Some writers on Donne have made much of the unstable and shifting nature of his verse. John Carey describes him as ‘fiercely schizoid’1 and any analysis of his work which did not take into account those poems which overtly exhibit this tendency would be failing its readers. In this chapter we will be analysing some of those poems and trying to cope with their unsettling effects. In many of them what we find is Donne openly grappling with the ideas himself. Perhaps one of his strongest and most hotly disputed qualities is this readiness to admit his own confusion, and to include it in his verse. It is, after all, far easier to walk away from confusion than confront it with hard thinking. Donne not only acknowledges difficult thought, he articulates it. The Prohibition is a valuable place to start this chapter because it is so self-consciously puzzling and confusing. Even the wording and structural use of repetition challenges the reader to keep up. It is reproduced below.
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