Topic :- The Satiric Vein in Donne’s Poetry
Name :- Upadhyay Devangana s.
Sub :- The Renaissance Literature
Pepa :- 1
Std :- M.A. Sem-1
Roll No :-07
Submitted to :- M.K. Bhavnagara University
“The Satiric Vein in Donne’s Poetry”
There was an unprecedented rise of the spirit of satire in the last decade of the 16th and opening one of the 17th century. The exhaustion of the Renaissance spirit, religious and political controversies, uncertainty as regards the accession to the throne, the unpopularity of James 1,his extravagance and immorality, the clash between the old and new philosophies, all contributed to a growing sense of disillusionment and defeat self-introspection and self-criticism. It was but natural that satire should flourish under the circumstances. Men felt that the times were out of joint, eyes were focused on the many ills of society and so satire had its heyday.
“Donne is the greatest of the period, others being
John Marston, Joseph Hall, Ben Jonson etc.”
· Ruggedness of Donne’s satires: Its causes
Donne has left behind him only five satires, all belonging to the early years of his poetical career, but the satiric vein penetrates even those Iyrics of his which are not professedly satiric. The harshness can be accounted for in a number of ways. As a both Saintsbury and Leishman notice, most of the Elizabethan satirists are harsh because they believed that the harsh and unpleasant nature of satire, needed a correspondingly harsh versification.
“It cannot be too often insisted that the harshness of which
Dryden and others accused Donne, and which is most apparent
In his satires, was deliberately cultivated, although it is much more
Apparent in his last two satires, the fourth and the fifth.
And we must remember that when Dryden and the eighteenth
Century criticism accused Donne of hardness they werethinking
Chiefly, if not exclusively, of his satires.”
Moreover, Donne did not intend to publish his satires so he did not take care to polish them up; further, the laws of versification were not fixed and much license was allowed in the age.
· Analysis of Donne’s satires:
· Satire: 1
“The originality of Donne as a Satirist, his themes,
And his many merits and demerits are easily brought out by a
Brief analysis of his five satires.”
In the first satire, Donne describes how he was persuaded to leave his books and take a walk with a foolish companion, who after smiling at ‘every fine silken painted fools’ they met, let him first for a celebrated tobacco-smoker, then for a celebrated judge of clothes, and finally for his mistress, in whose house he for his mistress, in whose house he quarrelled with other gallants and was turned out of doors with a broken head….. Here realistic detail, such as Jonson loved, predominates over mere wit, although there is s passage in which he insists on his companion’s inconsistenct and absurdity in hating naked virtue, and although souls only enter into felicity when they are naked of bodies, and although man was naked in the state of innocence…..
“The poem is also much more dramatic than most
Elizabethan satires, which generally deal in mere
Description and denunciation…….”
· Satire: 2
The second satire on poets and lawyers is much less individual and characteristic and much closer to the general run of Elizabethan satires poets who starve themselves by writing for idiotic actors, ho ‘ write to Lords, rewards to get,’ Who plagiaries these Donne declares like other monstrous sinner, don’t trouble him, for they punish themselves but he cannot stand Cocus who is proud of being a lawyer. Then by a very abrupt and obscure transition Donne proceeds to satirise men who take up the practice of law for mere gain and who like thet William Gardiner on whom Dr.Leslie Hotson flashed his lantern combining law with usury, cheat prodigal heir out of their with usury, cheat prodigal heirs out of their estates.
· Satire: 3
In his Third satire, on search for tre religion, says Leishman
“Donne is inspired and his wit and his similes never get out of hand.
He is not merely witty but passionately witty, or wittily passionate
And the poem gives an unforgettable picture of an eager mind at
Wor-for even here Donne is in a sense dramatic as he is nearly in all
His best and most characteristic work.”
The poem proves too, thet his investigation of the rival claims of the Roman and the Anglican churches, although it may have begun partly and even, perhaps, largely from motives that We should call worldly was nevertheless prosecuted with what we should call ”Sincerity” , a burning sincerity for the rough line of this satire are penetrated by an intense eagerness for truth on the discovery of which the soul’s salvation depended and by a deep contempt for indifference.
We must seek for truth he exclaims, but where is she to be found? Some seek her at Rome, because she was there a thousand years ago, others at Geneva others at home, while some are content to suppose that all religian are the same:
“But unmoved thou of force must one, and forc’d but one allow;
And the right; aske thy father which is shee, let him ask him, though
Truth and falsechood dee neare twins,yet tru’h a little elder is; Be busie
To seeke her, believe mee this Hee’s not of none nor worst, but seekes the best.
To adore, or scorne an image, or protest, may all be bad; doubt wisely in strange
Way to stand inquiring right, is not to stray; to sleepe, or runne wrong, is
On a huge hill Cragged, and steep, truth stands, and he that willreach her,about must and about must goe;”
“An unforgettable picture…… an almost dramatic expression of an eager mind at work.”
· Satire: 4
“The Fourth Satire is the longest of Donne’s satires, the roughest in versification and on the whole the least interesting the nearest to the common run.” Donne describes how, having been foolish enoughto go to court, he was unable to be a great traveler, linguist, and repository of secrets. Having got rid of him by lehding him a criwn. Donne went home and reflected on the folly and futility of those whom he had seen at court. There is no clear plan or dominant idea, detail is piled upon detail and although lines are often stinking, they do not co-operate to produce the desired effect.
