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Views on Colonialism in Donne's Elegy XIX and Wroth's Sonnet 22 Essay

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Views on Colonialism in Donne's Elegy XIX and Wroth's Sonnet 22

Introduction

In the midst of Lady Mary Wroth's sonnet cycle, a sudden reference to the colonialist discoveries of dark skinned natives appears. Bringing to mind her participation in Jonson's "Masque of Blackness," she depicts dark-skinned Indians worshipping the sun as their god. In the midst of her ruminations on love and her preoccupations with her unfaithful lover, Amphilanthus, this sonnet touches on issues close to her personal life as well as some of the preoccupations of her era on the nature of colonialism. In particular the role of religion in England's colonialist efforts was of prime importance. An examination of John Donne's Elegy XIX, "To His Mistris Going to Bed" may give some insight into how Wroth's Sonnet 22, "Like to the Indians Scorched with the Sun" deals with the controversies surrounding imperialism.

Historical Concerns

Both authors had close personal ties to England's colonialist efforts in the New World. Lady Mary Wroth's uncle, Sir Philip Sydney, was an investor in Raleigh's attempted colony at Roanoke. This venture ultimately failed, however, and would later be followed under King James with the Virginia Company.

John Donne was closely tied with the efforts following Raleigh's failed attempt. In 1608, after two failed attempts at securing a secretarial post, first in London and then in Ireland, "the report circulated that he sought to be made secretary of the colony, a position given instead to his friend William Strachey" (Johnson 127). If he had been awarded the position, he would have sailed with the new governor, Sir Thomas Gates. This was the ship that was shipwrecked in Bermuda and that winter the Jamestown colon...


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...onne, John. "A Sermon vpon the VIII. Verse of the I. Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles"

Greene, Thomas M. "The Poetics of Discovery: A Reading of Donne's Elegy 19."
Yale Journal of Criticism. 2 (2) (1989): 129-143.

Hester, M. Thomas. "Donne's (Re)Annunciation of the Virgin(ia Colony) in Elegy XIX." South Central Review: 49-63.

Johnson, Stanley. "John Donne and the Virginia Company." ELH. 14 (2) (1947): 127-138.

Raman, Shankar. "Can't Buy Me Love: Money Gender, and Colonialism in Donne's Erotic Verse." Criticism. 43 (2) (2001): 135-168.

Roberts, Jospephine A. The Poems of Mary Wroth. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983.

Young, R. V. "'O my America, my new-found-land': Pornography and Imperial Politics in Donne's Elegies." Souch Central Review: 35-48.

Warnke, Frank J. John Donne Poetry and Prose. New York: Random House, 1967.


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