way. And yet, as the label ‘metaphysical’ suggests, his poetry is also full of complex and convoluted images and analogies, and decidedly indirect ideas that circle around the thing he is discussing. This paradox of Donne’s poetry is neatly exemplified by ‘The Ecstasy’ (sometimes the poem’s title is given as ‘The Extasie’, preserving its original Early Modern spelling), so a few words of analysis may help to elucidate what is a challenging and complex love poem.

The Ecstasy

Where, like a pillow on a bed
A pregnant bank swell’d up to rest
The violet’s reclining head,
Sat we two, one another’s best;

Our hands were firmly cemented
With a fast balm, which thence did spring;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
Our eyes upon one double string;

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A Short Analysis of John Donne’s ‘Song’ (‘Go and catch a falling star’)

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

‘Song’, often known by its first line, ‘Go and catch a falling star’, is an unusual poem among John Donne’s work in several ways. It doesn’t use the extended metaphors that we find in some of Donne’s greatest poetry, and yet it remains one of his most popular and widely known works.

As the short analysis of ‘Song’ below endeavours to show, ‘Go and catch a falling star’ is, nevertheless, in keeping with Donne’s beliefs and poetic style in many respects.

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The Best Sir Thomas Wyatt Poems Everyone Should Read

The best poems by Thomas Wyatt selected by Dr Oliver Tearle

The poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42) is that rare thing: both of interest from a historical perspective (he lived through one of the most interesting periods of English history) and genuinely innovative and stylistically accomplished. Here are ten of Thomas Wyatt’s best poems, with some information about each of them.

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A Very Short Biography of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

The life of the English Renaissance poet

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-47) is not read or studied as much as his near-contemporary, Sir Thomas Wyatt, although his importance to the development of English literature was arguably greater. Certainly, in terms of technical innovation, the name of Henry Howard is worth knowing for two very important reasons, discussed below. In this post we offer a very brief introduction to the life and work of Howard, focusing on the most interesting and noteworthy aspects.

Many biographies of Renaissance writers are at best only partially complete, and although in Howard’s case we know some very intriguing details – for instance, that he counted among his cousins both Anne Boleyn, doomed second wife of King Henry VIII, and Catherine Howard, doomed fifth wife of King Henry VIII – other things remain uncertain.

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A Very Short Biography of Sir Thomas Wyatt

The interesting life of the Renaissance poet

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42) was one of the most accomplished English poets of the Renaissance. Writing over half a century before Shakespeare, Wyatt helped to popularise Italian verse forms, most notably the sonnet, in Tudor England. In this post we offer a very brief introduction to Sir Thomas Wyatt’s life, paying particular attention to the most interesting aspects of his career.

Born at Allingham Castle in Kent, England in 1503, Wyatt first joined the court of King Henry VIII as ‘Sewer Extraordinary’ – this, disappointingly, had nothing to do with lavatories and was instead the title for a servant who waited at table.

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