“The fifth and last of Donne’s satires is on suitors and law officers. Here we feel continually that the particular abuse Donne professes to be satirizing is merely a topic for the display of his wit, which is a thing we almost never feel in reading Dryden’s satires, however true it may be that he never writes as one inspired by his subject in itself.” Almost the whole point of the following passage turns on the exploitation of the double meaning of the word angel:
“Judges are Gods; he who made and said them so,
Meant not that men should be forc’d to them to goe.
By means of Angels; when supplications we send to God, to Dominations,
Powers, cherubim’s, and all heavens courts if wee
Should pay fees as here Daily bread would be
Scare to kings.”
· Originality of Donne :The All – pervading satiric
Though Donne was considerably influenced by the contemporary love of antiquity, he was too great a genius to be a mere imitator or camp-follower. Donne was no imitator for he could not but stamp his individuality upon anything that he wrote. Thus Donne may borrow something from the Romans and yet we find the elements of satire in his works working beyond the bounds five formal attires that he wrote. Gransden stresses the historical significance of Donne as a satirist when he writes:
“Donne put much more into satire than any English
Writer did before him, and in any history of English
Verse his satires would have to be described as a landmark.”
· Satire on Contemporary Life
“Donne frequently satirizes contemporary life,
And glimpses that we have of this life are very
Revealing whether it be the ordinary social, circle or
life at the court.”
· Satire on False sense of Honor
Donne is conscious of the apparent concern of the renaissance people with honor, when he speaks of their greed for wealth and favoure. The exuberant sense of honor as an object of display is ridiculed both y Shakespeare and Ben Jonson in their plays. Donne also recognizes honor as a mere affectation between the attack by the dramatists and Donne that while Shakespeare and Ben Jonson do it through their Fall staffs, corvine, etc. It is this integrity that is conveyed in ‘Break of Day’ through the following line with the subtle suggestion that the worldly sense of honor is a fake:
“Light hath no tongue, but is all eye;
If it could speak as well as spie, this were the worst,
That it could say, that being well, I faine would stay,
And that lov’d my heart and honor so,
That I would not from him, that ha them, go”
· Religious poetry :The satiric Vein
In fact Donne could not be committed to anything partial; the total was always important for him. He was not fascinated and overswayed by the Renaissance stress on reason; rather he question it and shows its limitation when he says in Holy Sonnet :xIv :
“Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captitv’d and proves weake or untrue”
In his religious poetry also Donne often writes in a satirical vein. He positivel asks people to seek ‘true religion’.
· The Progress of the soul
It is the same liberality of outlook that embraces the satire in the progress of the soul. Wherein the intention of Donne was to parade all the heretics of history from Eve to calvin and Queen Elizabeth by tracing the progress of the soul of the apple which Eve tasted in the Garden of Eden, and his conclusion is what the moderns may very well appreciate:
“There’s nothing simple good nor ill alone;
Of every quality comparison the only measure is and judge”
· Donne’s Originality
Donne is one of the most humanisitic of the great English poets and therefore, one of the least typial of satirists with Donne this concern for value does not become an opportunity for idealism; rather his sense of realism gives him a chance to satirise the idealists. This can be specifically perceived in his love poems. He has no patience with petrarchan idealism whose- notions of love are not to be comprehended on the plane of reality. On the other hand, he would not even be with the protagonists of physical love that cannot stand any test of endurance:
“Dull sublunary lovers love whose soule
Is sense cannot admit absence, because it doth
Removethose things which elemented it.”
The satire cannot be missed in what the lover imagines the heart will tell him:
“Yet goe to friends, whose love and means
Present various aontent;
To your eyes, ears, and tongue, and every part, If then your body
Go,what need you a heart?”
The element of satire is implicit in the progress of thought in the prohibition from the two apparently contradictory warnings in the first two stanzas to the synthesis in the final stanza:
“Yet, love and hate mee too”
· Satire on Religious controversies
In satire 3 his consciousness includes knowledge of the contemporary religious controversy, the claims of the Roman Catholics the protestants and the Anglicans each sect deeming itself to be the true follower of God by being committed to a particular creed, and he satirizes each of them in a tone that suggests the worthlessness of the dogmatic protection and who entertain creed. He attracts even those who entertain an indifferent sense of contempt for every sect, because he generalize anr thinks that none of them can be good:
“carless phygious doth abhore all, because all cannot be
Good as one knowing some woman, whores, dares marry none.”
To conclude: the element of satire in Donne’s poems is all-pervasive and is not confined to any particular subject; here as elsewhere in Donne, the range is cosmic, for Donne can satirize love, religion, social life, scientific discoveries ,old idealism every kind of exuberance that produces a gap between what things really are and what they appear to be; in fact the incongruity in any sphere is what forms the basis of his satires. His individuality is seen in his realistc attitude that is expressed through wit, dramatization and with a marked vividness that leaves no scope for obscurity. Despite some shortcomings, Donne must be raned very high as a satirist. K. W. Gransen’s view;
“literary history of England Donne’s satire must be
Described as important landmarks”