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The Composing of “A Jeat Ring Sent”; or Donne as Thinker and Imaginator

  • Michael A. Winkelman
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Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)

Abstract

For a long time, Renaissance inspiration seemed paradoxically both too mysterious and too basic for profitable analysis. As Sir Philip Sidney’s Muse tells him in Astrophil and Stella: “Fool,… look in thy heart, and write.”1 But matters frequently turn out to be more complicated and interesting than that. For one thing, les sonnets Élisabéthains were apt to communicate professional as well as amorous heartaches, as Arthur Marotti persuasively argues in “‘Love Is Not Love’: Elizabethan Sonnet Sequences and the Social Order”: “love lyrics could express figuratively the realities of suit, service, and recompense with which ambitious men were insistently concerned as well as the frustrations and disappointments experienced in socially competitive environments.”2 Furthermore, starting with Petrarch himself, self-induced mortification was often a basic precondition of composition, a point made by Gordon Braden: “Sexual frustration is deeply complicitous with at least a certain kind of poetic success, and the poet’s own literary career—his pursuit of the bays—is in some sense the hidden agenda of his courtship…. The lover might well be thought to connive in his own sexual frustration; the laurel and not Daphne might well have been the real goal all along.”3 Either way, as John Donne states in “The triple Foole”: “To Love, and Griefe tribute of Verse belongs” (17).

