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John Donne
( 1572-1631)

When Donne was a young man he worked as a secretary at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. He desperately wanted a high position, and fought his whole life for it. He was also a very adventurous man, and he joined the attack on Cadiz, led by Sir Francis Drake, in 1596.
He was notorious for writing a new kind of love poetry, very erotic and passionate. This poetry was passed among literary men, but they thought it was to extreme and radical therefore his “Songs and Sonnets” was published postscript. The dramatic opening lines is one of the reasons that his poetry is revolutionary. He caught the reader’s attention immediately. He was surely different from all the other Elizabethan poets, who wrote very serious poetry.
At an age of 29 he was imprisoned for marrying the niece of his employer’s wife, but he did not stay in prison for a very long time. After being let out of prison he lived a life in poverty and dishonour. But Donne wasn’t the type to give up. His dream of a career hadn’t faded during the hard and bad years of his life. So he decided to renounce his Catholic faith, and radically changed his erotic love poetry into religious prose and poetry. One of his most famous pieces of prose is “Devotions XVII”.

From ”Devotions XVII” by John Donne

”No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if manor of try friends or of thine own where;
any man’s death diminishes me, because I’m involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom bell tolls.
It tolls for thee.”

Min översättning:

”Ingen människa är en ö, fullständig av sig själv;
Varje man är en bit av kontinenten, en del av det huvudsakliga;
om en jordklump är bortsköljd av havet, Europa är den mindre, så bra som en udde var, så bra som om dina vänners herrgård, eller som den egen var;
varje mans död försvagar mig, ty jag är engagerad i mänskligheten.
Och skicka därför aldrig vetskap till den vilken klockan klämtar för.
Den klämtar för dig.”


I think that this poem is about people bonding with each other. We all need someone to connect to, and we can’t always be as independent as we would like to be. Everything that happens, happens for a reason, and everything effects every human being in some way.
John Donne wrote this poem when ha had renounced his Catholic faith, and I believe that this is his tribute to the church and to faith. We all need someone or something to guide us through life, and in this case I think it is religion he’s trying to point out as his guide. But I also believe that he thought that this guide could be a friend, and idol or something else that has great importance in a person’s life. It’s important to find out who or which this guide is, so that mankind has something to strive for.
Either way, he believes that we’re all “a part of the main”, which I interpret as he thinks that we’re all connected in a way that can’t always be expressed in words. We all come from the same origin, and that is the main thread that we all share.
The last lines of the poem symbolises to me how God is warning the people of death. One shouldn’t go and think about dying, just simply live every second, and value the time we have been given, and try to discover as many connections we have to other people so we can be whole as humans.
Thomas Gray

Gray was born in Cornhill, England. He studied at Eton, and went to Cambridge after that. In 1768 he became professor at Cambridge University.
In 1751 he wrote one of his most famous poems, “Elegy Written in a Churchyard”. This piece was an example of the new romantic era that sprung at this time. Gray wrote about the nature and the common man, and it was done in a very simple way.

An elegy is a very sad and melancholic poem, and Gray himself suffered from melancholia. Many people read his poetry, and the first lines of this poem have been quoted many times. Although he was extremely talented, he didn’t write much. Many writer’s has using him as an inspiration, for example the Swedish writer Geijer.

From “Elegy Written in a Churchyard”

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o´er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimm´ring landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow´r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand´ring near her secret bow´r,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree´s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould´ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

Min översättning:

Aftonklockan ljuder själaringning i den flyktande dagen,
och den råmande hjorden går sakta över ängen.
Trött vandrar bonden hemåt,
och lämnar världen åt mörker, och åt mig.

Nu fördunklas det skimrande landskapet, och en högtidlig stillhet rår,
endast skalbaggens brummande surr och fårfällans sövande klang man hör.

Och från det murgrönsklädda tron hörs ugglans sorgmodiga klagan till månen,
när någon närmar sig hennes bo,
och stör hennes ålderdomliga, ensamma välde.

Under de skrovliga almarna och idegranarnas skugga,
Där höjer sig grästorven i vittrande högar.
Var för sig i Hans trånga cell,
där sover byns olärda.

It’s not so hard to understand that this poem is from the romantic era, because the mood of the ploughman is described in a way that reflects how the nature looks like, the sounds, the light and darkness and everything that surrounds him. One can imagine the darkness this night, and that he feels very melancholic. Everything’s quiet, except for the sounds from animals. When the night has taken over the day, everything is under the night’s power. The beauty, the kindness, the loving feelings seem to disappear. I think that this might be the last night that the ploughman is alive. I believe that this is an allegory of a man waiting to die, and this is his last hour.
The last lines of this poems describes the graves where all the dead people sleep the everlasting sleep. After a long, hard life it’s time to give in to the will of God.

