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A Summary of the Poetry from John Dunne to Milton

MG is an air warrior with a distinguished career and now a corporate advisor, writer, and intrepid traveler and novelist


The poetry of John Dunne and Milton

The period from John Dunne to Milton spans just half a century. Both poets are considered among the foremost English poets and have an assured place in the history of English literature. John Donne lived from1572 – 1631, while Milton lived from 1608-1674. For some time the life of both poets overlapped. Both poets have made a mark in English literature. Milton became famous earlier and the value of John Donne as a poet was recognized only afterward. Almost a good 200 years later.

John Dunne

John Dunne was a satirist, lawyer, and cleric in the Church of England. He is considered one of the foremost exponents of metaphysical poetry. Metaphysical, when applied to poetry, means poems with love, science, romance and sensuality integrated with man’s relationship with God. These poems are lyrical poems containing intense meditations. John Dunne was greatly influenced by the church as such his poetry had a religious bent.

Metaphysical poets

Along with Dunne, the other metaphysical poets were George Herbert (1593-1633), Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) and Henry Vaughn. They had their distinct styles which were sensual and included love poetry, religious poems, and sermons. The Metaphysical poets were overtaken by the romantic poets a century later. Marvell had a connection with John Milton. He was his secretary and once when Milton was jailed during the Restoration; it was Marvell who had him set free after he had petitioned for his release. The poets Andrew Marvell and George Herbert never published their poems during their lifetime and their verses were published posthumously.

John Milton

John Milton who lived during the same period was a scholarly man of letters. He was also a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England, led by Oliver Cromwell. His monumental work ‘Paradise Lost’ puts him in the top bracket of English literature. Milton had the mortification of losing his eyesight towards the end of his life, yet he took it in his stride and there is no remorse or self-pity at this handicap being thrust on him.

In contrast to John Dunne and his compatriots, Milton was not a metaphysical poet. Though he lived during the same period his style and themes were of an entirely different genre. Milton concentrated on social issues and religion. In his epic ‘Paradise Lost’ Milton’s goal was to justify the ways of God. His primary aim was to explain the ways of God to man.

Milton achieved international recognition during his lifetime. During this period he wrote ‘Areopagitica’ a condemnation of pre-publication censorship. Milton was an erudite man and wrote in English, Latin and Italian.

Milton and Dunne’s interpretation of man's relationship with God.

Milton and Dunne stand out in contrast to each other. Milton in ‘Paradise Lost’ recounts the fall of man in Genesis. He relates graphic conversations of Adam and Eve with God. He describes the demons and their exile to Hell. Donne on the other hand in ‘Holy Sonnet XIV’ creates an entirely different scenario. He illustrates man’s utter dependence on God. John Dunne was highly religious and his poetry brings out the rationality and beauty of faith in God. Both the poets thus wrote poetry touching two different aspects of man’s relationship with God. The fact is that both poets had a god as a central theme, though they interpreted man’s relations with the almighty differently.

Milton and politics

Milton was aware of John Donne. He traveled every day from school to home and crossed St Paul's. In all probability, he listened to the sermons put on during this time by John Donne. Milton’s poetry had a different approach from Donne and the Metaphysical poets. He was more alive to the political scenario of that period. England was in turmoil with Cromwell and Milton sided with him. Cromwell is a towering figure in English history and at that time he was all-powerful. That may have rubbed off on Milton, as he sided with Cromwell. John Donne was not that politically inclined, influenced as he was more by the church.

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The poetry of both poets Dunne and Milton is a treasure. The short period saw other poets emerge during the time of these two poets. Nothing, however, matches the luminosity of these two. Both poets made the English language richer and now almost 400 years later we can appreciate the greatness of these two poets.



MG Singh (author) from UAE on June 10, 2021:

Yes, Tom, there are many of them from Kushwant Singh, Rk Narayanan, to Rushdie.

tom on June 09, 2021:

indian writers have made their mark in english

MG Singh (author) from UAE on April 28, 2020:

Thank you Rob

Robin M Singh Ms. Law on April 22, 2020:

Simply brilliant

MG Singh (author) from UAE on August 14, 2013:

Thank you Michele for commenting and appreciating.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on August 12, 2013:

Great comment Gypsy Rose

Michele Travis from U.S.A. Ohio on August 12, 2013:

Thank you for letting us know about these poets. Voted up.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on August 12, 2013:

Thank you for sharing a fascinating read. Passing this on.

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