This chapter examines the poetry of John Donne. Among English poets who underwent the influence of Italian love poetry of the Renaissance, Donne stands out as one who sought to reconcile the errant soul to its body once more. This meant rescuing human love from both the angelic mysticism and the erotic formalism of the Italian tradition and restoring it to its proper domain: humanity. Donne was primarily concerned neither with the angel nor with the beast, but rather with the battlefield separating them, long since vacated by the Italians. Insofar as he defended that middle ground in the question of human love, his poetry marked a return to a more “medieval” sensibility. The chapter argues that his most famous image, that of the compass in “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” protests, precisely in the name of incarnation, against the neo-Petrarchan and Neoplatonic dehumanization of love.
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