December 4


  • Student evaluations: email has gone out
    • Cannot be completed after the last day of classes
    • REALLY important for our annual evaluations
    • Anonymous: your name does not get submitted
  • Commonplace Book due by 6pm next Monday!
    • Add your link or bring it in person to class
    • Late submissions will not be accepted
  • Next week: Professor Milanes will guest lecture! Come prepared; read the text carefully!

Previously On: English Poetry

  • Manuscript circulation versus print
  • The sonnet tradition
  • The English (male) poet
  • Romantic and Political Wooing: the Patronage System
  • More Poetic Experimentation: metric and rhymes become more deliberately English
  • Reflection and Interiority: the Reformation brings about a sense of subjectivity that wasn’t so strong before. Poets, as well as common people, were invited to reflect and consider their own existence and their relation to God and divinity


  • King James (1603-1625)

    • Remember Mary, Queen of Scots?
    • King of Scotland and Ireland: helped unify the UK for 22 years (Union of the Crowns)
    • Gunpowder Plot (1605): remember, remember…
    • Held many close relationships with a number of male courtiers
    • Another believer in the divine right of kings
    • Expanded the aristocracy by selling noble titles (baronet) to raise money for wars
    • A serious author (mostly on political and religious matters) and devoted Protestant — shaped up the King James Bible still used to this day


Group Presentation!

Discussion and close-reading: “To Penshurst”

The pastoral 

    • Idyllic locations denote timelessness and natural states
    • Nature and Simplicity allow for complex subjects in seamless poetry
    • Classic tradition: follows in the steps of Virgil — the first step for any great author
    • Purity of mind does not necessarily remove sexual desire

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (Marlowe)

  • Form: Pastoral Song
  • Style: Iambic Tetrameter
    •  How is nature reflected in this poem? What purposes does it serve?
    • Who is this woman?
    • What does the shepherd promise her?

The Nymph’s Reply (Walter Raleigh)

  •  Poetic reply
  • What is Raleigh’s purpose in writing this?
  • Is this a different kind of pastoral?
  • Why write this reply?
  • What kinds of ideas and behaviors does it mock?

Reading Quiz: Take 10-15 minutes working on your poem to identify its overall metaphor and what the poet is arguing. Then, get together in pairs to work on a comparison of two different poems. Collaborate to write a short thesis with two supporting points. (15 minutes)


Challenging the Petrarchan tradition

     Michael Drayton (1563-1631)

  •    Wrote both poetry and historical narratives
  • His style follows in the steps of Daniel, and it’s worth comparing the two for contrasting examples of Renaissance rhymes
    • To the Reader: how’s this for a preface?
    • Ambivalent feelings: love, time and parting



John Donne (1572-1631)

Bio in a flash: 

  • Born Catholic, grew to reject it, eventually became an Anglican priest
  • Wild youth, reflected in his love poetry
  • Promising political career brought down with forbidden marriage
  • Becomes a priest, regrets his youthful poetry

In his poetry: Donne is said to be the precursor for what we call the “metaphysical poets.” His poetry goes beyond metaphor and elevates the poetic subject to high, complicated “conceits” in order to touch on larger questions about human nature, religion, and mortality (particularly the latter).

  • The Canonization: giving up the world and politics

FOR God’s sake hold your tongue, and let me love ;
Or chide my palsy, or my gout ;
My five gray hairs, or ruin’d fortune flout ;
With wealth your state, your mind with arts improve ;
Take you a course, get you a place,
Observe his Honour, or his Grace ;
Or the king’s real, or his stamp’d face
Contemplate ; what you will, approve,
So you will let me love.

Alas ! alas ! who’s injured by my love?
What merchant’s ships have my sighs drown’d?
Who says my tears have overflow’d his ground?
When did my colds a forward spring remove?
When did the heats which my veins fill
Add one more to the plaguy bill?
Soldiers find wars, and lawyers find out still
Litigious men, which quarrels move,
Though she and I do love.

Call’s what you will, we are made such by love ;
Call her one, me another fly,
We’re tapers too, and at our own cost die,
And we in us find th’ eagle and the dove.
The phoenix riddle hath more wit
By us ; we two being one, are it ;
So, to one neutral thing both sexes fit.
We die and rise the same, and prove
Mysterious by this love.

We can die by it, if not live by love,
And if unfit for tomb or hearse
Our legend be, it will be fit for verse ;
And if no piece of chronicle we prove,
We’ll build in sonnets pretty rooms ;
As well a well-wrought urn becomes
The greatest ashes, as half-acre tombs,
And by these hymns, all shall approve
Us canonized for love ;

And thus invoke us, “You, whom reverend love
Made one another’s hermitage ;
You, to whom love was peace, that now is rage ;
Who did the whole world’s soul contract, and drove
Into the glasses of your eyes ;
So made such mirrors, and such spies,
That they did all to you epitomize—
Countries, towns, courts beg from above
A pattern of your love.”


  • The Flea: high conceit; persuasion to love

MARK but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is ;
It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead ;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pamper’d swells with one blood made of two ;
And this, alas ! is more than we would do.

O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we’re met,
And cloister’d in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it suck’d from thee?
Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou
Find’st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
‘Tis true ; then learn how false fears be ;
Just so much honour, when thou yield’st to me,
Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.



Ben Jonson (1572-1637)

    • A new kind of English poet: self-titled poet laureate
    • Determined to praise and criticize English figures
    • Closer to a modern sense of author: invested in publishing and editing his work


  • To my Book–redefining the genre of Epigrams.
  • To Penshurst

Genre: Country-house poetry

Themes: Ideal social order; Nobility and Patronage

Need help with the Commons? Visit our
help page
Send us a message
Skip to toolbar