Page:Studies of a Biographer 3.djvu/93

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81
JOHN DONNE

same way, and if Pope and Parnell perceived that there was some genuine ore in his verses and tried to beat it into the coinage of their own day, they only spoilt it in trying to polish it. But on the other side, Donne's depth of feeling, whether tortured into short lyrics or expanding into voluble rhetoric, has a charm which perhaps gains a new charm from modern sentimentalists. His morbid or 'neurotic' constitution has a real affinity for latter-day pessimists. If they talk philosophy where he had to be content with scholastic theology, the substance is pretty much the same. He has the characteristic love for getting pungency at any price; for dwelling upon the horrible till we cannot say whether it attracts or repels him; and can love the 'intense' and super-sublimated as much as if he were skilled in all the latest æsthetic canons. People sometimes talk as if pessimism were a new invention. It is merely a new way of saying the old things. The good old hearty belief in the devil had certainly one advantage: it enabled a gloomy person to cover his misanthropical sentiments by an edifying mask. The conviction that man's nature is corrupt, and that the great majority will be damned, enabled you to discharge your melancholy and yet ostensibly to