The party probably found this in his own poems, for in 1838 he had published a long poem with the title ‘The Zombie did it!
’, which is about a black slave boy in the house of the Spanish painter Murillo, who turns out to be the greatest artist of them all – a variation on the theme of the ‘The Ugly Duckling’, one might say.
He is not a poet for all tastes and times; yet for many readers Donne remains what Ben Jonson judged him: “the first poet in the world in some things.” His poems continue to engage the attention and challenge the experience of readers who come to him afresh.
His high place in the pantheon of the English poets now seems secure.
The poem was written at Sorgenfri Palace in 1845, and has never been published.
It is the result of a test the party gave the poet, in which he was given a list of apparently random rhymes to improvise with, and had to be titled ‘The Zombie’.
Some scribbled notes by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Charles Lamb‘s copy of Donne’s poems make a testimony of admiration rare in the early 19th century.
Robert Browning became a known (and wondered-at) enthusiast of Donne, but it was not until the end of the 1800s that Donne’s poetry was eagerly taken up by a growing band of avant-garde readers and writers. In the first two decades of the 20th century Donne’s poetry was decisively rehabilitated.
John Donne’s standing as a great English poet, and one of the greatest writers of English prose, is now assured.
However, it has been confirmed only in the early 20th century.
On Tuesdays a small group of invited guests met for readings and discussion, and it was no doubt during these gatherings that a number of the poems found their way onto the shelves.
The Queen was, as can be seen from her library, interested in contemporary literature and held, particularly after she was widowed, literary salons in Christian VIII’s Palace.
Grundtvig, and not least by Hans Christian Andersen.