Louis MacNiece

MacNiece was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He studied ancient poetry, for example Icelandic.
When he studied in Oxford, he became a member of the “Auden group”, but seldom took part in the protests of politics. He was never very fond of Communism. He was a very prolific writer and one often divide his poetry into four different types of writing:

 Documentary poetry
 Argumentative and political poetry
 Mystical poetry
 Humorous poetry

He was strictly against heroics and war, which he showed without any doubt in his poetry. His poems about the Second World War was written in a light-hearted and sardonic way.

Prayer Before Birth

I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
when they speak to me, my thoughts when they think me,
my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
my life when they murder by means of my
hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
waves call me to folly and the desert calls
me to doom and the beggar refuses
my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
one face, a thing, and against all those
who would dissipate my entirety, would
blow me like thistledown hither and
thither or hither and thither
like water held in the
hands would spill me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.

Min översättning:

Jag är ännu ej född; O hör mig.
Låt icke den blodsugande fladdermusen
eller råttan
eller vesslan
eller den klumpfotade guten komma nära mig.

Jag är ännu ej född, trösta mig.
Jag är rädd att den mänskliga rasen
kommer att med väggar bygga en mur kring mig,
med starka droger bedöva mig,
med visa lögner lura mig,
på svarta sträckbänkar plåga mig, rulla mig i blodbad.

Jag är ännu ej född, förse mig.
Med vatten att vyssa mig med,
gräs att växa åt mig,
träd att tala med mig,
himlar att sjunga för mig,
fåglar och ett vitt ljus i mitt bakhuvud för att leda mig.

Jag är ännu ej född, förlåt mig.
För synderna som världen kommer att begå inuti mig,
mina ord när de talar till mig,
mina tankar när de tänker på mig,
mitt avlande av förrädare bortom mig,
mitt liv när de mördar med hjälp av mina händer,
min död när de lever mig.

Jag är ännu ej född, öva mig.
I rollerna jag måste spela,
och vilka rättesnören jag måste följa när gamla män läxar upp mig,
byråkrater hunsar mig,
berg rynkar på näsan åt mig,
älskare skrattar åt mig,
vita vågor kallar mig till dårskap,
och öknar kallar mig till undergång,
och tiggaren vägrar ta emot min gåva
och mina barn förbannar mig.

Jag är ännu ej född; O hör mig.
Låt inte Antikrist eller han som tror sig vara Gud få komma nära mig.

Jag är ännu ej född; O fyll mig.
Med stryka mot dem som vill frysa min mänsklighet till is,
som vill tvinga mig att bli en dödlig robot,
som vill göra mig till en kugge i en maskin,
en sak med ett ansikte, en sak ,
och mot alla dem som vill splittra min helhet,
som vill blåsa mig som ett tistelfjun hit och dit, hit och dit,
såsom vatten hållet i händerna spilla ut mig.

Låt dem inte göra mig till en sten och låt dem inte spilla ut mig.
I annat fall döda mig.


The first feeling I got when I read this powerful piece of poetry was a feeling of the writers disgust against something. When I read it the second time I decided that it was the society and humanity his was upset about. He was describing what the world had become, and he wasn’t very happy about it. The fact that he begins every part of this poem with the line “I’m not yet born” gives me the feeling that he’s not human. He seems very innocent, but at the same time very responsible of what the world has become. A person who has been accused of such things is Jesus. I think he the person who’s “not yet born” but accused of all the bad things that happen every day. I’m not entirely sure it’s Jesus, but I’m sure that this person is a very innocent person who just wants to be loved, but isn’t getting very far in this society of coldness and antipathy against reaching out a hand to the people who really need it.
“Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God come near me” symbolises to me that the world has produced evil persons which is able to go as far as it takes to reach the top, without taking notice of the persons they’re tramping on. We’re not as compassionate as we should be. Our original humanity is something forgotten and hidden, and this poem is an exhortation of getting that humanity and compassion back again.

Walt Whitman

He was born in Huntington, Long Island, near New York. When he was four years old his family moved to Brooklyn, New York. After his education he went back to Long Island ad taught in countryschools. After a while he got tired of it and went back to Brooklyn, and started to work as a journalist. Besides writing articles for papers, he wrote poems and stories for magazines.
A rough couple of years followed, and after changing jobs quite a few times he began to write a new kind of poetry.
In 1855 he issued his 1st edition of “Leaves of Grass”, a volume of poetry which contained 12 poems all very different from the sentimental rhymed poetry of the 1840’s. Whitman was a realistic writer, and his work was so revolutionary that it took a while before others followed this new writing style. During his lifetime he perpetually added poems to “Leaves of Grass”, and the final edition, released in 1892 contained about 500 poems. Shortly after the final release Whitman died.
Song of Myself is one of the most famous poems from “Leaves of Grass”.

Song of myself

I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents
the same,
I, now thirty seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbour for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.

Min översättning:

Jag hyllar mig själv,
och vad jag antar ska du anta,
för var...

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Inactive member [2003-02-19]   Diktare (eng. och am.)
Mimers Brunn [Online]. https://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=1680 [2019-07-21]

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