John Donne was born into a recusant Catholic family and died an Anglican churchman. Through the years, the style and tone of his poetry and prose was as colorful and dynamic as the course of his life. His father died when Donne was four years old, and the plague took his brother while in prison for his Catholic faith. He spent his youth travelling about Europe, squandering most of his significant inheritance and fighting in the Anglo-Spanish War. He lost his diplomatic post when he secretly married his superior’s niece, Anne Moore. Their 17-year marriage ended with Anne’s death, five days after their twelfth child was born. Donne then wrote his 17th holy sonnet (“Since she whom I loved hath paid her last debt . . . wholly on heavenly things my mind is set”). The tragedies Donne experienced—including the loss of six children—brought a somber tone to his writing as he lived out the rest of his life a priest and successful preacher.
Often regarded as the greatest of the metaphysical poets, his pen immortalized the phrases “no man is an island,” “death be not proud,” and “for whom the bell tolls.” His work explores both the depths of earnest Christian searching and the heights of blissful young love. This massive six-volume collection of the works of John Donne includes 158 of his sermons, his Holy Sonnets, and other selected elegies, poems, letters, and miscellaneous prose pieces.
In the Logos editions, Donne’s works are enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture citations link directly to English translations, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Connect Donne’s writing to Shakespeare, William Laud, and other contemporaneous literary and Anglican figures. Fully indexed texts enable powerful searches and near-instant search results. Take your study with you with free tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.
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Donne was a great reformer of the English language. He enlarged the possibilities of lyric verse as no other English poet has done.
—T. S. Eliot
We still seek out Donne [even if] we cannot see how so many different qualities meet together in one man. But we have only to read him, to submit to the sound of that passionate and penetrating voice, and his figure rises again across the waste of the years more erect, more imperious, more inscrutable than any of his time. Even the elements seem to have respected that identity. When the fire of London destroyed almost every other monument in St. Paul’s, it left Donne’s figure untouched, as if the flames themselves found that knot too hard to undo, that riddle too difficult to read, and that figure too entirely itself to turn to common clay.
John Donne (1572–1631) was an English poet, satirist, lawyer, and Anglican cleric across the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline eras. He is the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets. He was born in London to recusant Catholic parents, the third of six children. His father died when he was four-years-old. He attended Cambridge, but his Catholic faith kept him from obtaining his degree. He went on to study law at Thavies Inn. In 1593 Elizabeth issued the act for restraining Popish recusants. His brother was arrested for harboring a Catholic priest, tortured, and died of bubonic plague while imprisoned, causing Donne to question his Catholicism. During his youth he traveled extensively throughout Europe and fought in the Anglo-Spanish War. When he was 25 he was appointed to a diplomatic post, which he lost when he secretly married his superior’s niece, Anne Moore. He had 12 children with Anne, six of which never reached adulthood. Anne died shortly after the birth of their last child. Donne took orders in 1615 at the request of King James. He achieved a prominent and well-paid position as dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which afforded him some financial stability to the end of his life. He delivered his famous sermon “Death’s Duel,” before Charles I in February 1631, and he died a month later at age 59.