Cales and Guiana: John Donne and Elizabethan Foreign Policy
Parr, Anthony N.
The Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (SASMARS)
As a young man John Donne joined at least two maritime campaigns in England’s long-running war with Spain, and he wrote a good deal of poetry in direct response to those experiences. His verse also reflects more generally the contemporary fascination with overseas enterprise and discovery, and has been extensively scrutinised for evidence of Donne’s attitude to foreign adventure, colonisation and the new geography. This essay argues that, partly by misinterpreting the historical facts, critics have offered a somewhat muddled picture of the way he and others in his circle addressed themselves to English maritime ventures in the closing years of the sixteenth century. Moreover, Donne’s use of voyage metaphor in his poetry, though subjected to elaborate analysis in recent years, has been misread in some influential discussions, so that the discursive role of his verse in Elizabethan controversies over maritime warfare and the colonial project is not always clearly understood.
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