Winter 1951 • Vol. XIII No. 1 Nonfiction |

Structures of Sound in Donne’s Verse

Perhaps the best historical introduction to Donne's kind of verse is Ben Jonson's blunt remark made to Drummond—that verses stand by sense, without "either Colours or accent." There are specific historical circumstances, and his own literary temperament, behind Jonson's exaggeration; but still this reflects a traditional English approach to the problem of form and content. Gascoigne, paraphrasing Horace, advises the writer to "grounde it upon some fine invention…pleasant woordes will follow well inough and fast inough." Sir Philip Sidney is as extreme as Jonson. He too ignores the pleasant words, and says that "any understanding" knows that the skill of the poet is "in that Idea or foreconceite of the work, and not in the work it self." Our own recent poetry and our recent criticism provide the most immediate introduction to Donne's kind of verse. It is true that we regard form and content as inseparable, and so cannot share Sidney's attitude towards "the work" or Jonson's t

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