Spenser and Donne look to the Continent
in Spenser and Donne
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This chapter focuses on the two poets’ varied responses to Continental events and writers, whether in the past or in early modern times. Spenser and Donne knew the Continent well, but the former almost certainly at second hand, in part through Italian and French literature and in part through hearing of its wars – ones in which Elizabeth reluctantly played a role. Donne spent time there and came to know a number of European writers. Both poets were intimately aware of ancient Roman literature, but neither ignored what was across the English Channel, contemporary or recent. Each, for example, knew some poetry by Pierre de Ronsard, but responded to him in different ways. In comparing the two poets’ overall methods of appropriating Continental literature, the chapter focuses on one ancient author, Ovid, and on one geographical feature, the hill.

Spenser and Donne

Thinking poets

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