Keywords

Cognitive Approach Cognitive Niche Left Fusiform Gyrus Marriage Ring Free Indirect Discourse 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Astrophil and Stella, I.14, in Sir Philip Sidney, The Major Works, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Arthur Marotti, “‘Love Is Not Love’: Elizabethan Sonnet Sequences and the Social Order,” ELH 49 (1982): 398.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gordon Braden, “Beyond Frustration: Petrarchan Laurels in the Seventeenth Century,” SEL 26 (1986): 8, 11.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Arthur Marotti mentions that Donne played off Davies, but he does not develop the aesthetic and other implications. John Donne, Coterie Poet (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986), 82–84. “A Jeat Ring sent” has attracted little critical attention, but for a highly theoretical, nonliteral reading, see Barbara Estrin, Laura: Uncovering Gender and Genre in Wyatt, Donne, and Marvell (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994), 180–91.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Craig Hamilton and Ralf Schneider, “From Iser to Turner and Beyond: Reception Theory Meets Cognitive Criticism,” Style 36 (2002): 655.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    The Poems of Sir John Davies, ed. Robert Krueger (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975). Ten Sonnets to Philomel initially appeared in A Poetical Rhapsody (1602), attributed to Melophilus in the first edition and to I. D. in three subsequent printings. For criticism of the author, see James Sanderson, Sir John Davies (Boston: Twayne, 1975); and T. S. Eliot, “Sir John Davies” (1926) in Elizabethan Poetry: Modern Essays in Criticism, ed. Paul Alpers (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), 321–26. N.b. John Davies of Hereford (ca. 1565–1618), poet and writing-master, was acquainted with several friends of Donne and Sir John Davies (no relation).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Davies elsewhere wrote “So doth the fire the drossie Gold refine” (Nosce Teipsum I.160); cf. Donne’s metaphor: “As fire these drossie Rymes to purifie” (ED, 11). See Susan La Niece, Gold (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For a more technical explanation of the reading process, see Stanislas Dehaene, Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention (New York: Viking, 2009).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Sir Geoffrey Keynes, A Bibliography of Dr. John Donne, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), 206. Keynes also includes a partial reconstruction of Donne’s personal library.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1919), in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, ed. Frank Kermode (New York: FSG/HBJ, 1975), 40.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    A locus classicus for this type of critique is “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences,” in The Portable Mark Twain, ed. Bernard DeVoto (New York: Viking, 1946), 541–56.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    An Essay on Criticism, II.349, in Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope, ed. Aubrey Williams (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    K. K. Ruthven, The Conceit, The Critical Idiom 4 (London: Methuen, 1969), 25. Davies failed to heed Donne’s advice in “The Crosse”: “So when thy braine workes, ere thou utter it, / Crosse and correct concupiscence of witt” (57–58).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Alexander Witherspoon and Frank Warnke, eds., Seventeenth-Century Prose and Poetry, 2nd ed. (New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1957), 314.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Virgidemiarum, IV.ii, l. 84, in The Works of the Right Reverend Joseph Hall, D.D., ed. Philip Wynter, 10 vols. (1863; New York: AMS Press, 1969), IX.631.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Margaret Cavendish, “All things are Govern’d by Atomes,” 3–4, deitalicized, in Poems, and Phancies, Written By the Thrice Noble, Illustrious, and Excellent Princess The Lady Marchioness of Newcastle, 2nd ed. (London: William Wilson, 1664).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Michael O’Shea, The Brain: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 94. After escaping from Nazi Vienna, Eric Kandel was educated in the United States and became a true New Humanist. See Eric Kandel, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind (New York and London: Norton, 2006), and the recent biopic, likewise called “In Search of Memory.” In his latest book, he turns to neuroaesthetics: see The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, From Vienna 1900 to the Present (New York: Random House, 2012). One gene essential to memory in fruit flies is called “volado,” a Chilean Spanish slang term for an absent-minded professor—perish the thought!Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    In defense of pure research in Marine Biology, see Ellen Prager, Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans’ Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011).Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    Pascale Waelti, Anthony Dickson, and Wolfram Schultz, “Dopamine Responses Comply with Basic Assumptions of Formal Learning Theory,” Nature 412 (2001): 43.Google Scholar
  20. 24.
    See Joan Evans, English Posies and Posy Rings (London: Oxford University Press, 1931); Pamela Hammons, Gender, Sexuality, and Material Objects in English Renaissance Verse (Aldershot, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010); and Arthur Kinney, Shakespeare and Cognition: Aristotle’s Legacy and Shakespearean Drama (New York and London: Routledge, 2006). Despite its title, Kinney’s book actually utilizes a traditional, materialist methodology with but a veneer of cognitivism as it’s presently understood. There is a great deal of criticism about Donne’s idiosyncratic responses to the poetic tradition. For a useful entrée into the debate, see Heather Dubrow, Echoes of Desire: English Petrarchism and Its Counterdiscourses (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), esp. ch. 6, “Resident Alien: John Donne,” 203–48.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (Menston, England: Scolar Press, 1968), bk. 1, ch. 30, p. 47.Google Scholar
  22. 27.
    See John Carey, John Donne: Life, Mind and Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981); and Marjorie Hope Nicolson, The Breaking of the Circle: Studies in the Effect of the “New Science” upon Seventeenth-Century Poetry, rev. ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962).Google Scholar
  23. 31.
    Howell Chickering, Jr., trans., Beowulf: A Dual-Language Edition (New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1977), 259. It might be mentioned that Beowulf, although virtually unknown in early modern England, is essentially the first English ring poem. In Anglo-Saxon times, a lord or king established the fealty of the thanes in his comitatus by bestowing rings for their brave accomplishments in his service. Perhaps this epic influenced the medievalist J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings.Google Scholar
  24. 33.
    The Complete English Poems of John Donne, ed. C. A. Patrides (London: Dent, 1985), 116. Blackness can represent constancy, but I agree with A. J. Smith that that sense seems secondary at best in line 1.Google Scholar
  25. 36.
    Mary Thomas Crane, Shakespeare’s Brain: Reading with Cognitive Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 15.Google Scholar
  26. 37.
    John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions and Death’s Duel (New York: Vintage Spiritual Classics, 1999), Devotions 19, “Expostulation,” p. 118. Cf. Donne’s 1623 Sermon on the Penitential Psalms, where he comments on the writing process: “In all Metricall compositions, of which kinde the booke of Psalmes is, the force of the whole piece, is for the most part left to the shutting up; the whole frame of the Poem is a beating out of a piece of gold, but the last clause is as the impression of the stamp, and that is it that makes it currant” (Sermons, VI.i, 41).Google Scholar
  27. 39.
    Baldessare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, trans. Sir Thomas Hoby, Everyman’s Library 807 (London: Dent / New York: E. P. Dutton, 1928), I.26, p. 46.Google Scholar
  28. 40.
    “Adam’s Curse,” 4–6, in W. B. Yeats, The Poems, ed. Daniel Albright (London: Dent, 1990).Google Scholar
  29. 41.
    Nancy Andreasen, John Donne: Conservative Revolutionary (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967); and Nancy Andreasen, The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  30. 42.
    Walton gives “understood”; however, a letter by Goodyer obviously plagiarized from Donne reads “vndertooke” in a near-verbatim passage, and that must be the correct reading (Goodyer is quoted in R. C. Bald, John Donne: A Life, ed. Wesley Milgate [New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970], 167).Google Scholar
  31. 44.
    The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne and the Complete Poetry of William Blake, ed. Robert Silliman Hillyer (New York: Modern Library, 1946), 403–4.Google Scholar
  32. 45.
    Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (New York: Norton, 1997), 361.Google Scholar
  33. 46.
    For the biographical information in this section, see Sanderson, Sir John Davies, 15–37; Louis Knafla, “Mr Secretary Donne: The Years with Sir Thomas Egerton,” in John Donne’s Professional Lives, ed. David Colclough (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2003), 37–71; and Bald, John Donne: A Life, 114, 197–98. N.b. both men used the law-French term “esloyned”: for example, Davies’s Gullinge Sonnet 8; Donne’s ValBook, 3; and French letter composed on behalf of Lady Drury to the Duchesse de Bouillon in 1612 during their time abroad (“esloign é,” quoted in Bald, John Donne, 258).Google Scholar
  34. 48.
    Evelyn Simpson, A Study of the Prose Works of John Donne, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1948), 320.Google Scholar
  35. 52.
    Michael Gazzaniga, The Mind’s Past (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1998), 118–19. See also James McGaugh, Memory and Emotion: The Making of Lasting Memories (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).Google Scholar
  36. 54.
    Thomas Wright, The Passions of the Minde in Generall, ed. William Webster Newbold, The Renaissance Imagination 15 (New York and London: Garland, 1986), 165–66.Google Scholar

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© Michael A. Winkelman 2013

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