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Alchemical Augmentation and Primordial Fire in Donne's "The Dissolution"

Roberta Albrecht
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
Vol. 45, No. 1, The English Renaissance (Winter, 2005), pp. 95-115
Published by: Rice University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3844591
Page Count: 21
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Alchemical Augmentation and Primordial Fire in Donne's "The Dissolution"
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Abstract

Jay Arnold Levine's interpretation of "The Dissolution" is still among the best, especially as it treats the purpose of alchemy in the poem. He argues that Donne's theme of impotence defines an opus gone awry, proving the problem of the poem as a case of excessive female moisture overwhelming male fire. This study examines certain other codes from occult doctrine, showing how Heraclitus's principle of primordial fire informs the poem. As the "road up" and/or the "road down" to fire, the male and female accomplish the miracle of the phoenix-born by fire, resolved by fire, refusing to die.

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