Donne (1611, 1633) John Donne's "An Anatomy of the World" was one of few works published during his lifetime. Composed of two poems, "The First Anniversary" and "The Second Anniversary," they eulogize Elizabeth Drury, the 14-year-old daughter of his patron, Sir Robert Drury. Originally Donne planned to write a poem per year on the anniversary of Elizabeth's death, but he abandoned that plan when public reaction proved negative. Others agreed with Ben Jonson, who criticized "An Anatomy of the World" as profane, labeling it a blasphemy. Donne defended the poems by famously explaining that he "described the Idea of a Woman, and not as she was." Because of the work's specific purpose, it does not represent Donne's best talent. It also departs from the traditional elegy focus on praise of the dead to comment on the world's disin tegration. Donne adopts imagery of decay to describe a culture no longer supported by a shared moral vision. The term Anatomy in the title warns readers that he will perform a rhetorical dissection of the world as he viewed it. Not original in his approach, Donne adopted various models, as did most poets. The critic Andrew Fleck has claimed that the Petrarchan "Sonnet 338" influenced "The First Anniversary" as both view the world empty of value as a result of a virtuous woman's death. Donne even incorporates some of Petrarch's imagery in his own work.
While seldom completely anthologized, the entire text of "An Anatomy of the World," as of Donne's other works, may be easily accessed in electronic form. The University of oregon has included online in its Renascence Editions a transcribed copy by the Facsimile Text Society. It derives from the 1621 copy housed in the British Museum. Original copies exist in various rare book collections, including the Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto.
Was this article helpful?