An author devoted to both profane and religious poetry, famous for his intertwining of amorous and sacred discourses, and a man of religion, deeply touched by the controversies of his time, John Donne did not ignore the Song of Songs: a biblical book that influenced the poetic as well as politico-religious discourse of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, and which offered the preacher and the poet infinite possibilities of reinterpretation, allowing him to express some of the most controversial aspects of his religious thought. The influence that the text exercised on Donne emerges in his employment of some of the book’s main images, and particularly in his multifaceted articulation of the nuptial metaphor, which he uses in accordance with both its institutional and individual reading. This trope proved particularly congenial to the erotic spirituality of the poet and to his interpretation of the relationship between men and God in amorous terms, allowing him to express his religious thought through physical and amorous imagery. In the sermons, the references to the Song of Songs, expressed in such a way as to make them immediately recognizable by his listeners, are used by Donne to confer authority as well as poetic intensity to his preaching. In his poetry, Donne’s employment of the mystical marriage trope is less overt than in the sermons, and yet it is deeply ingrained within some of his most significant poems. While in the religious poems Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling Upon One Day and Upon The Translation of the Psalms the employment of the Song-related image of the Church as spouse, though original, is in line with the coeval use of the biblical text, the same image is articulated in a highly controversial way in the two poems centered on the problematic issue of identifying the true Church: Satire III and Show me, dear Christ, thy spouse. As regards the individual reading of the Song of Songs – a reading that, by identifying the spouse with the believer’s soul, fostered the reader’s appropriation of a feminine perspective – the holy sonnet Batter my heart presents a particularly provocative reinterpretation of the biblical trope. While the physical and erotic violence of the language, culminating with the shocking image of God as the poet’s ravisher, exacerbate the Song of Songs’ imagery and crucial paradoxes, the concept of salvation that this language is called to convey reflects the poet as torn between an Arminian perspective, with its emphasis on the individual’s will, and the Calvinist idea of predestination and irresistible grace.

Contemplating the Spouse: The Song of Songs in John Donne’s Sermons and Poetry

Caporicci C
2018

Abstract

An author devoted to both profane and religious poetry, famous for his intertwining of amorous and sacred discourses, and a man of religion, deeply touched by the controversies of his time, John Donne did not ignore the Song of Songs: a biblical book that influenced the poetic as well as politico-religious discourse of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, and which offered the preacher and the poet infinite possibilities of reinterpretation, allowing him to express some of the most controversial aspects of his religious thought. The influence that the text exercised on Donne emerges in his employment of some of the book’s main images, and particularly in his multifaceted articulation of the nuptial metaphor, which he uses in accordance with both its institutional and individual reading. This trope proved particularly congenial to the erotic spirituality of the poet and to his interpretation of the relationship between men and God in amorous terms, allowing him to express his religious thought through physical and amorous imagery. In the sermons, the references to the Song of Songs, expressed in such a way as to make them immediately recognizable by his listeners, are used by Donne to confer authority as well as poetic intensity to his preaching. In his poetry, Donne’s employment of the mystical marriage trope is less overt than in the sermons, and yet it is deeply ingrained within some of his most significant poems. While in the religious poems Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling Upon One Day and Upon The Translation of the Psalms the employment of the Song-related image of the Church as spouse, though original, is in line with the coeval use of the biblical text, the same image is articulated in a highly controversial way in the two poems centered on the problematic issue of identifying the true Church: Satire III and Show me, dear Christ, thy spouse. As regards the individual reading of the Song of Songs – a reading that, by identifying the spouse with the believer’s soul, fostered the reader’s appropriation of a feminine perspective – the holy sonnet Batter my heart presents a particularly provocative reinterpretation of the biblical trope. While the physical and erotic violence of the language, culminating with the shocking image of God as the poet’s ravisher, exacerbate the Song of Songs’ imagery and crucial paradoxes, the concept of salvation that this language is called to convey reflects the poet as torn between an Arminian perspective, with its emphasis on the individual’s will, and the Calvinist idea of predestination and irresistible grace.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11391/1490282
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