A Review: The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran

Product Details
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (March 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312671156
ISBN-13: 978-0312671150

The unlikely yet enduring love between Jacobean poet John Donne and Ann More inspires British writer Maeve Haran to write her first historical novel:

Set against the sumptuousness and intrigues of Queen Elizabeth I’s court, this powerful novel reveals the untold love affair between the famous poet John Donne and Ann More, the passionate woman who, against all odds, became his wife.

Ann More, fiery and spirited daughter of the Mores of Loseley House in Surrey, came to London destined for a life at the court of Queen Elizabeth and an advantageous marriage. There she encountered John Donne, the darkly attractive young poet who was secretary to her uncle, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. He was unlike any man she had ever met—angry, clever, witty, and in her eyes, insufferably arrogant and careless of women. Yet as they were thrown together, Donne opened Ann’s eyes to a new world of passion and sensuality. However, John Donne—Catholic by background in an age when it was deadly dangerous, tainted by an alluring hint of scandal—was the kind of man her status-conscious father distrusted and despised.

The Lady and the Poet tells the story of the forbidden love between one of our most admired poets and a girl who dared to rebel against her family and the conventions of her time. They gave up everything to be together and their love knew no bounds.

This is a love story for the ages, yes, but this is not your typical fairy tale 'once upon a time' 'they lived happily ever after' stories.

It is not uncommon for there to be a large age difference between married couples during the sixteenth century. In John Donne's case, this did not work in his favor. Upon hearing of their marriage, George More, Ann's father, puts his son-in-law into Fleet Prison along with the priest who married them and the man who acted as a witness to the wedding. Upon his release, Ann's dowry was taken away leaving them reliant on their in-laws and his job as a law clerk for income. Ann never being far from his thoughts, a surviving letter to her reads only:
John Donne, Anne Donne, Un-done.

It is obvious from John Donne's poetry how much he loved and honored his wife. Together they were married for sixteen years until Ann's death in 1617; they had 12 children together, ten of whom survived. John Donne never remarried which was unusual for its day considering the large family he had.

Author, Maeve Haran throughout her novel uses samples of John Donne's poems to illustrate the romantic aspect of his relationship with his wife, an undying example of his love for her.
It must be understood that John Donne was not your typical sixteenth century British poet. No, he was what you would deem a metaphysical poet. Metaphysical poetry is often difficult for the reader to comprehend, analyze, and understand. The use of literary devices to help with the understanding of metaphysical poetry was commonplace during the Renaissance. John Donne, being a Renaissance artist, used literary devices such as imagery, arguments, and conceits to prove the points and themes he set out to achieve. However Donne took the use of the literary elements a step farther, Donne used these elements to express his own feelings and beliefs in his poetry.

John Donne National Portrait Gallery Portrait. 
This is how he would have looked during his marriage.

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning is about two lovers whom are soon to be separated for an extensive period of time. In this poem Donne describes the long separation as something not to be viewed as upsetting, but rather something that should be viewed as a testament of love. Donne achieves this theme by describing the separation using images.

So let us melt and make no noise,
No tear-floods nor sigh-tempests move;
Twere profanation of our joys
To tell laity our love.

Tear-floods and sigh-tempests, or storms, shall be shed in the departure of these two lovers. Donne's use of storms as images suggest that his moral beliefs contain that of an enduring relationship that can stand the test of time and the test of a long separation.
In order for a reader to correctly understand the themes that Donne set out to achieve comparisons must be made. Donne achieves these comparisons using metaphysical
comparisons known as conceits.

Our two souls, therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat

In this passage Donne compares the connection of the two lover's souls with that of gold leaf, thin pieces of gold beaten down from thicker pieces of gold. This comparison describes to the reader the potential growth and expansion potential of the lovers' relationship. The lovers' relationship will not fall easily, it will continue to grow and prosper in authenticity despite the long journey of one of its members. The conceit further unveils Donne's belief in an everlasting relationship. Donne describes his own favor to love in the quote, "I am two fools, I know, for loving, and for saying so in whining poetry."
Donne uses logic and reason to try and influence the reader's ideas and actions by using arguments. Arguments help reader's to develop and understand themes of poetry.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two:
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth if the other do.

Donne uses the image of a two legged compass to describe the relationship of the two lovers. As well as using imagery in this excerpt Donne uses an argument to influence the reader's opinion of the relationship of the two persons in love. An argument uses logic and reason to influence the reader; moreover, Donne uses the compass to prove his point. The soul is the fixed foot of the compass which the other foot revolves around to make a perfect circle. The fixed foot represents the lover who is staying still as the other lover makes a long journey, in effect, creating a circle of perfection representing the feelings the two lovers feel for each other.

It is commonly believed for one to be something, or be with something, one must always remain physically close to that someone or something; however, Donne realized that one did not have to be physically close to another person to feel a very deep compassion for them.

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions,


Amy said…
Wow, you've got me intrigued I love how you explained his form of poetry! This sounds like something I would really enjoy, thank you for the fabulous review. I'm off to add it to the wishlist!
Kimberly Eve said…
Thanks for your wonderful comment Amy. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!
Donna said…
I have to add this to my list as well...Nothing like a story of star crossed lovers overcoming tremendous obstacles to be together! What a great, very detail-oriented review you wrote!
Anonymous said…
A very interesting and intelligent review which whets the appetite for the full feast. Certainly a book for the wish list.
Kimberly Eve said…
Thank you Donna and Anonymous for commenting and visiting my blog.
I hope you enjoy the novel!