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This article is taken from PN Review 9, Volume 6 Number 1, September - October 1979.

A Study of Donne

'The life of Donne', Campbell remarked in his British Poets, 'is more interesting than his poetry.' That evaluation is given a new meaning by Mr Fausset, who traces throughout Donne's life a conflict between the physical and the spiritual impulses of his nature. In his estimation, the fact that neither as a poet nor as a preacher did Donne permanently resolve these discords into a harmony deprives him of a place among the poets who have achieved the expression of beauty in its purest form.

This view is argued with the idealistic fervour which characterized Mr Fausset's Keats: A Study in Development; but, as he finds himself in antipathy to the realistic strain which is inherent in Donne's character, there is a turbulence in his exposiion and a harshness in much of his comment from which the earlier work was free. The kind of criticism he practises, the estimation of a poet's creative value rather than his literary eminence, is of the highest importance, for as Browning says:-

In the hierarchy of creative minds it is the presence of the highest faculty that gives first rank, in virtue of its kind, not degree; no pretension of a lower nature, whatever the completeness of development or variety of effect, impeding the precedency of the rarer endowment though only in the germ.

The faculty which distinguishes the noblest poets from the interesting majority of writers and artists is the gift of perceiving the ...


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