Collections > UNC Chapel Hill Undergraduate Honors Theses Collection > "Angels affect us oft": Angelic Imagery in the Poetic Works of John Donne
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The father of metaphysical poetry and a well-known theologian, Donne’s two personas “Jack Donne” and “Doctor Donne” mark two different aspects of Donne’s distinctive poetic style: love and religion. The lighthearted love poems and the deeply troubled religious poems could almost be written by two different authors. Despite the stark contrast in subject matter, his poetry contains many recurring themes and images. Donne uses some of the same imagery to describe women and God. Issues of fidelity arise in both secular and religious poems. Images of the sun, hills that must be climbed, spheres and microcosms all feature in dual roles in Donne’s secular poetry and his religious works. One image appears constantly in his poems, often in some startling places: angels. Angels appear in over thirty of Donne’s poems and even more often in his prose writings and his sermons. Angelic imagery is used for a variety of purposes and makes Donne’s writing among the most unique of his time. While this paper will focus mainly on Donne’s poetry, it is important to consider Donne’s sermons and other religious writings to contextualize his views of angels and other heavenly beings.