John Donne – Intro

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[John Donne (1573-1631)]

AG: John Donne – Now begins something different from what we’ve been doing. So far, up to now, I have been getting involved with the lines as kind of rhythmic melody and rhythm (or “cadence” was the word that we finally came to, that I finally wound-up using (from Louis Zukofsky). And I think, historically, beginning with Donne, (but Donne is still sung and people wrote music to Donne), there begins here a kind of stiffening of the verse-form  (but Donne still is a melodic genius – but I don’t think Donne wrote his own tunes, Other folks, however, according to Basil Bunting…) .

So Donne was still.. Donne.. John Donne was still sung – (see page two-thirty-two (in your books) – Donne still has tremendous rhythmic urgency, or cadence, or prettiness, as we’ll see with the first, “Go and Catch A Falling Star” –  and he also has a tendency to have, like, strong, cello-like cadences in a lot of his poems (particularly the song ones), and they’re really clear and distinctive, and they remain in your mind – as good, in some respects, as…not as delicate as (Thomas) Campion, but as good, say, as (Sir Thomas Wyatt ) – somewhere in-between Campion and Wyatt, if you know the difference. That is, Wyatt, being a very… a little more four-square, accentual, and Campion, being completely based on ear for the length of the vowels (I don’t know, those who weren’t here last time, I spent a long time on quantitative measure, ear for length of vowels, for the time it takes to tell a syllable), Donne is somewhere in-between there.

So.. “Go and Catch A Falling Star” – How many people have read that? For homework here? – And how many people have never read it before for homework? – Yeah – And how many people had? [ show of hands] – oh, so it’s a famous poem, you all know that. So half have read and half haven’t ..So, someone want to try reading it? – (Mike), you want you?

Student (Mike) reads

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be’st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true and fair.

If thou find’st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet,
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

AG:  (Do you) want do that again? – “Though she were true, when you met her..

Student: “Though she were true, when you met her/And last, till you write your letter,/Yet she/Will be/False, ere I come, to two, or three.”

AG: “Yet she/ Will be”  Try again – “Though she were true…”

Student;  “Though she were true, when you met her/And last, till you write your letter,/Yet she/Will be/False, ere I come, to two, or three.”

AG; “To two or three” -“to two or three” – So try again! _ No, I mean, it locks into place when you get them all there, get all the syllables in

Student: “Though she were true, when you met her/And last, till you write your letter,/Yet she/Will be/False, ere I come, to two, or three.”

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixteen-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-one-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

 

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