"A Lecture on the Shadow"
John Donne – first a rake, if we’re to believe the man himself, and then an Anglican minister of unusual verve and power – was what people have come to call a “Metaphysical Poet.” And as soon as I say that, my readers will run for the door! But stay with me, readers. You aren’t a “metaphysical poet” if you write about whether “dog” is just a convenient label for a large group of tail-wagging creatures, or if it names a genuinely existing reality. You’re a “metaphysical poet” if you like to draw analogies that nobody ever thought of before, between what look like completely dissimilar things. So, if you’re George Herbert, you compare the patient discipline of God to the action of a pulley. If you’re Henry Vaughan, you say that when Christ became man, he “clothed the morning star with dust.” And here, if you’re John Donne, you say that the progress of a love affair is like what happens to two people’s shadows as morning draws to noon, and afternoon to evening. The thing is, it’s…
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