1697 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Donne

William Walsh, in Preface to Letters and Poems (1697) sigs A4v-A5.



There are no Modern Writers, perhaps, who have succeeded better in Love-Verses than the English; and it is indeed just that the fairest Ladies should inspire the best Poets. Never was there a more copious Fancy or greater reach of Wit, than what appears in Dr. Donne; nothing can be more gallant or gentile than the Poems of Mr. Waller; nothing more gay or sprightly than those of Sir John Suckling; and nothing fuller of Variety and Learning than Mr. Cowley's. However, it may be observ'd, that among all these, that Softness, Tenderness, and Violence of Passion, which the Ancients thought most proper for Love-Verses, is wanting: and at the same time that we must allow Dr. Donne to have been a very great Wit; Mr. Waller a very gallant Writer; Sir John Suckling a very gay one, and Mr. Cowley a great Genius; yet methinks I can hardly fancy any one of them to have been a very great Lover. And it grieves me that the Ancients, who could never have handsomer Women than we have, should nevertheless be so much more in Love than we are.