A New Reading of John Donne's "Song. Goe, and catche a falling starre."

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Title: A New Reading of John Donne's "Song. Goe, and catche a falling starre."
Author: Newton, David Travis
Advisors: Dr. Brian Blackley, Committee Member
Dr. R.V. Young, Committee Co-Chair
Dr. M. Thomas Hester, Committee Chair
Abstract: "Song. Goe, and catche a falling starre" has long been a popular Donne poem, but it has not received the critical attention given to others of the Songs and Sonets. Even in the frequent references to it in critical studies, those commentaries are only brief and general. Dismissed often as merely a comic poem without seriousness of theme, "Song" has been mostly only noted as "comic," "lighthearted," "cynical," "flippant," and "delightful," but not considered one of Donne's "better," "more serious" works. More often than not, the poem is dismissed as one of those deeply cynical poems about woman written when Donne was a young bachelor in and around the courts in London during the 1590s. Failing to consider its reliance on a fictive persona invented by an ironic wit, it has been noticed too often only as one of "Jack" Donne's so-called "misogynistic," "promiscuous" poems (like "The Indifferent") as exemplifying a Donne trend of remarking negatively on "Womans constancy." This study examines more thoroughly "Song. Goe, and catche a falling starre" within the literary and historical contexts of its composition in order to suggest that Donne creates such a speaker for more specific and significant ironic aims than the dismissive critics of the poem have noted. This thesis argues that Donne is intentionally mocking the Petrarchan poetry popular during the day and its idealization of woman. Additionally, Donne's poem is a reaction to the Protestant campaign of the Sidney coterie of politicians and poets who were fueling a Sidney poetic revival and promoting their religio-political agenda, by using the heroic death-in-battle of Sidney along with the publication of his works to fashion a Sidney legend, setting him up as the ideal English Petrarchan gentleman, courtier, and Protestant warrior. In "Song," Donne undermines this movement by pointing out the irony of Sidney's selection of Lady Penelope Rich — a known adulterer— as the idealized subject of Astrophil and Stella. Donne points to Sidney as his subject through a numerological code in the poem and through poetic allusions to the life and works of Sidney and his elegists.
Date: 2003-12-11
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/2585

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