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This report is taken from PN Review 181, Volume 34 Number 5, May - June 2008.

An Unpublished Poem by Donald Davie Andrew Hadfield

There is a copy of H.S.V. Jones's book, A Spenser Handbook (New York, 1930) in the library of the University of Ulster, Coleraine, which was once owned by Donald Davie. Professor Davie's signature is on the first page of the prelims, and in the back of the book there is a poem in his hand-writing, 'A Sonnet on the Petrarchan Convention', followed by his initials, D.A.D. This poem has never been published before and does not appear in any of Professor Davie's many volumes of verse, nor in the three editions of his collected poems. It is hard to date the poem exactly. Below the signature there are references to books on Spenser, both published in 1952, so it is possible that this is an early work, written while Davie was a research student in post-war Cambridge or, more likely given that the book is in Ireland, at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was appointed lecturer in 1950 and Fellow in 1954. It seems worth reprinting because of its dry wit and, arguably, deliberate attempt to make the metaphysical poets rather more Augustan in style and diction. The sonnet does not follow any conventional rhyme scheme, but appears to combine English and Italianate models. Its three neatly divided quatrains are rhymed, abba, cddc, effe, then the final couplet repeats an earlier rhyme, still/will, cc. Most English Renaissance poets either introduced a new rhyme scheme at the end - for example, Shakespeare and John ...


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